Whether you’re new to social media or just looking to close a few knowledge gaps, we’re glad you stopped by. By now, we’ve all heard how valuable—even essential—social media can be. Whether your current sentiment leans more toward enthusiasm or trepidation, there’s no way around the fact that social media is a far more complex field than it first seems. Diving in without a sense for what it’s like can be overwhelming, and building a network that provides real value takes both savvy and hard work, but fear not—we’re here to help! We hope you’ll find this to be one of the most comprehensive social media resources available, and that no matter what your skill level is, there’s plenty in here to help you improve your social presence. What are we waiting for? Let’s dive in!
What is social media?
“Social media” is a way for people to communicate and interact online. While it has been around since the dawn of the World Wide Web, in the last 10 years or so we’ve seen a surge in both the number and popularity of social media sites. It’s called social media because users engage with (and around) it in a social context, which can include conversations, commentary, and other user-generated annotations and engagement interactions.
Publishing content has become exponentially simpler over the last several years, which has helped skyrocket the use of social media. Non-technical web users are now able to easily create content on a rapidly growing number of platforms, including those that are owned (hosted communities, blogs, etc.), rented (social networks or third-party communities), and occupied (commenting, contributing, etc.). Today’s web has shifted from a “one-to-many” to a “many-to-many” method of engagement, and we love it. For businesses, the shift in web consumerism and accompanying rise in social media brings both opportunity and responsibility. The sheer amount of data that customers make available through social media alone has web marketers jumping for joy. The real magic, however, lies in the opportunity to grow lasting and scale able relationships with your organization’s customer base through social media. This is also where your online responsibility to your customers begins to take shape. Just as your customers’ behavior has shifted, so have their expectations for yours. Whether your business is listening and engaging or not, customers are having conversations relevant to your operations. It’s better to be part of the conversation, right? We sure think so!
Is social media just a fad?
Over the last several years, there has been an explosion of growth in popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and many others. It’s safe to say that the era of social media is just getting started, and the need for social media in business will only become stronger over time. The whole world has seen the impact of the expansion and adoption of social media tactics, and the rising stats speak for themselves.
How can social be a springboard for success in other marketing channels?
Keep in mind that neither your customers’ experience nor your brand starts with Twitter, Facebook, or your blog. Social media should take your existing brand and solidify it, galvanize it, and bolster it. Your efforts in social media should be an extension of everything else you do in all departments of your company. Capturing your company’s voice and sharing it with the world through social media will open up unique opportunities in all other channels of inbound marketing, including SEO, branding, public relations, sales, and more, channels of inbound marketing, including SEO, branding, public relations, sales, and more.
To get the most out of social media, make the relationships you build with it your end goal. That might sound a bit utopian for anyone who is grounded in more traditional and tangible business measurement and metrics, but take a step back from the bottom-line, ROI-seeking aspect to look at the big picture for a minute. The relationships built with customers are the foundations upon which other aspects of your business can and will flourish.
Information can be shared through social media at an amazingly fast pace, and users are increasingly turning to social channels to share information in real-time. This information often takes the form of opinions, so if you’re listening for the right cues from your audience, social media can become an invaluable source of insights and feedback. Incorporating social listening into product development work can act as an early warning system, save on customer service costs, provide valuable development feedback, and even help identify ideal beta testers without much expense.
Social media is not something you can simply “tack on” to the rest of your marketing, branding, PR, and advertising efforts; it needs to be a fully integrated part of the mix. In doing so, you can create a cohesive and scalable experience for your customers. Think of it as a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Also, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
Be sure to integrate social media into your marketing efforts as early as possible to help amplify and solidify your work rather than waiting until the end of a planning cycle to explore social options. If a social presence is clear from the start, your branding will benefit from additional customer touch-points, PR will see a lift in impressions and reach, and customer service can proactively listen and activate where necessary.
As you can see, a social presence can have far-reaching impact for your organization when it is executed in an authentic and thoughtful manner. By making social engagement a core part of your operations rather than an afterthought, you have a better shot at fully leveraging its power.