Often I’m asked, “What is social media?”
For businesses, social media are where technology and social interaction merge. It leverages Web-based and mobile communication tools to allow for the creation of conversations and the content between consumers and brands. Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp and blogs are some of the tools businesses and consumers use to create and broadcast content and engage in social interaction.
These social media channels allow individuals and brands to shift fluidly between audience and author roles. Content generation and conversations within these channels utilize what is termed “social software,” to enable anyone without knowledge of coding to post, comment on, share or mash up content, and form communities around shared interests.
Think of an old-time malt shop at the mall. Conversations at these places typically took place on a one-to-one basis or within small groups. If a company wanted to “shake hands and kiss babies,” social engagement typically occurred one consumer at a time. The hope was that they’d leave the conversation empowered, with brand recognition, and wanting to evangelize the actions the company was looking to generate.
Whether the dialogue took place between brand and customer, within social cliques or simply on a one-to-one basis, someone would eventually break away and begin pollinating other conversations with the information they just gleaned.
Fast forward to what I’ve coined “the pollination effect.” Remember the shampoo commercial: “I told two friends, they told two friends, they told two friends,” and so on and so on? Harnessed properly, the pollination effect will create lightning in a bottle.
Don’t think that social media is going to be your business’ silver bullet. It takes time, dedication and strategy to create powerful customer relationships. Half the battle will be breaking through the noise bombarding your target audience for its attention. Today’s consumer has constant partial attention.
Imagine your target market. On the Web, they probably have multiple pages open, perhaps their iPod, TV or radio playing in the background, friends instant messaging and texting them, phone distractions, someone talking at them in person, browsing mail, and engaging on multiple social media channels — and you’re trying to attract their attention yourself.
Like a restaurant, social media has an endless menu of options. To reach your target market, the specials of the day change with hundreds of new social media channels developed daily.
The trick is figuring out which menu items will get your target markets telling their friends and returning for more.
Social media is public relations on steroids. Social media allow you to take your message directly to the masses and receive instant feedback. The tools to broadcast your message are endless.
Look at channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Sign up for accounts on most platforms and they’ll offer communication tools such as the ability to send e-mails to and from their platform, messaging, blogs, polls and content aggregation from other platforms such as Twitter.
To be successful, manage your time, have a solid game plan about what you’re going to say, whom you’re trying to reach and effective ways to reach them. Some platforms work well for one type of business and completely bomb for another. Blogs and LinkedIn typically work better for B2B businesses and platforms such as Facebook have higher B2C success rates.
To help determine the best platform for your business, research where the conversations relevant to your industry and target markets are taking place.
Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at [email protected]am.com.