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Social Media and why you should care about it

Social Media and why you should care about it

2009 has seen the proliferation of a whole range of words and phrases that may have left many business owners scratching their heads. It's seems like it's no longer enough to surf, to click or to blog. We're now expected to Twitter, to LinkIn and to 'poke'.

All of these strange terms are generally thrown under the umbrella of “social media”, for which (as with most things in life) lots of people offer lots of different definitions. But one of our favourites comes from Andreas Kaplan of ESCP Europe, who says:

“Social media is a group of internet based applications that build on the ideological and  technological  foundations of web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user  generated content.”

For now lets ignore the “web 2.0” side of things (as that's another story) and concentrate on that last sentence as it mentions a key aspect when thinking about social media – user generated content. Consider the old days where one of your customers may have experienced a bad ice cream from their local parlour. They may have told a friend or two, who in turn may have told a couple of their friends – but on the whole the damage to the brand may have been fairly minimal.

But times have changed. That bad ice cream could now be blogged about on a web site for the world to see. Or through a social networking site such as Facebook, where with one status update all that user's friends and contacts would know all about the ice cream based trauma. And even worse, the sight of that ice cream could be vividly captured and shown to the world on photo or video sharing sites such as Flickr and Youtube.

In general these applications – and the use of them to spread 'word of mouth' – sums up social media nicely. It's the use of these modern techniques to share opinion, thought, comments and – this is where it can get interesting for businesses – recommendations, ratings and referrals. But why should you care? Because if you're not using these applications to talk to your customers, it's a fair bet they're already using them to talk about you.

Let's get away from our negative ice cream experience and instead look at the positive way that some of the most fundamental elements of social media can be used by businesses to communicate with customers and colleagues:

  • social networking sites such as Facebook. They might have a reputation for only being useful for keeping your grandmother up to date with your life (females aged 55+ is currently the biggest growth sector for Facebook usage) but Facebook now has over 300 million users and a business profile page can help some of them become “fans” of your organisation or your products. Nike currently has over 825,000 fans. Fans include links to your profile page as part of their profile, which can then spread to their friends, and their friends – you get the picture. For very little effort suddenly you've hit upon an effective 'viral' method of spreading awareness of what you're up to.
  • Twitter is a popular 'micro-blogging' service that essentially allows you to climb to the top of a big hill and yell things at those who have chosen to listen. Helped by celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, Twitter usage has risen dramatically this year and will continue next year as brands truly discover how they can use this tool effectively. At Focus New Media, we have just over 310 'followers' who always get our latest news and announcements – lucky things! And Twitter also includes useful built-in tools that help you identify when your organisation is being talked about and by whom, really valuable marketing information and helping you connect with customers directly.
  • founded in 2003, LinkedIn has become a leading site for online networking – acting much like a Facebook for businesses, but without the updates for grandma. LinkedIn now has over 53 million users in 200 countries and it can be used for connecting with past and present colleagues, posting projects and business opportunities, finding industry experts and according to some reports has become a crucial resource for HR departments, with 80% of US companies saying they use LinkedIn as part of their recruitment process.

That's just a very quick overview of some of the core blocks that make up this strange new world of social media. They form only a part of your organisation's digital strategy – but it's a crucial part at that, and in these times when online spend has now overtaken spend in traditional channels such as television, radio and print, it's important for you and your business to understand them and take advantage of the new opportunities they may bring.

 

Simon Newing
Simon

Created on Tuesday December 22 2009 04:59 PM


Tags: social-networking twitter


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