Social media is becoming a hot topic for business in the digital media space, but do you know what it is?
Social networking is a hot topic in the business world
Social media refers to a number of Internet sites that allow individuals to join and establish their own social network through inter-personal connections. Each site is slightly different and is aimed at a slightly different audience. The original sites were primarily seen as space for normal social intercourse, i.e., sharing gossip, uploading pictures, keeping up to date with friends and sharing information. This soon evolved to arranging meeting and promoting places and destination.
Observers of these social networks witnessed a rapid acceptance and then change in consumer behaviour. Soon the channel started to drive behaviour. People began to form new networks with individuals they had never met before. The channels’ easy access started to allow self-determination of group behaviour with some destinations and activities becoming very popular purely through the promotion of the social channel.
The huge potential for promoting brands was not missed by the high-level business community. Some very sophisticated brand and product placement/advertising campaigns began to appear, many through a phenomenon now termed ‘viral campaigns’. These campaigns relied on existing social networks for sharing content, rapidly. The campaign would be a funny or shocking video, which you would not expect to see on mainstream, terrestrial TV. These mini ads became populate through individuals passing the campaign on through their various networks and with the size of their online communities, campaigns and messages spread quickly. Most recently both the US election and the Iranian election protests have received large-scale support through the exploitation of social network channels.
Which channels do you choose and why?
Social networking has rapidly developed with new channels and niche audiences appearing almost daily. The aim of many of the specialist community organisations which have been created, is to build large numbers of individuals that can be profiled so revenue streams can be derived from highly targeted advertising and sponsorship. Many have now began to change for the continued utility of their services, targeting those individuals that are advocates of the channel and have absorbed the network into their mainstream social activities. When embarking on a social networking strategy it is very important to correctly identify the channels that are most appropriate for your business activity or your customer profile.
So the starting point to any social campaign is clearly defining the objectives and target audience you are trying to reach. This focus will allow you to identify and select a number of social networks that contain those individuals. It will also allow you to focus on the most appropriate content and tone of voice. Although the number of social networking sites can appear a little daunting at first, there are a few with disproportionate market share and for most businesses, these will play a predominant role in their campaign strategy. One should note that it is often not the social network but the sub group of the social network, which can prove to be the most challenging in terms of research and access for the business strategist. So clearly, define your brief, set objectives and establish clear measurements for success.
Making them work for you – defining objectives and taking a strategic approach
Once you have selected your social network sites, defining the contents, frequency and tone of voice is very important in achieving maximum return on your investment (ROI).
A long-term view should be taken in building a high quality network. Many individuals have built large social networks and then find they are not only very difficult to manage but also, arguably, a waste of time. Quality is key in deriving real tangible value. By targeting the network and establishing a credible profile, individuals will examine your profile and previous contributions and activity before joining your network. It’s like taking a long look at someone at a party before you go over to talk to them! Your profile and activity must be consistent and have value for each individual to wish to connect. You should consider the long-term perspective, achieving a high quality social network, which is fully engaged with your company’s activity will not happen overnight. This kind of investment can be costly so you need to understand how your target operates within your own sales pipeline. This understanding will also loop back and drive your content and activity in this channel. As you increase your understanding and sophistication of the media, you should ensure that your different social networking groups operate in a layered, interlocking strategy providing a joined up experience throughout the sales channel, ensuring that the customer journey is consistent.
Getting the basic right from the beginning.
Although the strategy must be clear, it is very important that the foundations and early implementation are robust from the beginning. Trying to unwind a social network can be problematic and may prove to be impossible.
Developing a strategy, which can be managed and sustained, is a long-term approach. If you get it right you will develop an excellent channel for promoting your brand and services, whilst providing a method of protecting reputation and customer loyalty. Don’t overstretch your resources; developing a credible social network takes a great deal of time and understanding. For many companies, this kind of knowledge and resource capability is beyond their own organic capability and the outsourcing of this capability may prove to be the only credible alternative, but beware, choose your supplier with great care. You are entrusting your business reputation to another organisation.