Social media is often misunderstood as something new, something complicated and something only the techies really know about. In reality it’s one of the oldest communication methods in use – it’s just that today we’re using new technology to help us do it.
Social media is nothing more than a conversation – sometimes between people, but for businesses it’s between a brand and its customers (or potential customers).
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Liking, Following, Tweeting etc… are just the new buzz words and terminology around how we ‘do’ social media through online means.
A traditional conversation is a multi way dialogue and is only successful if everyone involved is engaged and interested. Online conversation is no different.
Everyone knows a BOF (boring old fart). He’s the guy no one really wants to talk to. He’s dull, not very engaging, too strongly opinionated (or with no opinion at all) and tells the same old stories to anyone who will listen.
Then there’s the guy who always lights up a party. The one everyone wants to talk to – he’s got a lot to say (but he’s not forceful), he can keep a conversation going (without just talking at people) and you enjoy his company. He will listen to you and offer you his experiences or advice.
Exactly the same applies to social media – if you’re the kind of brand that can have natural and engaging conversation, listens as well as talks, shares useful information and adds value to the people you’re talking with, then social media definitely will be important to you.
If you’re just the kind of brand that wants to push out your latest news, share your deals and not engage then you’ll quickly become an unsuccessful BOF and although social media could be important to you, it probably won’t be.
Social media will only be important to your business if you have the ability to leverage social media – be unique, be different and take part in the conversation.
Don’t waste your time
Here’s something we often hear – “Social media is the best free marketing channel going, there are thousands of people waiting to interact with your brand”. It sounds like a great sales pitch – until you work out that it actually costs time and can really suck you in.
Building followers, friends, being re-tweeted, getting comments, increasing your reach – these are all great measures of a social media campaign’s success, but please don’t miss the most important one – return on investment.
If you’re going to spend your time and money investing in social media then make sure you have a clear end goal in mind.
Ultimately this should be profit and if you feel your social media activity can help you generate a return then it should absolutely be important to your business.
Where social is heading
All of this is very much common sense – but good guidance on what social media should mean now to businesses.
Looking not too far into the distant future it’s evident that social media is becoming a dominant media and is starting to outstrip more traditional digital media such as search and email for driving traffic. This trend is only going to continue:
- Google has for some time personalised its search results but since the launch of Google+, Google’s own social network, it’s now personalising users’ search results based on what their friends have shared on Google+.
- Pinterest, one of the newer social networks, has been shown to consistently drive more traffic than Twitter. As a trial we shared one image on Pinterest when we launched our new website this month – it’s driven more traffic than any other campaign we launched at the same time.
- The deep integration of Twitter into the iPhone allow users to share anything, from anywhere at any time.
You may not feel that social media is not important to your business now, but it almost certainly will be in the next 12 to 24 months. If businesses don’t start truly harnessing the power of social media now they may find social media is important to their business for all the wrong reasons – because their competitors have got the advantage.
Andrew Banks is founder of Squeeze Digital Marketing, a digital strategy and online marketing agency.