Social media is certainly hot right now, especially as a potential marketing tool for smaller businesses. But is the hype justified? To me, only one social media strategy really makes sense – it’s a simple one and I’m going to tell you in this article what it is.
Just before I do though, I’d like to address two questions that people often ask me: what does ‘social media’ really mean, and is participating in it right for MY business?
What is ‘social media’?
Social media are defined as ‘web sites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts.’
The term has only become popular in the last few years but in fact online ‘bulletin boards’ and forums that have been around for ages would certainly meet that definition, because they’re also about the key ideas of interactivity and ‘user generated content’ (in contrast to traditional media where professionals created content for one-way consumption by the audience).
At time of writing, the ‘big four’ social media sites are Facebook, leaked onlyfans Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn (keep an eye on Google+ but just at present it isn’t where the audience is).
Is participating in social media right for MY business?
There’s no easy answer. One key element of social media is that it gives ‘right to reply’, and that scares some businesses off. And I certainly don’t recommend you dive in to every social media site under the sun.
Be selective. Facebook’s audience is primarily younger people and the atmosphere is ‘fun’. LinkedIn’s is undoubtedly professionals and the atmosphere is more serious. And there may be more niche social networks that are an even better fit for your business.
Do some research and start examining the sites that seem to offer the best fit for you.
But two irrefutable facts mean that every responsible business owner MUST at least look seriously at social media, however sceptical they may be…
1) The big social media sites are heavily used, and by HUGE audiences.
At the time of writing, Facebook for example has about 750 million registered users. If it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.
Moreover, the site is ‘sticky’: the average user visits 40 times per month, spending 23 minutes per visit. In the online world such a frequency and length of visit is unusual. This is one ENGAGED audience!
2) Businesses can usually participate in social media (and potentially see their message spread ‘virally’ between those huge numbers of users) for ‘free’.
I say ‘free’ because while you may not have to pay money to build an audience on social networks, you most certainly will have to invest TIME – your other finite resource.
Nevertheless the attraction for marketers is that this possibility of generating massive interest – i.e. web traffic, leads, new connections – for little cash outlay is always there.
Social media as a promotion tool for businesses has in fact become so big, and the platforms available so feature-rich, that it’s even been suggested that company pages within social media sites like Facebook could replace standalone sites for businesses on the web altogether.
Whatever you do with social media, I don’t recommend you pursue the idea of effectively embedding your online presence in a social network, for two reasons.
Number one, things move very fast in the online world. Remember MySpace? Friends Reunited? It’s only a few years since both were massive. They still have some residual audience but, to all intents and purposes, they’ve been completely blown out of the water by Facebook.
Why? Facebook just happened to come up with a better website.
In that context, who can really say with bullet-proof confidence that Facebook or Twitter are here to stay? Overnight sensations may just disappear overnight too.
Number two, if you base all or most of your marketing around one social network, what do you do if that network decides to change its terms of business?
What happens if, instead of being free, you suddenly had to start paying big money for your business’s Facebook fan page? Or you were charged by the number of YouTube videos you uploaded, or limited in the number of tweets you could send? Hmmm.