Whether your business was an early adopter of social media or your social media marketing campaign hasn’t yet made it to the computer screen, it never hurts to take a refresher course in social media. Just like television networks have no shortage of news to report, social media is a fast-moving animal that requires constant attention because this multimedia marketing tool changes every day in some form or fashion.
Social media is more than just Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Social media technologies take on different forms, including online magazines, internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts and social bookmarking. Social media platforms differ according to the extent to which they focus on some of the seven functional building blocks: 1) identity 2) conversations 3) sharing 4) presence 5) relationships 6) reputation and 7) groups. For instance, LinkedIn is a professional network with over 175 million users who care mostly about identity, reputation and relationships. On LinkedIn, connections can recommend or endorse a profile, and businesses can interact with other professionals in their industry or look for qualified candidates to hire. In contrast, YouTube, a site where users can upload and view videos on many different topics, is built with a primary focus on sharing, conversations, groups and reputation. Businesses can use YouTube to their advantage by uploading a video of the company president speaking to consumers about their product or an industry topic. Consumers can then put a face and personality to a brand.
Through social media, we all become reality stars of our own accord. We post pictures of our babies, or of what’s on the table for dinner. We write about our political views, how we have missed long lost friends, or how we scraped the hubcap of our car on the curb. Do you make a lot of jokes on your own personal Facebook? You may be perceived as a funny person to friends. Do you put links to scholarly articles about the environment on Twitter? You may be perceived as an intellectual who cares about the earth. Whether inadvertently or intentionally, we create how we want to be perceived in social media. The same theory applies to businesses.
Both businesses and consumers participate in social media marketing. Traditional advertising, such as television and print ads, is based on advertisers speaking to consumers who cannot respond, while social media is an instantaneous conversation in which consumers can interact with companies and voice opinions.
On Facebook, have any of your friends written about a really good restaurant, or where they bought a new pair of shoes? The “Like” button on Facebook is a way for companies to attain some feedback from users, but the interface is a way for users to go into further detail about how they feel in regards to a particular product or company, good or bad, if he or she so chooses. This can provide a company with valuable market research into what their consumers are thinking and what they want. It becomes more than marketing; it becomes a “conversation.”
Twitter is similar to Facebook, though posts must be less than 140 characters, images are less common and it has a language all its own. Chances are, words like tweet or hashtag were not part of your daily language until you created a Twitter account, nor did you ever think 140 characters would become so important in your daily life. Businesses can use Twitter to become part of conversations on trending topics in their industry, or to simply post tweets that represent the personality of the company. Like Facebook, Twitter can provide companies with valuable market research in consumer demographics.
Personal social media accounts help us stay in contact with loved ones and acquaintances, but what does social media do for a business? Whether you have a blog, Twitter account or Facebook page, social media is part of your brand, part of how you want to be perceived as a business. Why is this important? Social media builds awareness of a brand and can help influence the public’s opinion. For a business, engaging in social media is a consistent reassessment of what engages an audience and what does not. For example, if a company’s fan base is mostly located on Facebook and not Twitter, it is important to be aware of this trend. For a post that engaged the most amount of readers, what types of conversations resulted from it? What were some key words used in the post? A professional and friendly demeanor, good grammar and interesting posts that reflect the company’s voice as a whole are good social media marketing tips to follow when trying to build a network of contacts who want to know more about your company. Social media is a platform for businesses to engage an audience in conversations about their brand or industry, and to leave a good impression with potential consumers.
One of the foundational concepts in social media is that you cannot completely control your message through social media, but rather you can simply begin to participate in the “conversation,” expecting that you can achieve a significant influence in that conversation. This conversation, however, must be cleverly executed because while people are resistant to marketing in general, they are even more resistant to direct or overt marketing through social media platforms. This is the main reason building social authority with credibility is so important. Speaking about your industry, not just your brand, can be a good way to engage others. A marketer should not expect people to be receptive to a marketing message in and of itself.
Social media, whether for personal or professional use, is another way of connecting and having a conversation. It is where individuals write about what worries them and what makes them smile, and businesses can put a personality to a brand.
SAS: Social Media Metrics http://www.sas.com/resources/whitepaper/wp_19861.pdf
Hyder Kabani, S. (2012). The Zen of Social Media Marketing. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, Inc.