It’s all you hear about, “social media” this and Facebook that, and what’s being said on Twitter. But what does that really mean to a business? Well there’s a lot of different ways one can look at it. But first and foremost, social media is not a trend and savvy businesses and professionals, large or small, are using it to improve their messaging, customer service and brand loyalty.
(PLEASE NOTE: There’s far too much to cover in this one article to answer all your potential questions, therefore we’ve inserted an array of links that will give you greater clarification to some of these technologies.)
Understanding the foundational landscape:
“Social Graph” – is the term that comes from all of your social networks connecting to each other. The more you can have followers of a given social network be able to connect to other networks, and ultimately your website, the more effective you will be. This is no different than traditional “integrated” marketing approaches. Think of it as television, radio, outdoor and print advertising all telling your customer to go to your store. Your social graph comes from the same integrated directive.
Your Website (with Newsletter) – All roads lead to Rome and your website should act as your hub for your social graph. Here you will market yourself, your product and your service. Remember that it’s incredibly important that if you change directions with your website that you retroactively make the same messaging changes to all your social networks as well. You wouldn’t want your radio spot selling a widget for $10 dollars and your television spot saying it’s $12 would you? The same applies to social media.
A Blog (with RSS feed & Sharing) – A blog (a term that comes from an older term ‘web log’ or journal) is a unique opportunity to speak, share and communicate with your customers. The difference between a blog and standard marketing speak however is that a blog should feel “human”, have opinion and allow for speculation. The first rule in blogging (as is the same in all your social communications) is be honest, authentic, consistent and professional. Blogging gives you the opportunity to reach around your primary directives and talk about your industry, your opinions and (within reason) diversification of subject matter.
Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) – What’s important to understand about Facebook is there are “profiles” that are personal accounts that share photos, posts, connections and what are called “LIKES.” Likes are how Facebook targets and profiles you to get you information and content that is relevant and interesting. Secondarily for business (http://www.justicemitchell.com/justice-mitchell/2011/1/24/facebook-business-101.html) there are Facebook “pages” (http://www.facebook.com/FacebookPages) and “groups.” These are different from your profiles, as they are directed at creating interest out of a business, service, person or directive. Groups are created to harness interest within defined topics. If you have a profile you can create a page or a group.
Twitter (http://www.justicemitchell.com/justice-mitchell/2010/1/15/twitter-for-business-101-the-rights-of-passage.html) – Twitter is a tool that is considered a “Microblogging” platform. It allows you to post messages (called “tweets”) to your account and creates the ability for people to “follow” you. By creating a following, every time you tweet, your message is pushed to your Twitter collective and gives people the opportunity to respond and interact with you. It’s important (as with all your social graph) to respond in a timely manner.
Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com/) – This is the professional’s social network. Here you can find millions of professional people, groups and businesses to connect with. Not only does it serve as a place to hang your resume (http://www.linkedin.com/in/justicemitchell), but it gives your a forum for groups (http://www.linkedin.com/groupsDirectory), a place to ask and answer business questions (http://www.linkedin.com/answers) and post/look for employment (http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=jobs). For businesses (http://www.linkedin.com/directory/companies/) it also provides you yet one more “touch point” on your social grid to tell people about what you do.
YouTube Channel – This is not always an essential tool to your social graph, but more often than not is added into the fold. This channel allows user to upload, like, share and embed videos with one another. And while any one of these technologies could take several articles to define perfectly, it’s fair to say that the future will be deeply entrenched in what is called “user-generated content” (UGC) (http://www.justicemitchell.com/justice-mitchell/2010/6/21/how-do-i-get-it-viral.html). With every smart phone in the future giving people the ability to shoot video in HD, the world is fastly becoming bound by its media. That being said, it’s jump in or get left behind.
Social Photo/Video Network (e.i. Flickr or Picasa) – Lastly, much like a YouTube channel, it might be in your best interest to also have a social photo network as well. Much like other accounts, businesses use social photo accounts to show new product, document events and tell needed stories to accentuate demand for their product or service.
What I outlined for you is the concrete to a social media platform. There are literally thousands of social sites that get more and more granular to specific products (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Original-Levis-501/136956279684835), topics (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sustainability/105572446142396) and interests (http://www.facebook.com/PensToday). This article has been meant to scratch the fertile surface of what’s available to you online. I hope it serves you well.
Have you used any of these tools for business? Are they working? Share your comments and questions with us!