What is the Value of Social Media?

What is the value of social media? While this is a very big question– one that I cannot answer in one blog post, I do want to begin to confront it, beginning with the larger view.

Social Media has changed the way we communicate both personally and professionally. Professionally-oriented social media initiatives may take more work, time, even more employees, position titles; though, it should not be viewed as a separate effort apart from any other marketing/communications effort. One’s social media efforts must reach as far as how you use your company website or your ad campaigns. It’s just as important and should be viewed as an integrated component of your communication goals and initiatives, handled with in depth strategy (which is it’s own beast).

So let’s start with what social media means to a company– what it’s value is (not numerically just yet). Across any social platform, when one engages, you are sharing real-time knowledge, ideas, etc. in an authentic way. You are able to get behind the voice of your company and put it out on social media in the most personal way possible. Additionally, the people who are receiving and engaging with those posts are all over the world. Suddenly, whether or not your company extends its product/services across the globe, you have a global voice and you are connecting/engaging with the world in real-time in a way that is much more “real” than an email could ever be.

The most common misunderstanding I am confronted with is always “well, how many followers do we have? Is that a good number? Let’s get more.” While gauging the number of followers/fans is important, it is not the telling-metric. I always view it as an opportunity number. I have the opportunity to reach 20,000 followers. Of course, more the better, but that does not define its value. I like to think of it as: given the opportunity to reach X number of followers, I am successfully engaging and interacting with Y followers. This will tell you the value not only of social media, but how successful your social media content is.  The second common misunderstanding around the value of social media is to randomly suggest that one’s social media efforts should be doing ONE thing. For example, if only 1.5% of my homepage traffic is coming from Facebook, does that mean my Facebook efforts are not working? Maybe. But only if your goal and only goal is to drive traffic to your homepage.  Most of the time, a successful presence on a social media platform means you have a variety of goals and a variety of ways to reach those goals. I might want to direct people to the Company homepage, but I might also want to have users go elsewhere; I might want them to stay on my Facebook Page itself, and so your efforts should reflect that variety (and so should your metrics).  Of course, these are just examples of how the value of social media and surrounding questions can be approached with a limited view rather than remembering that while social media’s value might be wrapped around one or two goals, it’s incredibly important to define how social media is simply a means of communication, a tool (an amazing tool) that changes how we communicate and the scale of communication efforts.

Are You Pinterested in This?

As Mashable reports, Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined. Not only is it capturing amazing stats, but the site is a new form of social media that we haven’t seen before– and it is both smart and pretty.  Instead of links, we have photos/images. Instead of categorizing items in a list, we have virtual boards. And when you view someone’s profile, you see a beautifully organized, image-based representation of that person’s interests. While Chris Brogan argues that Pinterest catches more of the female demographic than the male sector, I am tempted to say that 1) I doubt that will hold true for too long and 2) who cares?! It still works as a social media outlet that helps marketers on all sides. In fact, in addition to the aesthetic pictorial representation on the site, I’m also fascinated by the multifaceted marketing dynamic.

There is the product. When I say ‘product’ I’m referring to the photo that the user loves enough to pin on one of their boards. This can be anything from a blouse you see on J.Crew or a book you want to read/have read to a poster print you have hanging in your office or want to hang in your office. When the user pins this to the board, that person become personally connected to the brand of that product. The brand then benefits from this pinning because any one of the the user’s followers who sees the pin, and says, wow…I really like that blouse, too…and proceeds to click on it gets directed to the J.Crew website. While this is great for the brand/company on the other side of the pin, it also creates more design demand. You’ve got to have a strong design element to your website if you want to be on Pinterest.

Then, there is the brand that gets on Pinterest as a user. When J.Crew gets on Pinterest, what do they pin? While they are not currently on Pinterest as a user (you’ll see their clothes pinned everywhere–no surprise there), what would be smart to pin from a marketer’s perspective? Sure, why not put more of their clothes on the site, but they could also show those products coming from companies they’ve partnered with like New Balance, Timex, Sperry, Ray Ban, etc. Or, how about from an institution/school like the University of Virginia: what do they like? They could pin their paraphernalia, published faculty books, images from events, football games, the surrounding town, restaurants– all of these things bring students to the UVa website. Not many companies/institutes/brands have hopped on Pinterest to create a profile yet, but I think it would be a smart thing to do. Not only do you create a diversified portfolio of the products and personality of the brand itself, but you create a personal following– your fans do not just ‘like’ your company, they follow you and pin your products on their walls. The marketer can even see what specific products are getting the most visual attention.

What do you think about Pinterest?

Best Practices on Twitter: Playing the Game Right

Having solid best practices on Twitter is the most important aspect to creating a solid social marketing strategy. While it seems obvious, I find that this is something commonly overlooked when creating and implementing campaigns.

CONTENT

  • Be grammatically correct in your tweets.
  • Keep Tweets specific to your campaign and subject goals.
  • Keep your content dynamic: post links to different kinds of articles, videos, lectures, events, songs, images. Change it up!
  • When Tweeting events, put location first in at least some of your tweets and last in others.
  • Engage your audience with a strong, consistent voice.
  • Re-Tweet followers’ posts if interesting (RT).
  • Mention other Twitter account you appreciate @.
  • Use the hashtag for all keywords (1-3 per Tweet) #.

TIME

  • Create an editorial calendar to help you plan the workflow and content for Tweets.
  • Keep your Tweet schedule consistent. For example, do not Tweet every day for two weeks and then disappear for one month.

 READING

  • Listen to what your audience is talking about. This will help you shape your Tweets. Remember, Tweet what they are interested in, not what you want them to do for you.
  • Reply to people who tweet at you (Use the @mentions link and search for your username without the @ symbol).
  • Re-Tweet content that interests you. You can do that directly on Twitter or using your favorite Twitter management applications.
  • When you re-Tweet, check the link in the to make sure it works before you re-share it.
  • Use Twitter lists to organize the types of conversations going on. For example, you might put prospective students in one list, faculty on another list, companies on another list, etc. Click a list to see only the tweets by the people on that list
  • Offer links (URLs) to your Tweets that point to the company/organization you are working for, links to videos, etc.

*Note on providing links: Links must be shortened as they are often character-heavy (and you only have 140 characters per Tweet!) I suggest you use bitly.com. Simply copy and paste the link into the window and click “shorten.” It will provide you with a shortened link that you can use in Twitter.

WHAT NOT TO TWEET

  • Do not Tweet a link without any other text. You must provide context for links.
  • Do not Tweet with a Commercial-like tone.
  • Do not Tweet the same message more than once.
  • Do not Tweet opinions – or at least, strong opinions.

Facebook Vs. Twitter

Facebook vs. Twitter: A Tug O’ War Challenge?

Facebook and Twitter are both excellent social media tools for companies to spread brands, develop relationships with customers and businesses, and generate leads. But how do we know which site is best for which campaign?

eMarketer recently reported that 6x more people use Facebook thanTwitter. If this is indeed accurate, should companies pay attention to it? And what does it mean for marketing efforts?

Before we can answer these questions, let’s first consider where social media budgets land for using these tools. Zoomerang points out that companies’ use of social media is gaining momentum and creating a surefire way to get the most bang for the buck. As the chart below suggests, 44% of SMB decision-makers use social media.

They also point out that SMBs are twice as likely to use Facebook as they were Twitter. Emarketer comments on these reports:

“Though Facebook is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its product offerings and capabilities, businesses are sticking with the basics to drive performance: 51% of US SMBs found wall posts the most effective marketing tactic, even though only 16% of US consumers said they had interacted with a brand on Facebook.”

Interesting. because I’m going to argue that while this may be true now, the future of social media will grow more intricate and ask that the marketer do more— i.e not only rely on “the basics,” such as wall posts.

Continue reading

Qwikster: Quick (disa)ster

Social Media Treasure Hunt?

Many of you have probably heard the news that Netflix is splitting its movie service: streaming videos and postal mailing orders–the latter of which will be called Qwikster. An interesting name, to say the least. Most recently, I read a related article on the latest problem highlighted on BBC News.

@Qwikster has nothing to do with Netflix or the name of their movie service. Jason Castillo a marijuana-referencing, football enthusiast, actually owned the Twitter name before Netflix secured an account for themselves. Christopher Hofman Laursen, director of the European Domain Centre, says as quoted on BBC News, “Netflix had made a grave mistake in not securing the Twitter handle before the launch.” Mr. Castillo is asking for financial compensation to hand over his Twitter name. Despite pointing out the disaster of the mistake, Laursen also mentions, “Every company should be on social media now, that’s where all the traffic has moved to,” he says, “All the communication today between companies and customers is on social media.” This comment is, perhaps, more important upon second glance. “All the communication today between companies and customers is on social media.” Yes, the grand echo effect. I know my elders always said I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, but this is the occasion when we all must betray that saying. Businesses have a presence whether or not they like it because that’s where everyone else gathers– in order to have a face, you’ve got to be there. Furthermore, businesses may want to start their strategies/campaigns online. That is, if you’re going to brand a new service or name, begin your research, communication, and branding on social media sites. Yes, by doing something as easy as placing social media under item number one, a big company such as Netflix could have avoided the Qwikster disaster.

What do you think? Join the discussion!

Social Media’s Role: Consumer vs. Marketer

Social Media’s role has grown increasingly important for all types of companies, firms, institutions, and self-branding communities. According to The State of the Media: The Social Media Report, Americans spend 22.5 percent of their online time on social media sites. Compared to games (9.8 percent) and email (7.6 percent), we cannot deny that social media has taken over the large world o’ interwebs. In yesterday’s article, Report Details Rise of Social Media in The New York Times Stuart Elliot points out that this report “makes social media the NO. 1 specific category and the No. 2 category over all, behind ‘other’ ways Americans spend time online, among them perusing adult content, visiting retail web sites and reading about subjects like sports and health.” Ok, so it’s proven that yes, social media sparks interest and woos in many. Continue reading

+1+1+1+1 = What?

I would never say that I’m entirely mathematically inclined, but I would like to think that I have the capacity to conquer addition and subtraction. +1+1+1+1 = Your Online Presence, Your Search Results, hopefully– The Answers you’re looking for.

Google+ has been a popular topic on various LinkedIn group discussions and on Twitter. However, one point that most discussions have overlooked is how Google + will change the way search engines perform and how it will impact your own website/company.

+1 is Better Than a Thumbs Up; It’s a High-Five

In fact, you can hear the clap echoing all over the internet

Similar to Facebook’s “like” button, which features the thumbs up icon, +1 is also a button you will see next to your search results. Google explains, “+1 is a public action. Anyone on the web can potentially see that you’ve +1’d content.” So, yes, when you click the +1, you should know that your name will recommend that link.

As a writer, I’m thrilled.  Google+ is helping to weed out the bad writing. This means that creating remarkable content is even more important than before. Accompanying any content is a decision that could impact the company’s online presence. If the reader likes your content, there is a direct way for that reader to attract his/her friends/colleagues. But this has nothing to do with schmoozing. It’s all about what shows up on the page. If the site/content is poorly done, it’s possible to become lost in the shuffle of other mediocre sites.  Put your effort into creating engaging content that Google+ users will share and +1. I suggest adding the +1 button. From a marketing angle, the more Google+ users can endorse your site, the better. Clearly, the +1 will influence your search results as it fuses social networking with the searching process. According to Google’s +1 FAQ:

“+1’s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1′s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”

This said, the question of search quality will be linked to your friends’ interests. The question becomes what friends do you trust enough to follow their reading habits and recommendations.

+1 me!

Social Media Puts on a Serious Face

I admit: I have not always thought of social media as a marketing tool. Years ago, social media simply meant playtime. You want to procrastinate, sure, log onto facebook. I still see  the college students in my classroom, clicking away as I attempted to lecture about why academic writing is so important. I couldn’t win against social media; it was my enemy. However, a few years ago, I worked as a Communications Assistant at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art. We were preparing for the reopening of the building – the first time the Museum would be open for the 35,000 U-M students and the Ann Arbor townies in years. Sure enough, one of my colleagues recommended we use Twitter and Facebook to update our fans and inform perspective art enthusiasts. The reopening was a huge success due, in part, to our social media strategies.

After working at two start-up companies as an Online Marketer, I can barely imagine what marketing would be like if social media were entirely excluded or ignored. Yesterday, I came across an interesting article (thank you to Twitter and its professional development abilities): Amy Jo Martin’s To Monetize Social Media, Humanize It. Martin discusses some of the overwhelmingly popular assumptions that frown on social media as if it’s a clown wearing a big red nose. As she says, “Put it this way: If I gained a follower every time a CEO rolled his eyes at me when I said ‘Twitter,’ I’d be Lady Gaga (11.2 million followers).” Arguably, the word “social media” is misleading; while some use this medium as a media for entertainment purposes, marketing specialists have used it as a rather remarkable tool, and, given its success, should be taken seriously.

Martin compares social media to a telephone, though I would dare compare it to a televised conference with countless cameramen: Anyone can talk the talk, walk the walk; anyone can join the discussion. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, offers the capacity for a high volume audience, and even better, a high volume response. However wonderful that may sound, a social media platform is not a game to see who is the loudest; (who yells at a televised conference, anyway?) Social media is about offering remarkable content, as authors, Dharmash Shah and David Scott say in their book, Inbound Marketing . It’s about value. As Martin would agree, it’s about humanizing your brand, exposing real, genuine people and promise. That’s what I love about social media as a marketing tool. Finally, companies, institutions, ideas—you name it—have a face, a personality, a meaning that is communicable. It’s stronger than any old logo. We’re no longer distanced from our work; we’re not just a body or a task checked off. We are the idea, transformed and exposed as the idea. I think it makes people better, companies—better. We are forever attached to our actions, our campaigns, our strategies. And thus, we must trust our actions, campaigns, strategies, and others will, too. We are our brand, and the brand is us.

Please, join in the discussion! Thank you for reading.

How to Use Twitter for Professional Development

I’ve used Twitter for company use as an online marketer. I’ve used Twitter for fun. Recently, I’ve started to use it as a job search tool. What it has been most useful for, however, is to gather information for professional development purposes. Although the word ‘Twitter’ reminds me of an open-windowed morning when one wakes to the cacophony of sweet and hideous bird songs, lately, Twitter feels more like one of those large, sweeping fish nets that tosses out the small debris and highlights the treasures below the surface of the deep, dark sea.

Twitter is light-weight and easy to use, yet maintains the capacity to supply hundreds of articles, informative “nuggets,” and outbound links to other resources.

Ideas for How to Use Twitter for Professional Development: Growth Matters

  • Search for keywords related to your field.  By searching for keywords in your field, you’re likely to find other professionals that are just as passionate about their knowledge bank as you are. Follow those who seem interesting to you and keep a regular tweeting schedule. I’m an advocate for integrative disciplines and professions—something, I think, the world will naturally move towards as the age of information progresses. If you’re a researcher, yes, you may talk to others in the lab, but what about clinicians, patients, the public? You might type in keywords that have less to do with your profession, but have something to do with one of the subjects or topics you encounter. For example, if you’re Director of Communications at a Museum, it might also be wise to follow artists, other museums, as well as the latest communication strategies.
  • Share your knowledge. Have a conversation with your market and manage connections with other professionals. Keep your own tweet schedule. Point out resources that may help others. Retweet those messages that you deem worth it.
  • Monitor your company / brand on Twitter. Everyone has their own personal brand. Just as writing is your personality on the page, Tweets are your personality in Twittersphere. Put your voice out there, but I suggest you use 75% professional tweets and 25% personal tweets.
  • Live updates on events or conferences.  If you participate in a conference, you can use Twitter to announce your “presence.” You may even be able to meet up with other professionals at the conference.

You can follow me on Twitter @SocialAllie