Find Out the Myth and Mastery of Social Media Strategy

It’s known by many names and it’s all the rage! I’m talking about social media – also known as social media marketing, social media optimisation, SMO, SMM and social networking. For businesses it has tremendous potential and value, but in simple terms social media is just another communication channel with the world.

But instead of delivering a sales or service message via advertising or marketing, with social media you’re talking to people in the way you would with friends, colleagues or strangers who share the same interests.

Social media used to be for the young Net Generation, as Don Tapscott (Author of Grown Up Digital) calls them, but now the average age on Facebook is 35. LinkedIn has a huge membership between 35 and 54!

As David Mercer, Head of BT Design, told me recently the older generation just can’t help hijacking the Net Gens’ home turf. Or at least words to that effect. Is it fair? I can see his point but the fact we all use phones doesn’t seem to affect the younger generation’s perception of ownership of the mobile world.

Even my eight year old is using social media in the form of Club Penguin (Disney’s MMOG, Massively Multi-Player Online Game). By the time he is in business, social media will be just as integrated in his life as email and mobile phones, if they’re still around.

With 400 million active accounts on Facebook getting over 120 million unique visitors each month, social media is not going away. But it’s important to remember what your objective is if you want to get involved with social media for personal, business or branding reasons.

Different platforms have different personalities: LinkedIn is business oriented while Facebook is social and works better in engaging individuals. Twitter is real-time news and information on everything from clubs and coffee shops to finance and biochemical research. So each platform should be picked to meet the characteristics of objectives.

Remember, too, that other countries have big platforms. China’s platform is QQ and has over 500million users, Orkut has over 100 million users with over 70 per cent of them from Brazil and India. In Russia, Vkontakte has over 60 million, so pick your playground carefully.

Most of the major platforms offer advertising. Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube all have a pay per click advertising option which can be targeted at an audience with surgical precision…well, field surgery at least. Let’s say I wanted to get people to book me to run workshops in their business.

I could place an advert on LinkedIn targeting Marketing Directors of businesses in the UK with over 250 staff, or perhaps select a few niche industries such as finance, retail and manufacturing. If I get my advert right I will only attract clicks that are likely to convert and, of course, I only pay when they click!

A word of caution: We all put so much information about ourselves on social media that with a little research people can easily find out a lot about you and your business. Reputation management has never been more important.

Using LinkedIn as an example, let’s say I want to meet Mr Smith, CMO of a blue chip brand. I look him up on LinkedIn and see that he is a member of a group called Future Trends. I can also see that he is connected to a friend of mine called Thomas. I join the group called Future Trends and ask Thomas to ask Mr Smith if he could tell me more about this group.

Do we think that hearing from Thomas that someone who shares a common interest would like to meet him would be of interest? One would hope so. There are many ways to manage social media but there is a level of lateral thinking that helps.

When setting up a social media strategy there are many monitoring tools that can be used to plan who you should engage with and where you should have a presence. One of my favorites is Social Radar from Infegy. It gives you a visual representation on how social media accounts are connected, a road map of who’s talking to who on the web.

Through this you can see where most conversations are taking place on your topic. These people are called Influencers and they are an important part of a social media strategy as they help organisations and individuals control the conversations.

Let me tell you a story. A well-known journalist was writing about a big brand’s new sports car on his blog. The journalist was an Influencer because over 50,000 people subscribed to read his blog on a regular basis. His opinion of the new car’s looks was based on a photo he’d seen and unfortunately for the manufacturer the opinion was not a good – the words “back of a bus” and “angry bulldog” come to mind.

Shortly after his opinion hit the net, postings start to appear on blogs and forums echoing his comments. Before long the opinion of even those who have never seen the car is a negative one.

Now if the brand had been monitoring the social biosphere they would have quickly picked up this story and through sentiment monitoring [WHAT’S THIS??] they would have been able to see its negative connotation. They could h,ave seen the topic growing in importance and acted on it. How I hear you say!

Well, my first step would have been to contact the journalist and invite him to experience the car in person. Let’s face it, brands are about experience not just looks. Imagine this…

You invite the journalist to join you for a track day. When he arrives he is presented with a shiny new, highly-polished, top of the range version of the car. First impressions…it looks better than it did in the photos.

Then a test driver shows him how smooth and quiet the car is before slamming it into sports mode to demonstrate the near 200mph speed that the car gracefully achieves in the blink of an eye. After spending a day experiencing this luxury car the journalist has a different opinion.

In the next blog he writes about his fantastic day and admits that the pictures he’d seen didn’t really do it justice. He then enthuses about his positive EXPERIENCE with the car. Very soon his readers have changed their perceptions, too, and the online conversation has been controlled and made positive.

It is through this careful monitoring and strategic engagement that social media can be used as not only a PR machine but also another market to channel. Let me explain…

Using a Twitter client on my iPad I am able to see on a map the names of people who are talking around me. This is being picked up by the geo-tagging of where they where when they last posted a message. I used this in a demonstration in a London restaurant which also had a meeting room and private dining area. To our surprise we found that the CEO of King of Shaves was tweeting next door!

It was too much to resist so we responded to his Tweet and invited him over for a drink and a discussion about how the restaurant might be able to help him and his organisation.

We had a fairly fast response saying that he would drop in when he had a chance. You can imagine how long such a meeting would have taken to set up – if at all – using the traditional route to a CEO of receptionists, gate keepers, PAs etc. Social media opens up opportunities never before available.

Staying on the subject of Twitter, real time search allows you to stoke while the iron is hot. If I was monitoring or searching for the words “need+new+monitor” I would find people who have recently Tweeted that they need a new monitor This information could be very valuable to an online electronic shop.

Engaging people when their requirement is in the forefront of their minds and creating a process that is easy to fulfill this requirement can translate into direct revenue. Software like Radian6 can monitor most conversations taking place on the web in near real-time. It is an engagement tool allowing you to watch, listen and respond – as part of a strategy this is a vital component.

Someone once said that if you see the bandwagon you are already too late to jump on it. What should you consider before leaping on to the social media bandwagon?

First, what is your objective? Are you using social media for PR, brand awareness, a channel to market or because you what to listen to the chatter from your industry?

Second, you should define a strategy of what goals you want to achieve and what message needs to be given to achieve success.

Third, who is going to manage the project? To run social media campaigns properly, you’ll probably need the services of a manager who has good writing skills and a marketing or PR background. This will have a cost implication so you’ll to set KPIs and targets to ensure you achieve a return on the investment.

The good news is that by using YouTube or Facebook to communicate with engaged customers or group members you will discover the cost of contacting your audience is minimal. During his election campaign, Barack Obama was able to communicate with over five million people instantly at no cost on almost a one-to-one to personal level.

Today he has almost 10 million fans on Facebook alone – a few hundred thousand behind Lady Gaga. There aren’t many ways of connecting with an audience that size for free, are there? Can your business operate as efficiently as that? As Obama would say: Yes you can!

Social Media: Where to Begin?

Social Media is everywhere. There is no escaping it.

Twenty years ago there was a raise in households buying PC’s. This encouraged more and more people to get on the Internet. Then there were PC’s for each individual within the household. Now there is a never ending grow of people purchasing SmartPhones, which almost carry out all of the functions of your standard PC. This is making it easier for everyone to be on the Internet on the go. It is now hard to find a point during the day where you cannot access the Internet.

What do people look at whilst on the Internet? – Social Media.

Everyone is constantly online talking to their friends, sharing what they’re doing and finding out what other people are up too. It’s happening all day, every day. Social Media never sleeps.

What is Social Media?

The best way to define Social Media is to break it down. Media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper, radio or television. Therefore Social Media would be the social instrument on communication.

In Web 2.0 terms, this would be a website that doesn’t just give you information, but it will interact with you as you receive the information. These interactions can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article. It can even be as complex as Flixster recommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests to you.

Try and think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter. Social Media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too. This allows you to express your opinions and thoughts on any matter and have them open for discussion with other people.

Is Social Media and Social News the same?

It is very easy to confuse Social Media with Social News because we often refer to members of news teams as

“The Media”. To make matters worse, we also get confused with the fact that a Social News site is also a Social Media site as it falls into that broader category.

Saying that Social News is the same as Social Media is like saying that Cars are Transport. A Car is a type of transport, then again so are Bikes, Boats and Planes. So while Social News is a form of Social Media, so are Social Networking and Wikis.

Here are some examples of Social Media Websites:

Social Bookmarking: Delicious, Blinklist and Simpy. You interact by tagging websites and search through websites bookmarked by other people.

Social News: Digg, Propeller and Reddit. You interact by voting for articles and comment on them.

Social Networking: Facebook, Twitter, Hi5 and Last.FM. You interact by adding friends, following people, commenting on profiles, joining groups and having discussions.

Social Photo and Video Sharing: YouTube and Flickr. You interact by sharing photos or videos and commenting on user submissions.

Wikis: Wikipedia and Wikia. You interact by adding articles and editing existing articles.

What is it?

Social Networking is based on a certain structure that allows people to both express their individuality, opinions, emotions and thoughts whilst meeting people with similar interests. The structure will usually include having profiles, friends or followers, blog posts, widgets and quite often something unique to the site itself. For example on Facebook you’re able to “Poke” someone, on Twitter you can “Re-Tweet” someone and on “Bebo” you can share love once a day.

Profile: This is where you fill out an online portfolio regarding basic information about yourself. It gives you a chance to upload a photo of yourself, mention where you live, how old you are, your interests and some personality questions. The questions are usually something quite standard such as “What is your favourite Film/Book/Colour?”

Friends: We’ve all got friends and there is no doubt that your friends are already on these sites. Friends on your Social Networking sites are trusted people of the site that are allowed to post comments on your profile or send you private messages. You can also keep tabs on how your friends are using Social Networking, such as when they post a new picture or update their profile. This is how we stay connected.

Friends are the bread and butter of Social Networking. I should point out that not all Social Networking sites will refer to your friends as “friends”. For example on Twitter they are known as “followers” and on LinkedIn they are known as “connections”.

Groups: Most Social Networking sites will use groups to help you find people with similar interests with you. It can also be used for to engage in discussions on certain topics such as Global Warming or The Lost Series.

A group can be named anything from “Reepham High School ’08” to “Kittens” to “One Direction Fans”. They are both a way to express your interests and connect with like-minded people. I should also point out that not all Social Networking sites name them “Groups”. For example on Facebook they are known as “Networks” and on Google+ they are known as “Circles”.

Discussions: One of the primary focuses on groups is to create interaction between users in the form of a discussion. Most Social Networking sites support all discussions, providing they’re appropriate. You will find that most of them allow you to post added content such as Photos, Videos or Songs which are related to the subject.

Blogs: Blogs are a feature that some Social Networking sites will have. These will not be as extensive as a WordPress or Blogger, but they are still there for you to keep people updated. Consider it as a longer Status or Tweet. Sometimes there are moments when you’d like to share something reasonably long but just don’t want to start up a full time blog. This is where the blog feature comes in handy.

Widgets: Another way of letting people know what you’re interested in is through Widgets. Some Social Networking sites have what we call a ‘Widget Gallery’. From here you can select which Widgets suit you and post them on your profile. This allows people to take polls for example, or experience a new piece of music. Even fill out a questionnaire that you’ve devised.

Why Start Social Networking?

Social Networking, as I’ve said, is everywhere. There are so many people already on Social Networking sites and more and more people sign up each and every day. Besides texting and phone calls, it is the most advanced and common way to connect with your friends and family. It’s phenomenal and not just for personal use. Thousands of business have flourish because of Social Networking. It’s free advertisement and enables you to create a reputation for yourself. You’re able to promote yourself, explain upcoming offers, deals and general news.

Most of us have hobbies or things that we are highly interested in such as Films, Books, Games, Sports and Music. Social Networking allows us to reach out to other people who share the same interests. It’s a great way of discovering new things. You will find that people will similar interests might like something else also, which in turn, will gain your interest. For example if you and someone else share the same interest for the band ‘Enter Shikari’, you might find that they also enjoy other bands of a similar genre that you have not heard of.

Am I too old to start Social Networking?

No.

You’re never too old to start Social Networking. If you’re worried about it being too difficult or technical for you to use, then don’t be. Social Networking sites are designed to be simple and easy to use so that they can widen their audience to everyone. There isn’t an age limit to Social Networking. It is advisable not to let children on without parental supervision but other than that go ahead and sign up!

You will find that there are specific groups dedicated to people of certain generations. This could be anything from “Music from the 60’s” to “Are you scared of you computer too?”. There will be other people of a similar age if not older than you, who can help you with certain problems or issues you might be having with Social Networking. If you have children or grandchildren, ask them for help. Social Networking has become almost second nature for children these days and so therefore they should be able to guide you through everything that you need to know.

How do I get started with Social Networking?

Just like going to a party, going camping or joining a book club, Social Networking can be a lot of fun.

It can be very productive for your business and or career, just like attending business seminars or a business conference. Social Networking means different things for different people. Everyone has their own gains from it but you’ll never know what you can achieve or experience through Social Networking until you give it a try for yourself.

The most common Social Network, Facebook, has reached over One Billion users as of September 2012. This includes celebrities such as Actors, Comedians, Musicians, Bands, Scientists and Athletes etc. Businesses are also on Facebook. For example Game, the gaming industry retailer, has got a main Facebook page and one set up for each individual branch or location. Game uses this to promote what deals are currently on, when you can pre-order new items and general news to its friends and followers.

Facebook however isn’t alone. There are many other Social Networking sites that cater to general interests such as MySpace, Google+ and Twitter. Then there are those that cater to specific interests such as Flixter which is a Social Network for Film Lovers.

What Social Network is right for me?

The first question you have to ask yourself is; ‘What do I want to gain from Social Networking?’

Are you looking to discuss films with someone? Are you looking to be able to stay better connected with your friends? Are you trying to promote your business? Are you trying to gain internet fame? Are you unsure and just want to find out what all the hype is about?

What ever the question is, you need to think about what you expect to gain from it.

If you’re looking to gain a reputation or trying to self promote your business then Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are great for advertising yourself. Social Networks such as LinkedIn and Google+ are better for gaining good business contacts and connections.

If you’re passionate about music there is a great Social Networking site called ‘Last.Fm’. It combines the idea of a personalised radio station with Social Networking which therefore allows you to create your own playlists and will suggest music to you based on your tastes and interests. It also allows you to listen to playlists that have been created by your friends, this is particularly helpful for when you’re at a party and need quick access to a good selection of tunes!

Unfortunately while there are plenty of different Social Networking sites which cater to most interests and needs, there isn’t one specifically catered for everything. This is where the user created groups on sites such as Facebook come in handy. Facebook comes with a search box; this enables you to look up anything that is on Facebook. If you’re trying to find a group to discuss the pollution in the sea, I guarantee that there will be a Group or Page dedicated to such conversations.

If you’re just looking to meet a wide variety of people and not just those interested in a specific interest then I would recommend a general Social Networking site such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or Hi5.

Summary

As you have learnt from this article, there are many different forms of Social Networking. You just now need to sit down and put in some time to find the right one for you or your business. You should start by defining your objectives. Please also be prepared to be flexible within the early days of Social Media. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Above everything though, make sure you enjoy it!

The Risks of Oversharing on Social Media Platforms

For many web design companies, social media offers the ideal promotional platform. You can encourage your staff to help spread the word about your web design services and portfolio. However, its very important to make sure that the employee does not post anything negative or inappropriate. This is a great policy that can work well as long as all of the employees respect it. However, this practice does not come without risk. Employees can divulge sensitive company information, use inconsistent branding messages, or simply post company information in an inappropriate environment. But, if done well, employees talking up of your web design firm can boost awareness and attract viral attention, which can of course lead to more business and greater profits.

Here are four tips for success in managing the social media world:

1. Establish communication expectations. Tell your employees to keep it clean and use proper branding messages. If employees are writing blog posts or other longer-form material, you might want to implement a formal approval process to make sure that all material abides by company standards. Otherwise, you might find out after its too late.

2. Be clear about confidential information. If you’re just about to land a high profile law firm client, or if you have a hot product that has not yet been released, emphasize that this type of news is not for public disclosure. The internet is about the end of forgetting…it’s about permanence. If you post something on the internet, it doesn’t just vanish into the ether like it does when you just mention something around the water cooler.

3. Get the clients’ approvals. Some clients, particular attorneys or physicians, may not appreciate your employees disclosing what your design firm does for them. In fact, what you are disclosing may be unethical and/or illegal, and has the potential to risk their license. It’s always a good idea to get the nod from your client (especially if they are involved in a field with high confidentiality laws such as attorneys or doctors) before you go public on any website with news about the businesses.

4. Abide by copyright laws. Copyright can also be an issue, so be sure your web design employees or contractors have the rights to the material they post. If they share copyrighted videos, music or text from clients’ websites without permission, they could be putting the company at legal risk.