So What Exactly is This Social Media Thing?

So what exactly is this social media thing everyone is talking about?

Wikipedia defines social media with the following:

Social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue. Social media is media for social interaction as a superset beyond social communication. Enabled by ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques, social media has substantially changed the way organizations, communities, and individuals communicate. *

So what does this exactly mean? Traditional media provides one-way information (think seeing an advertisement in a newspaper or on television) and provides limited availability for you provide your thoughts. Social media provides for communication in a personalized, two-way dialogue. It can be as simple as enabling someone to vote on poll or provide a comment on your website or as complex as recommending people or products to follow based on your online activities.

Social media has enabled people, companies, and organizations to communicate in a one-on-one, two-way dialogue on a cost-effective, large scale. For individuals, they can socialize with other people with similar interests and beliefs. For companies and organizations, they can personalize their brand by participating in meaningful dialogue with customers.

Many CEOs, managers, and marketers get it wrong because they think social media is just another advertising channel. They think they can shove their sales message through social media like a print ad or billboard. Thinking this way will result in disaster for their brand.  

Think about how you currently generate a sale. It may be through a referral from a current customer, taking a client golfing or to dinner, or offering a free trial or discounted offer. This effort is currently limited to you (or your staff’s) time. Imagine if you can scale similar types of relationship building to hundreds or thousands of people, in a cost effective manner. That is what social media allows brands to accomplish.

Gary Vaynerchuk discusses in his book The Thank You Economy that social media is more of a cultural shift in which the way society uses the greatest platform of them all—the internet. The next generation of the internet has the tools or networks to enable our culture to shift the way we communicate, share, and make recommendations. Companies now have the opportunity to really connect with their customers. Below is a quick summary of the most commonly used social media tools.

  • Facebook – Currently the largest social networking site in the world. However, it is no longer just for kids and college students. Amongst its 100+ million active users, the biggest growth areas are in businesses and professionals. Individuals set up accounts. Anyone can create a Fan Page or Group which can interact with fans and followers.
  • LinkedIn – This site is a business networking site. It connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals. Powerful features to position you as an industry expert include Answers and Groups.
  • Twitter - Twitter is a microblogging platform composed entirely of 140 character answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?” The short format of a Tweet allows for collaboration and quick information sharing. You can share information with people outside your email address book, thus expanding your list of contacts to ever-growing like-minded people that you wouldn’t normally exchange email. Great features to connect are its search capabilities, use of hashtags (#), and Twitter Lists. TV networks are increasingly using Twitter during shows and/or live events to make them more interactive and social.
  • Google + - The newest social networking site is Google +. Its premise is to allow users to share stuff like in real life—different things with different people. This is somewhat different than the previous mentioned sites. A user’s profile is centered around Streams (same as Facebook’s news feed). The Stream is joined by four core elements – Circles, Hangouts, Huddle and Sparks. Users classify their followers into different Circles and pick what information is shared with what Circle. Hangouts are basically just video calling with certain followers.

Of course, there are many, if not hundreds, of other social networking, blogging, and video websites. This summary is just meant to get you familiar with the concept of social media and with commonly used social networking sites.

Please share with us your favorite site and tell us why it’s your favorite.

Lindsay Diven

Marketing Manager for T.Y. Lin International

Co-Chair Education for SMPS Central Florida Chapter

I work with principals to implement disciplined approaches to their sales and marketing efforts throughout the Southeast US. Most of my experience has been for transportation planning and engineering. Similar to selling services, I have also help clients market their projects to the communities, stakeholders, and elected officials. Using similar focused plans and strategies, I work with agencies to develop public outreach campaigns and tailored messaging for large infrastructure programs. I love my family, the Gators, Rays Baseball, the beach, and a good glass of red wine. Connect with me at [email protected], 407.563.7113, @LindsayDivenLinkedInFacebook, and Pinterest.

* Kietzmann, Jan H.; Kris Hermkens, Ian P. McCarthy, and Bruno S. Silvestre (2011). "Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media". Business Horizons 54 (3): 241–251. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2011.01.005. ISSN 0007-6813. Retrieved 2011-08-23.

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