Social Media: What’s it all about then?

Are you using Social Media? Are you ‘on’ Social Media? Have you got a Social Media strategy? These are just some of the questions you may have been asked lately. But if your response has been a blank stare and a furrowed brow, read on.

The phrase Social Media is being banded about a lot at the moment. But what is it? And what’s the best way to use it?  

Back to the old school
Quite simply, Social Media is a channel of communication. In much the same way that old school media like newspapers, magazines, TV and radio (remember them?) are channels of communication. They share news, information, opinions, articles, and ideas.  

And Social Media does the same. Although the difference with Social Media is that it’s a two way street. More on that later.

social media icons

So what sites are Social Media sites?
This is not a definitive list by any means. But it gives you a good idea of the scope of Social Media.

Social Media sites include:

Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace
Wikis such as Wikipedia which allow you to write, update and amend articles
Photosharing sites like Flickr
Videosharing sites like YouTube
Social bookmarking sites like
Social news sites like Digg and Reddit
Blogs, forums

So how can companies use Social Media?
Here’s the good news. As a company you can use Social Media to share new product details, answer questions, give background information, build your brand, manage customer relationships, and increase your sales.

And the bad news? If your product or service sucks, or your company screws-up, then your customers are going to vent their spleen right across the Internet quicker than you can say ‘sack the social media expert’.

When it goes wrong
What companies have got it wrong?

There are loads. But who can forget the employee from RyanAir Airline calling a blogger a liar? Closely followed by the official response from RyanAir referring to bloggers as idiots and lunatics. (Tip: Fly Aer Lingus.)

Or only last week on Twitter, Habitat totally screwed up when they started all their tweets with a trending topic such as #iran or #iphone. This meant people searching Twitter for news on the Iranian elections were confronted with details of Habitat’s sale. Appalling. And a lesson in how not to use Social Media.

So what’s the best way to use Social Media?
Don’t jump in and start using Social Media just because everyone else is. That’s not a good enough reason. What are you hoping to achieve using Social Media? Better customer relations? Increase in brand awareness? More sales? World domination? What’s the best medium to help you achieve that? Twitter? Flickr? Facebook? LinkedIn?

At the moment, for businesses, LinkedIn is the most popular site followed by Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Although expect that to change in the next oh, about five minutes, as Twitter’s popularity is going through the roof. A survey by Sysomos reveals 72.5% of all Twitter users have joined in the first five months of 2009.    

As a local florist you might want to put your creations on Flickr. As a make-up artist you might want to use YouTube (See Lauren Luke’s amazing story.)

As a lawyer or accountant, LinkedIn may be a good choice as it gives you the opportunity to build relationships by answering questions people may have about tax or VAT.  

And take a moment to think about who’s going to keep your blog up-to-date, or write tweets, or answer questions on LinkedIn, or upload videos on YouTube. Your PR company? Your marketing department? You?

The most important thing when it comes to Social Media is that once you start using it you need to keep going. Oh and be helpful, honest and nice. That helps.

Turner Ink’s business has grown using LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging. What’s working for you?


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