SOCIAL MEDIA 101 – 7 REASONS TO USE, 5 REASONS IT’S EASY AND 5 ESSENTIAL PLATFORMS

At this stage I’m sure you have all heard of “social media” and “social media marketing” and have, at one point or other considered introducing it as part of your company’s marketing plan. Unfortunately, a lot of the information available out there is misleading, confusing and ultimately off-putting so I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t yet taken the plunge.

Most companies (and sad to say, even companies claiming that they specialise in social media) don’t really know that it’s not just a matter of getting a Facebook or Twitter profile and getting as many followers as possible – truth is, you can buy followers online if you really want. No, it’s not necessarily about numbers; it’s about what I call ‘Qualified followers’ (a term I’ll explain in one of our next instalments).

Over the course of the next month or so we will be putting out a lot of great content and advice for you in this blog to show you how social media can be used effectively by any company, regardless of your industry. We will show how you need to be involved in this if you’re not already, as well as how you can improve and adapt your current profiles so that they actually work for you. So as a quick introduction to Social Media, herein lies a suggestion for SEVEN reasons you should be using Social Media for your business, FIVE reasons why social media is eaaassssy and FIVE social media platforms you might wish to consider to start with.

First things first…

WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA?

When you cut through the fluffy terms and  rubbish that’s put out there about social media it comes down to this fact; when used in business it’s a way of communicating, building relationships and driving traffic to your blog or website (or both). It’s about utilising the vast reach of the internet to get your message across to potential contacts and building something called ‘Social Authority’ by showing that you are an expert in your field… thereby developing credibility and long-lasting business relationships. I’m not going to get into the confusing terminology or definitions; if you want that go to Wikipedia.

Herein we’re going to deal with a few quick pointers as to why you should be using it for your business, why it’s easy and a selection of the best platforms to get started with…

REASONS FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS

  1. COMMUNICATION – Getting your message across to a wide audience – what you do, who you are etc.
  2. CONSUMER RESEARCH – Most people don’t know this but Social Media is an excellent way to tap in to your customer base to get feedback from your customers. Get opinions on an upcoming product/service you are considering launching for instance.
  3. CUSTOMER SERVICE – Reach and interact with your customers and help them with any queries, complaints or problems they may be having.
  4. COMMUNITY BUILDING – Create and develop communities on your social media pages – people like to feel like they belong to something worthwhile, informative, helpful. Make your social media pages a place where this can happen.
  5. CONNECTING OTHERS – You may think your company doesn’t belong in the social media realm or that social media can’t benefit your type of business. You’d be wrong. There was a recent case study I read where a pharmaceutical company (knowing they’d get limited success placing themselves directly on social media) created support pages/blogs for illnesses such as epilepsy which helped create a community, offer helpful information and support and act as a forum for people affected to connect and interact. You will see in our upcoming blogs how offering this type of value is essential to success in social media.
  6. CAUSE & SUPPORT SPONSORSHIP – If you or your company is doing something for charity, social media is a great way to promote this and refer people to donation pages for your cause.
  7. CONTESTS – Again, a value-driven exercise. Offer prizes and giveaways to followers of your social media page. People always like a free gift and it helps build rapport and loyalty.

REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE UTILISING THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

1.  REACH – The fact that you can be visible to a worldwide audience is amazing. Utilise it.

2. ACCESSIBILITY – If you have a device and internet access you can use social media. In fact, if you have a modern mobile phone, make sure you have your social media platforms right there so you can access them anytime, anywhere (see my phone home page below for an example).

3. USABILITY – If you can log in to and use an email account, you can use social media. You don’t need any real expertise or programming knowledge at all (the platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have done all the work for you already!).

4. IMMEDIACY– Unlike traditional methods of marketing (e.g. print) social media is immediate. When you click the ‘Submit’ button your post will go live to your audience.

5. PERMANANCY – Once again, unlike traditional forms of marketing, if you create an online product or post it doesn’t mean you have to live with it if there’s a typo or you’re not happy with it… You can edit, delete, re-post however many times you like until you are happy. The flexibility this offers is unrivalled.

Now you know the reasons for connecting through Social Media, what  platforms should you choose? This tends to be where people get stuck…  Where to start? There are so many brands/pages out there, what is best  for you? Below are the big ones you’ll probably all have heard of.  They’re big for a reason; they have huge user bases and are functional  and easy to use…

5 OF THE BEST SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

1. FACEBOOK – The big one. Approx 620million users. The ability to tailor your profile with almost anything you like (e.g. polls, email sign-ups, video, image galleries). Huge flexibility and audience make this the best. Check out the image below which shows UK Facebook users – It equates to 28 million people or 65% of the internet-connected population. In Ireland the numbers are lower (1.7 million) but the percentage is even higher at 75%!

2. TWITTER – a ‘Micro-blog’ where your posts are limited to 140 characters. 110 million users, most of whom access from their mobile devices. http://www.twitter.com

3.  LINKED IN – A great business-to-business profile. 75 Million users. http://www.linkedin.com

4.  YOUTUBE – Create your own channel. Post video interviews, links, tutorials to educate your audience and then post the links on your other social media pages. http://www.youtube.com

5.  BLOG – 177 million bloggers worldwide. Choose a blog platform (we use WordPress, which also drives our website; but there are many others out there – Tumblr and Blogger being two of the best). Get this linked up to your website. http://www.wordpress.com, http://www.tumblr.com

If you’re going to pick just one platform, Facebook would have to be it. However, it’s often a mistake to just choose one; it’s nearly always better to choose a selection of platforms for different reasons (e.g. we use Flickr to display our visual artwork, Twitter for quick links, Facebook as a hub for all of the above etc.).

Clients regularly ask me if social media is ok for ‘business-to-business’ use. My answer is always yes. Most businesses these days are realising they have to tap into the vast audience of social media. More and more businesses are using these platforms to market themselves. If you are a business-to-business company (as we are) you may wish to prepare yourself for the fact that you may not get as many followers as you might if you were for instance a business-to-consumer company like Starbucks (19.5 million followers) or on a local level, Groupon (Belfast) with 14,000 followers. However, this does not mean that it is not a highly effective way of connecting with potential (and existing) clients, simply that the number of followers may not be as high. It can be an incredibly effective tool for customer service, product launches, community building.

Hopefully we’ve shown you a fairly useful but brief overview of why social media is a great, easy tool for marketing your company as well as a selection of some of the best platforms to select for starters. This is only the beginning. Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting new articles on how to use social media effectively in your business, how to create and monitor campaigns and also (potentially more importantly) the fatal mistakes that most people make when creating social media profiles for their companies.

Tune in for more and feel free to leave comments or questions below and we’ll do our best to answer any queries you might have.

Get Social.

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