Social Media: The What, Why, When and How

What is Social Media?
Social media is not any one ‘thing’, there is no single all-encompassing answer, it is an umbrella term used to describe media that shares common attributes. These attributes include being part of an open, multi-directional conversation (as apposed to the old one-way broadcast message from brand to audience), encouraging user participation (voting, ratings, comments, feedback, user generated content), cultivating community and is easily shared or passed along.

The Social web facilitates communication, it allows consumers to connect with brands, businesses or other consumers on a human level, in an open and transparent environment. At the end of the day, every Social Media Account/website/blog has a person behind it, just as every business transaction comes down to human to human communication. People need to connect with other people, not faceless brands. Social communication, when used well, will help get your message across, while building authenticity and trust.

What Are Some Business Applications of Social Media?
There are so many business applications for social media for both B2B and B2C that at least one use is bound to strike a chord with you, you may utilise as many or as few as are practical for your business goals.

Here are just a few:
1. Listen to Your Consumers
2. Communicate one-on-one
3. Branding, Marketing, Sales
4. Customer Service
5. Promotion -Coupons, Discounts, Sales
6. Competitive Research
7. Recruitment

Why Should I use Social Media?
Because your audience uses social media. Figures released by ComScore in August state that more than 70 percent of Internet users in Australia visited a social networking site in June, up 29 percent from the previous year.

“Social networking continues to grow in popularity both across Australia and throughout the world,” said Will Hodgman, comScore executive vice president for the Asia-Pacific region. “Social networking is now an essential part of peoples’ daily online routine, providing a level of engagement and reach that far exceeds most other content categories. Understanding how to leverage this audience successfully is both a challenge and significant opportunity for most digital marketers today.”

Nine Million Australian used social media in June (it’s still growing so assume more now!) if that figure alone isn’t enough to make you realise that you need to reach out to your audience, where they are, then nothing likely will.

Social media can be utilised in some form or another by every kind of business. I’m not saying every business needs to be blogging and have a presence on Facebook, Myspace, Linked In and Twitter – if your audience is not there it will be a fruitless exercise. However, even if you just make your content available in more formats and make it easier to share, you will benefit.

When Should I Get Started with Social Media?
Yesterday.

How do I Get Started with Social Media?
1. Define Objectives and Metrics
Without goals and measurement you may be having fun, but are probably effectively using social media (read: wasting time). Like any other marketing channel you should define your objectives (goals) and measure progress with analytics. The specific metrics you monitor depend on your objectives, some common social media metrics include influence, engagement, loyalty, audience, conversion and ROI.

Here’s a great video on Measuring Social Media:

2. Define Target Audience and Channels
You should already know your target audience, but do you know which social media sites your audience frequent? This exercise will help you decide on which social media site and to create a presence on and/or any other tactics you might employ, such as blogging, photo/video sharing, podcasting etc.

Currently the top 5 social media channels businesses are using are Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Linked In and Blogs. Start by investigating these sites/tactics and find which your audience is already using.

Checkout your competitors, you might be surprised to find that they are already utilising social media. Have a look at their efforts and try to gauge how successful they have been, which sites and tactics are they using? If they have a massive following on a particular site, you may want to look into using that site yourself. If their blog is read by a large amount of visitors everyday, you may want to look into creating a blog. Having said that, do no blindly follow your competitors – make sure you have some data to back up your decisions.

3. Jump in
At this point in time I would suggest that Facebook is pretty much a given for most businesses, due their massive user base your audience is most likely already using Facebook. Twitter is also becoming more and more popular and businesses are finding creative ways to use it effectively. Testing the waters with either or both of these two channels is a pretty safe bet, just don’t give up after one day, one week or even one month. It takes time to learn the nuances of each platform and to build a following.

Blogging is another good choice, if you have something worth saying often enough. Blog posts add to your amount of relevant content on the web, and blog posts often attract links easier than your regular site, all good for increasing search rankings and getting extra visitors to your site. For blogging I recommend a self hosted install of WordPress on your existing domain.

Social Media Etiquette

  • Build Quality Relationships, reply to messages, comments, feedback.
  • Participate in conversations, don’t just blast your sales message or post links to your own content (spam).
  • Offer your visitors value and something unique they won’t find on another of your channel.
  • Be Transparent, if you are blogging or twittering as a business, also make it clear who the person behind the business is, people communicate with people, not brands.
  • Be positive, don’t trash competitors or bad customers. There is enough negativity in the world and complaining constantly won’t win you followers.
  • Address complaints and negative feedback. If someone is being a troll you a probably better off ignoring them.
  • Be honest, be authentic.

Now, enjoy some awesome Social Media propaganda:

Further Reading:
Social Media in Plain English (video)
Social Media for Business – Step the Process
What the F**K is Social Media: One Year Later (slides)
Best and Worst Practices Social Media Marketing

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