In my book, The Social Media Field Guide I took a unique approach to defining the social media landscape. Many businesses focus their social media marketing efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and LinkedIn, but they may be missing out on some of the most powerful aspects of social media marketing.
There are lots of social media sites, and making sense of them can be time consuming and complicated, which is why businesses tend to focus on just a few sites.
We created the Social Media Field Guide to create order from the chaos and help define the core areas of social media. By looking at social media more holistically businesses can identify the best opportunities based on their strategic objectives.
The Social Media Field Guide has 8 directions or categories of social media with content at the center.
Content is at the center of the Field Guide because it is one of the key factors that should determine which social media tools you use. Many businesses jump into a social media site without thinking about WHAT they will post on it. The content, or what you talk about, post and share, is the most important part of your social media marketing execution. This should be obvious. Just as the actual commercial is the most important part of your television marketing strategy, the content that you post is the most important part of your social media marketing strategy. Content should be the key driver.
Publishing is when you actually create a publish your own content on social media sites. Publishing strategies may include a blog post, video, white-paper, special report, e-book or podcast. The key to a publishing strategy is that you actually have to create unique, relevant and interesting content. Publishing is great if you want to establish you or your organization as an expert or thought leader.
Sharing content online is another key social media strategy. In addition to sharing your own content you can share relevant news, photos and videos that you find across the web. Today almost any kind of content can be shared online – music, PDF files, slideshows, news, blog posts, pictures and videos. Sharing content can be a good strategy to show that you are knowledgeable and connected, even if you don’t create your own unique content.
Social networks tend to get the most attention because they have become so big (Facebook is even replacing email for younger generations). Facebook and LinkedIn are probably the two most popular social networks, but there are also niche social networks for almost any community. Social networks have become very popular social media marketing tools primarily because most people are on them and they spend a lot of time there. More people check Facebook each day than listen to the radio or read the newspaper. Social networks can be a key way to communicate with your audience and stay top of mind.
MicroBlogs or Twitter
Twitter is the most popular micro blog platform. A microblogging site like Twitter allows users to post short updates (limited to 140 characters) to the people who follow them. Twitter is a great opportunity for businesses that are looking to connect with new audiences and build awareness. Unlike other social media sites, Twitter allows you to connect with and follow people you don’t already know. Twitter is a powerful tool for building buzz and relationships with key stakeholders.
Discussion and Review
Many businesses ignore discussion and review sites, although they can be among the most powerful tools to help grow your business. Discussion forums have been around far longer than the term “social media” and they can be a key resource to understand your customers and their concerns about your product or industry. There are discussion forums for almost any industry, and monitoring them and participating is one of the key opportunities for most businesses in social media. Reviews also play a key role in the buying process. We look at star ratings and user reviews before making decisions about what to buy. Reviews are gaining prominence and are now found on Google results, Facebook, LinkedIn and product sites. Be sure to include reviews as a part of your strategy.
Collaboration and Co-Creation
Many businesses forget about the opportunity to engage their customers to help them collaborate and co-create. Co-creation can increase the level of commitment that consumers feel towards your product or service if they feel like they have had a hand in helping create it. Co-creation and collaboration is when you work with your customers (or future customers) to create something – it can be creating an ad, a new product feature or voting on an aspect of your business.
Social Media PR
Social media is changing public relations. Traditional press still matters, but increasingly consumers are looking to niche bloggers or online influencers to help guide their decisions. Reaching out to online influencers is a key way to connect with your target audience and spread your message. Additional, measuring and monitoring social media often fall into the “PR” bucket. It is vital to monitor for mentions of your company and competitors to understand if your social media efforts are having the desired impact.
Mobile Social Media
Mobile is only just beginning to change the way that we interact. Many social media users access their profiles through their mobile devices and geolocation social networks like FourSquare and Facebook Places are changing how we interact with our social networks. It is projected that in 2 years 40% of all internet access will happen through mobile devices. If your organization isn’t taking advantage of this you should get on it! Beyond social media a mobile strategy is vital for any business.
Putting it Together
When you start to look at social media more comprehensively you will find that you can make better strategic decisions. Rather than flocking to the most popular social media marketing tools you can choose the tools that are most relevant to your business and are likely to have the biggest impact.