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 Volgers kopen (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.