Do you remember the first few years of “modern” Social Media? I remember them well. MySpace was surging, everyone was racing to start a blog, and RSS was the hot topic. But as I had predicted, MySpace was soon replaced by FaceBook. Many bloggers became Tweeters. And RSS usage has not lived up to the hype.
The rapid change in the Social Media space has made it difficult for many business leaders to understand the dynamics of Social Media, let alone develop a strategy to integrate it into their marketing mix. Part of the challenge that i’ve observed is that while business executives have been trained to “pay attention to the hype,” they are often weary about diverting attention to opportunities that have not been proven to stand the test of time. Who can blame them?
Indeed, while there are many examples of how businesses have harnessed Social Media to achieve business goals, Social Media is still very new. In fact, I’m confident that the percentage of businesses who have found a “winning” formula for the use of Social Media to grow their revenues is very small compared to more established online marketing methods.
Given that my experience in search engine marketing pre-dates Google, I know a thing or two about what it takes for business executives to successfully adopt their marketing strategies to new and highly conceptual forms of marketing. If you are one of the many business leaders who have no idea how to leverage Social Media to grow your business, read on! I’ll suggest 5 simple steps you can take to increase your understanding of Social Media and to begin formulating a plan to put Social Media to work for your business.
Really Simple Social Media in 5 Steps
Step 1: Understand the concept of Social Media
Because it’s a relatively new buzz word/phrase, the concept of “Social Media” may seem overly complex, but it’s really very simple. In the context of the Internet, media often refers to content. Content might include articles, videos, pictures, etc. To the extent that the people who access this content can interact with others to communicate about or change this content, it becomes social.
Twitter and Facebook are examples of Social Media because individuals use them to interact with each other and to communicate ideas, preferences, likes, and dislikes. In this case, most of the content that is interacted with is supplied by users, and so the content is primarily “user generated” (another buzz word to remember).
Blogs are often examples of Social Media too because users can comment, share, and interact with the content and with others who access the blog.
And even traditional websites or pages on a website (like a product page) can be turned into Social Media by giving users the ability to interact with the content rather than simply read it.
Step 2: Understand why Social Media is popular
Social Media is popular because it caters to base instincts of man: to be social. Until recently, however, the Internet did not cater to these instincts in a very effective way. Web Pages were static and the human beings who visited them could not interact with others in order to grow their knowledge. Social Media solves those problems and its footprint expands every day.
Social Media has taken off so quickly simply because there was huge demand for increased “socializing” on the web, and Social Media technology satisfied that demand. Once the very simple Social Media technology was created, norms were established, and people started learning how to use this new technology very quickly. While technology will evolve and new websites will become popular, I expect that Social Media itself will continue to be very popular in one form or another for as long as the Internet exists.
Step 3: Participate
You could go to your favorite book store right now and find hundreds of books that will teach you how to use Social Media, but if you really want to understand it so that you can apply it to your business, you must first jump in and start using it.
If you are not already signed up to Facebook and Twitter, sign-up and get started. If you’re not interested in networking with long-lost high school classmates you don’t have to. Start by searching for pages related to the brands that you’re a fan of and connect with them to share your experiences and ideas. Then, start by searching for individuals who have subject matter expertise that is interesting to you on either a personal or professional level, and take part in their online conversation.
Explore the world of Social Media with an open mind before trying to hone in on the business angle. It’s important that you truly “participate” if you are to see things from the perspective of your customers and stakeholders.
Step 4: Test Social Media for your business and iterate to success
When you are ready to begin testing Social Media for your business, depending on the size and footprint of your business, it would make sense to create a short-term “testing” strategy.
Start by creating a Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter account, and identify specific metrics that you want to monitor (such as the number of visits referred to your website from your Social Media page or the number of people you are “connected” to). Then start finding ways to interact with people who are talking about your brand or the types of products and services you are selling. One quick way to do this is to go to http://search.twitter.com and type in keywords that are related to your business.
For example, if you sell office furniture, do a search for office furniture to see what people are saying. You might see posts like: Buying office furniture is the most frustrating thing i’ve ever done! This is an opportunity to engage not only a potential customer, but to gain valuable market insight.
Then, start posing questions, and posting updates, related to your business. Your posts might highlight the fact that you just received a shipment of the most comfortable office chairs you’ve ever sat in. Or you might ask the world to tell YOU what the most comfortable chairs they have ever sat in are.
Step 5: Adopt a Vision and Scale
Once you’ve run some small scale tests it’s time to start planning a longer term Social Media strategy, and to think about scaling your Social Media presence by marketing it to existing customers and evangelists. You will want to think about how you will measure the return on investment that you get from your participation in Social Media, what tone and voice will guide your interactions, what your messaging and branding strategy will be, etc. Depending on your business and the nature of the opportunity, it might make sense to engage a Social Media expert to solidify your strategy and execution plan.
Don’t forget that Social Media concepts are not limited to Facebook and Twitter. You can begin integrating your website’s pages with Social Media, and you can even turn your pages into Social Media pages by giving visitors the flexibility to interact with one-another.
If you really want to make Social Media work for you you’ll have to work at it. The execution is not as simple as the title of this post suggest, although Social Media itself is very simple and easy to use. It’s simplicity contributes to its strength and many more businesses have the opportunity to harness that strength in order to meet their corporate goals and to improve the experience of their customers and stakeholders at the same time.
I hope you’ve found my Really Simple Social Media formula to be helpful. If so, please sure it with friends and colleagues on your Social Media sites!