Perhaps you’re an organisation who has heard all the buzz about Facebook and its ilk, and feel that you’re missing a trick not being on there too. Maybe you’re a freelancer who feels that getting social would lead to a fatter contacts book and more juicy commissions. Or perhaps (like my Dad), you’re a fifty-something with too much time on their hands who likes the idea of Twitter because it allows them to keep tabs on their children (sorry Dad). But now, after registering on all of these sites – choosing a pithy user name and a swanky avatar – you’re not sure what to do next.
But wait! Don’t fiddle around with it for five minutes and then brush it off as being a bad lot. Social Media can make a difference to your business. It’s all about finding a niche, taking the time to make connections, and pushing out good content to the right people.
I’ve been using the internet regularly since 1996, when it was all fields and the occasional IRC chat room. And, throughout the years, it feels as though I’ve jumped on every social media bandwagon going – IRC, Livejournal, Friendster, MySpace, Friends Reunited, Bebo, Facebook, Twitter – you name it, and I’ve probably had a profile on there.
I don’t claim to be an ‘expert’ about this subject, but I am one of those ‘Digital Marketing’ types (by day I’m the Web Manager for The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and by night I post recipes and restaurant reviews on my food blog, Little Red Courgette), and I feel proud to say that I’ve managed to make a career out of messing around on the web. I’ve also recently been studying on Salford University’s Search and Social Media Marketing course which has enabled me to think about social media in ways which I hadn’t envisaged before. Whilst this isn’t going to be the definitive tome on the subject, think of it as a handy Beginner’s Guide.
As Bill Gates famously stated in 1996, when it comes to the internet, Content is King. But it’s not enough to create amazing words and pictures and let them sit there on your website waiting for people to stumble across them. If you want to make an impact on the SERPS, you have to be a bit noisy. As this handy infographic says, social is SEO and content is social. Google’s Panda algorithm actively encourages people to produce and share high quality content, and posting links on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus allows people to share your content to their own personal networks. Having a single tweet retweeted by someone with thousands of followers can lead to your content going viral, meaning lots new followers and customers for your website and a higher page ranking on the search engines.
If you want to make an impact on social media, find your niche. There’s no shame in being a one topic wonder, so long as people connect with the content you’re sharing. If you provide users with the most useful, attractive and engaging content that you can, then this will motivate them to share it with their friends, link to it and keep coming back for more.
Social media should be exactly that – social. Don’t just use your profiles as a glorified RSS feed. Start conversations and make connections. Reply to tweets and Facebook messages. Comment on people’s blogs and befriend people in your industry who you think may be interested in listening what you have to say. A bit of cheekiness can go a long way – and can reap huge rewards.
Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – it’s easy to find a platform that suits you and use nothing else. But in doing so, you’re doing yourself – and your brand – a bit of a disservice. Different social media platforms attract different audiences, of different age ranges and different nationalities. When devising a social media campaign, it’s important that you look at each platform, think about how you can transmit your key messages through each of those in a unique way and adapt your voice accordingly. For example:
If you’ve not yet encountered Google Plus, it’s a social network which aims to be Facebook, but better (and with less risk of your boss seeing pictures of you drunk and falling over). To find out more, watch the handy explanatory video below.
When it comes to devising and implementing a social media strategy, it’s always good to look at what your peers are doing. If they’ve got a good online reputation, it’s usually because they’re doing something right.
A few brands who do social really well are fashion retailers ASOS, Topshop and Evans (which have all utilised blogs, Twitter and Facebook to connect with their key demographic). Evans have also reached out to the blogosphere, holding press days for fashion bloggers to see their new collections, and encouraging influential bloggers to contribute guest posts to their corporate blog.
OK, so this just sounds like common sense. But it’s a sentiment which can easily be forgotten in the heat of the moment. The internet has a long memory, and it’s often quick to judge. One misjudged tweet or Facebook status update can have a debilitating effect on your brand. A good example of this is when, in 2009, Habitat used ‘Hashtag Spam’ to get into the top trending results on Twitter. Hashtags are the keywords used on Twitter which allows users to follow a conversation, and, using hashtags like #Iran and #Mousavi, the retailer added notes about its products into the stream of tweets about the Iranian uprising in 2009. Whilst Habitat blamed this on the actions of a rogue intern, the effect was debilitating and, arguably, the brand’s online reputation hasn’t really recovered since.
It’s easy to take social media too seriously, but in doing so, you’d be missing out on seeing it for what it can be (namely, bloody good fun). If you’re prepared to put the effort in, you’ll soon reap the rewards, as well as make friends, influence people, and (eventually) become a social media superstar.