As social media has started to emerge as a discipline it is having trouble finding where it belongs. There are agencies that deal specifically with social media but often it sits within the offerings of a PR agency or web agency or in-house department. But where does it really fit?
Social media platforms (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) are simply tools that provide a method of communicating a message. You could argue that Marketing, PR and Web all do the same – but in different ways.
Is it a form of Marketing?
Traditional marketing is about an organisation deciding on how they want sell a product and using various tools (TV, newspapers, radio) to spread that message as widely and as many times as possible – hoping that it might fall on the right ears and that person will buy the product.
Social media is not about pushing a message but about engaging with an audience that have chosen to hear the message. Social media can be used for marketing, very effectively, but only if the marketer using it acknowledges that they will have to work differently and that it is now a two-way conversation.
Is it a form of Public Relations?
Public Relations (PR) is about an organisation using the media to spread a message. This is by creating a story related to the organisation, in the hope that it is picked up and creates positive media coverage that positions the organisation at the forefront of the media consumers mind.
You could say that, effectively, social media cuts out the middle man. Social media platforms give the organisation the ability to communicate directly with its consumers, and others, and to have complete control over the message.
Is it a part of Web Development?
Facebook, in particular, sits very closely to web development. It operates in within an Open Source framework that allows developers to create applications and html code to customise pages. Twitter also has many applications now attached to it that act as tools to maximise its use.
Social media also has the ability to drive traffic to websites and interact with them through social plug-ins. It can also help with search engine optimisation of a website.
So, in conclusion, it would seem that social media has a leg in all three disciplines. This is no bad thing as it demonstrates what a diverse and effective tool for communication social media is. The only downside, as there always is with any emerging field, is that many Marketing, PR and Web practitioners are ‘having a go’ at social media but often not getting it quite right.
The only way to ensure that your social media use is going to be as effective as possible is to get support and advice from a specialist social media agency.
Tagging is one the most simple and effective tools of social media marketing. It works differently in different platforms but all to the same end of increasing engagement and visibility of what you are saying.
In Facebook you can tag photos, and now friends and places, in status updates. For business use though the most effective form of tagging is the @ tag in updates. If your page is a fan of other pages they can be tagged in a post by inserting the @ symbol and typing the name of the page. If you then hit return this creates a link to that page and will also notify that page that it has been tagged. This in turn should stimulate some sharing and engagement with those tagged.
Tagging on Twitter has more options and the ability to make your 140 character update have even more reach. @ tagging on Twitter serves a similar purpose to how it works on Facebook. If you use insert the @ symbol into a Tweet and start typing one of the usernames of someone you follow it should bring them up in a list that you can then select from and tag that person in your Tweet. This then means that they are guaranteed to see that Tweet as it will come up in their ‘Mentions’ feed rather than get lost in the very fast moving ‘Home’ feed. If they are an active Tweeter this should stimulate them to reply and provide the start of some engagement.
# tagging on Twitter serves two purposes. By # tagging a word e.g. #socialmedia you are helping to make it part of, what eventually could become, a ‘Trending Topic’. If multiple Tweets # tag the same word/topic they become part of a big conversation on Twitter and move up the trending list.
# tagging also gives those words the ability to be ‘seen’ more easily by those who are following those subjects. There are various tools /apps that have been created for Twitter that give users the ability to search for or be notified about Tweets that contain certain words. So again # tagging key words in your Tweet will enable it to be seen rather than get lost in the fast moving home feed.
You can easily use social media to market your business if you concentrate on the three principles of; having good content, sending that content at the right times and remembering that it is a two way process by engaging..
If you want people to ‘like’ your Facebook page or not stop following you on Twitter you need to make your content (your status update or Tweets) interesting to your followers. People will have generally ‘liked’ or followed you because they are interested in what your company does so make sure that you content is always true to what you do. For example, if you are a wine shop then post content about new wines you are stocking, deals you have on and little gems about the wine industry. Don’t moan about customers or talk about having to leave early to get your car fixed!?! A great way to regularly update interesting and relevant content is by linking to your own blog or a relevant article that someone else in the industry has written.
This is currently a hot topic in the world of social media and there are even tools such as WhentoTweet and TweetStats that can help you see when your followers are most active and time your updates so they have the best chance of being seen. Best practice says that you should be looking to update your Facebook page 3 to 4 times a week and your Twitter 3 to 4 times a day. The reason you need to be on Twitter more is that the feeds move faster to you have more chance of being seen. However, if you tag your posts correctly they should be getting seen by the right people anyway.
This is probably the most important part of using social media properly. If you are not engaging you may as well not be using these platforms as a form of marketing. You need to be checking all of your sites at least once a day to see if anyone has posted on your wall or mentioned you in a Tweet and you should ALWAYS respond in some way, even if it is just to say ‘thank you’ or suggest taking things offline it is a complaint (so that the rest of your followers know that you haven’t just deleted the complaint or ignored it). You should look to respond as quickly as possible and as a minimum within 24 hours.
If you start with these basic principles of social media there is no reason why you cannot become successful at using it to market your business or organisation. And, as with anything, the more you use it the better you will become and it will all soon seem like second nature.
“Twitter users send more than 140 million tweets a day. With over 20 per cent of the tweets related to products or brands.” – The Marketer
Twitter is an online network that you can tap into to connect with other people in your industry, find out news or engage with your customers.
These are some top tips to get the most from it:
• Make sure you have a good avatar (picture). Either of yourself or the logo of your organisation. Ideal size is 73×73 pixels.
• Make sure your Bio describes succinctly what you are and what you do and preferably links to your website for added authentication.
• You don’t have to follow everyone who is following you – only follow those that are going to add value to your feed.
• Respond to any mentions or direct messages within 24 hours.
• Keep tweets short, sharp and to the point with a link to an article/picture and tagged with an appropriate hashtag for search purposes e.g. #socialmedia
• Look to be ‘engaging’ three to four times a day at least (tweeting, re-tweeting and replying all count as engaging).
These tips just scratch the surface of the potential that Twitter has as a communication tool but will hopefully take you to the next step of getting the most from Twitter if you are just starting out.
From the many conversations I have about social media one thing is apparent, that it still seems like a scary other world to most people.
This is a shame because using it for business is a great way of getting information and messages out and engaging with customers and other businesses.
Social media is just another medium in which to spread your message and also, in the opposition to more traditional forms of marketing, engage in conversation with your audience.
However, it is important that all ‘posts’, ‘tweets’ and/or ‘status updates’ must reflect and reinforce the organisations brand. This is why I would recommend that any brand that is thinking of dipping its toe into the world of social media marketing, or already has a presence there, seriously considers putting in place some kind of strategy or hiring a social media agency.
Yes, it is widely thought that the best thing to do to get started is get set-up and start posting/tweeting/following but if you aren’t following the right people or putting out the right messages you could, potentially, be damaging your brand’s reputation.
- Melanie on Why you need a Content Strategy to make Social Media work
- Keith Osborn on Why you need a Content Strategy to make Social Media work
- Why you need a Content Strategy to make Social Media work - Social Monkey on Social Media Workshops
- Social Networking - Why Face-to-Face is still important on Norfolk Tweetup
- Melanie on Norfolk Tweetup