Social Media for You
The last few years have seen a complete explosion in social media, with seemingly new social platforms arriving every month and some true giants emerging. You are probably already aware of how they work from a personal perspective, but how can you leverage these social properties to best benefit your business? What can social media bring you that other, more traditional methods of marketing cant? Why would you invest in this method of communication when it is so new, so untested? Well, hopefully in this section of our website we can answer these and many more questions for you and demonstrate why social media has grown so fast and why it is an essential ingredient in your business marketing.
What is Social Media?
[extracted from wikipedia] Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein also define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” Businesses also refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.
In plain English, what this means is that social media is a term to websites that take traditional methods of commuincation and apply them to an online environment – in a group of friends, it is highly likely that you would discuss what happened on TV last night, where you have been for meals and nights out, and events you are planning – as well as general discussions relating to the world from the point of view of you and your group of peers. Now consider FaceBook – effectively this is exactly the same, but online. You create a network of friends and converse with them about events and issues in your life. A huge benefit of social media is that conversations can happen much more freely without face to face interaction, and also that other people within your network can see your opinions and experiences.
Social Media as a Business Tool
Using social platforms is now something that every single business must do – by communicating with your customers on a platform that they are familiar and comfortable with, you allow your brand, products and services to become a part of their life. This builds huge amounts of brand loyalty, as well as allowing you the opportunity to announce sale events, promotions, new products (or services), business news and awards directly to the people who matter to your business.
There are a few different types of social platforms, each having its own set of potential benefits for business users if used to the correct degree. The following is a list of the types of social media websites around today, with a few examples of each and the ways in which your business can leverage the opportunities each of these platforms brings
- Publication tools
- with blogs (Typepad, Blogger…)
- wikis (Wikipedia, Wikia, Wetpaint…)
- citizen journalism portals (Digg, Newsvine…)
These social media platforms allow you to publish relevant content relating to yoru business, products or services on third party websites, inviting discussion on the topics. The downside is the ultimate control of the content and the associated feedback can sometimes be taken away from the original author, but the positives are that you are engaging in link building in the middle of relevant content, meaning the search engines will find your embedded links and credit your website with a relevant link, and human readers clicking through to your website will be pre-qualified – i.e. they will already be fully aware of what type of business they are visiting, and your demonstration of subject knowledge will mean the customer is much more likely to spend money when they arrive on your website.
- Sharing tools
- for videos (YouTube…)
- pictures (FlickR…)
- links (del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia…)
- music (Last.fm, iLike…)
- slideshows (Slideshare)
- products reviews (Crowdstorm, Stylehive…)
- product feedback (Feedback 2.0, GetSatisfaction…)
These tools allow you a great way of posting and sharing links to interesting web pages, articles, imagery or other media. Many customers are subscribed to these services meaning they offer a way of putting business specific content in front of your user on whatever net enabled device they are using. These tools can also be used in conjunction with many other SEO tools to maximise their effect and ensure search engines find your new content quickly.
- Discussions tools
- forums (PHPbb, vBulletin, Phorum…)
- video forums (Seesmic)
- instant messaging (Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Meebo…)
- VoIP (Skype, Google Talk…)
This set of social media tools combiens to allow you a channel in which you can cultivate relationships with new prospects, as well as discuss privately any specific points. Forums in particular offer a great opportunity to connect with like minded people and build trust over a period of time, which will largely result in an increase in sales as the end users feel they “know you” even though in all probability you have never actually met.
- Social networks
- The big players (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Orkut…)
- niche social networks (LinkedIn, Boompa…)
- tools for creating social networks (Ning)
These are the big guns, and can allow your business a dedicated platform from which you can launch new products and really establish long term relationships with your customers. The viral aspect of sites such as these is much misunderstood, but will allow customers who are happy with your service to spread your business to their personal contacts – there is no better lead generation than word of mouth and FaceBook (and similar sites) simply allow this process to increase in speed and effectiveness.
- Microblogging (Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Plurk, Adocu…) and alike (twitxr, tweetpeek)
Microblogs allow you the opportunity to accomplish similar thinsg to the social networks described above, but involve the use of headline style announcements. This means you can put many more announcements and articles into the internet and allow for a quicker turnaround of events and stories within your business. Twitter users in particular tend to subscribe to news updates on their mobile phones and desktop applications, meaning your tweets are able to reach your target audience whatever they are doing and wherever they are, and generally response times are very quick.
- Social aggregation tools (FriendFeed, Socializr, Socialthing!, lifestrea.ms, Profilactic…)
These tools take the content of other social media platforms and put them into a single feed, allowing your customers the opportunity to see all of your updates across multiple social media outlets in one view. Again, this type of social platform tends to have a high level of permeation into peoples lives, although the subscription volumes for them do tend to be lower. However they are brilliant at allowing search engines to collate your links and find your new content quickly.
- Platforms for livecast hosting (Justin.tv, BlogTV, Yahoo! Live, UStream…) and there mobile equivalent (Qik, Flixwagon, Kyte, LiveCastr…)
These social media platforms allow your business to become a part of your customers lives, putting them into the equation when you are conducting important events, showcasing new products or launching new services. They are very good at building client loyalty and for effective marketing.
- Virtual worlds (Second Life, Entropia Universe, There…)
This type of social media platform is generally less effective for business promotion, but for certain specialist niche products can be incredibly worthwhile investments. One of our clients for example regularly advertises on Second Life and because their products are “virtual” the brand awareness that these adverts bring about has lead to a major increase to the uptake of their products.
- teens dedicated virtual universes (Stardoll, Club Penguin…)
Once again these more niche oriented virtual worlds can prove very effective for specialist websites and businesses, but by and large are not a part of a mainstream online marketing campaign.
- Social gaming
- platforms (ImInLikeWithYou, Doof…)
- casual gaming portals (Pogo, Cafe, Kongregate…)
- social networks enabeled games (Three Rings, SGN)
- MMO (Neopets, Gaia Online, Kart Rider, Drift City, Maple Story)
- MMORPG (World of Warcraft, Age of Conan…)
Because social gaming tends to be very immersive, almost all of these communities have extremely loyal and active followings who will spend a large amount of time getting involved in the community aspect of the products. If your website or business has relevance and can build a client base within the target demographic of a particular game, then it makes a lot of sense for you to establish a presence within these communities to expoit the opportunities this type of social media offer.