Social Media: The What, Why and How

“Social media” is a frequently used term, but what does it actually mean? For most, “social media” is

“Social media” is a frequently used term, but what does it actually mean? For most, “social media” is a broad term generally used to describe a variety of social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. However, as About Tech points out, “If we use the term to describe a site like Facebook, and also a site like Digg, plus a site like Wikipedia, then it starts to get more confusing[1].” Especially when you consider that  in the IT industry there are also technical forum social media sites that can be vendor driven and business driven (Spiceworks, Quora, Teched, Channel9). So, just what does “social media” mean? By definition:

Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Websites and applications dedicated to forums, microblogging, social networking , social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media.[2]

A broad definition, no question, and one which has most likely led to much of the general misunderstandings of what social media is, why it is important and how people and businesses should use it. We’ll dive deeper into the why and how of social media in this blog, but before we do, here’s a quick “social media explained” breakdown from AvaLaunch Media.

9-19:

The fact is this: businesses misunderstand what social media is about — as do plenty of fresh-faced college graduates who think the job description consists of tweeting. Social media managers and strategists don’t post on social media. They create, plan and execute marketing campaigns.”

So why does social media matter?

  • According to Hootsuite, 92 percent of B2B marketers use social media as a content marketing tactic to assist in supporting sales.
  • A recent Content Marketing Institute study showed that the IT/technology industry makes up 23 percent of the total B2B social media market, coming in second behind the advertising and marketing industry at 26 percent.
  • Additionally, social media:
    • Builds brand awareness and further boosts visibility to current and potential clients, as well as industry influencers
    • Drives website traffic, improves SEO and supports sales efforts
    • Engages with current and potential clients, as well as industry influencers
    • Responds to public questions and commentary
    • Supports long-term goals and initiatives
    • Monitors competitors
    • Showcases expertise and thought leadership

And in case that wasn’t enough, here are a few other facts to think about[3]:

  • 56 percent of people check Facebook daily
  • The average American spends 37 minutes on social networking sites per day
  • 64 percent of Twitter users and 51 percent of Facebook users are more likely to buy products of the brands/companies they follow online
  • Only 14 percent of people trust advertisements, while 90 percent trust recommendations on social media

Okay, so now we get the why, but what about the how? For many, social media can be so overwhelming that they shy away from it. This is especially true, because as mentioned above, social media is not just “posting.” So, how do you successfully implement “social media.”

  • Development:

o   Understand your audience (B2B vs. B2C, engagement patterns)

  • Who is your target audience? This is a big one. In fact, it is one of the most important, if not the most important, question you can and should ask yourself. Defining your target audience will help you: build focus with the right people, understand who to follow and why and better develop your overall channel. So, how do you find/define your target audience? Here are some things to think about to get started:
  • What is your target industry?
  • Who is your target engager within that industry?
  • How often is your target engager using social media?
  • What is your target engager using social media for?
  • How does your target engager like to receive information?
  • What type of content does your target engager respond to?
  • How do you stand out from all of the social media “noise” and reach your target engager?

o   Choose your brand’s channels (keep in mind, not every channel is appropriate)

o   Develop your brand’s voice (what is your brand going to be, how is it going to sound)

  • Policy – simply put, companies and organizations need a social media policy that dictates how and who is going to manage the strategy, execution and channel monitoring. It should also detail the level of employee engagement and provide best practices.
  • Strategy:

o   Frequency – how often will you post?

  • This is a hot button issue; in fact, its spawning a lot of social media chatter (see what we did there). Historically, best practices have dictated that certain social media channels require a certain number of posts per day, and at certain times. However, more recently, many have started advocating for a more fluid approach, which promotes utilizing brands’ specific channel analytics to track engagement rates and then determine a frequency schedule based on that.

o   Content development and management – what is your content? Who is responsible for its development? How do you ensure it is updated? Depending on your frequency schedule, the amount of content is crucial to the success of your social media channels.

o   Best practices – research on best practices is always a good idea, but be careful – while helpful, it’s always best to default what is most effective for your brand.

o   Ongoing education – when in doubt, more social media education is always best, both for yourself and for your team. A personal favorite of ours, for continuing education, is The Online Marketing Institute.

  • Execution – your brand’s voice has been defined, strategy set, policy in place, frequency established and content determined. Now, it’s time to execute. In the words of Kevin McCallister “This is it, don’t get scared now!” (And you shouldn’t be, you’re ready for this.)
  • Measurement – analytics are essential. Once you begin posting, it’s imperative to track your results. Most social media channels have built in analytics platforms. Or, you can engage a third party platform – Hootsuite is an example of a third party platform that offers superior analytics tracking and measurement.

Stay tuned for more upcoming social media-focused blogs. Now that we’ve touched on the what, why and how, next we’ll get into best practices. Everything from paid content, hashtags, keywords, at replies, analytics and more.

 

[1] http://webtrends.about.com/od/web20/a/social-media.htm

[2] http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media

[3] http://www.prbythebook.com/why-does-social-media-matter/

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