The social media party: Your success/reputation depends on it

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Social media is the new cool kid on the block who has the best parties.

Part I of a three-part series – Social Media Overview

By Michael A. Phillips

Now is not the time to be anti-social. The social media party is here to stay.  It is a new paradigm shift that has changed the way you should develop, evangelize and grow your brand. Ask Kodak about the price of ignoring a new paradigm shift. Kodak blithely ignored the obvious market transition from paper to digital photos and paid the price in bankruptcy court. The same price will be paid by companies who either ignore or do not fully utilize social media. To avoid this fate, you need a strategy. The creation of a comprehensive social media plan will not only be your ticket into the social media party, it will make you the life of that party.

Social media is the new cool kid on the block who has the best parties. For today’s organizations, you can choose to play one of two roles: the jock or the nerd. The nerd stays home while everyone else has a good time and increases their own image among their classmates. The jock, on the other hand, doesn’t even need an invitation to the party – he knows that if he wants to continue to be a part of the “in” crowd, his presence is mandatory.

Organizational leaders face this same decision when it comes to social media marketing. The big question leaders must answer is: how does your organization identify the way in which social media will fit into the strategic direction of the company? What role will social media play in your organization? Once you identify this role, you then need to ensure your social media plan aligns with the company’s overall strategic goals and determine which social media tools will support it. Do you need to modify your strategy based on this emerging technology or other technologies? What is the future direction of social media and what impact will it have on your business?

This is the first of a three-part series that will prepare you to begin tackling these questions and help you develop your media strategy and plan. The three parts of this series are:

I– Social Media Overview – Getting social media right

II – Emerging Trends – Business impact of social media

III – Social Media Strategy – Set the stage to create value

We will begin with an overview of the social media market as it stands at the moment. While this article is geared toward those managers and executives with only a novice level understanding of social media, I’ve included some up-to-date statistics and a brief breakdown of the relevancy for each platform that can serve as a teaching tool for in-house training programs.

What is Social Media

Social media is one of the most powerful sources for news updates and opinion management. It is a platform that utilizes web- and mobile-based technologies to support interactive dialogue and communication between organizations, communities, and individuals. Social media is not unlike TV, radio, newspaper, or magazines – it is just another platform (digital/electronic) to expand communication. One difference with social media is that it is theoretically accessible to everyone, regardless of location – unlike your local newspaper or radio station, for instance. Because of the speed of content creation, accessibility and worldwide communication, social media cannot be ignored by businesses. If your organization hasn’t started identifying how social media will play a part in your organization, you’re behind. On these interactive platforms, consumers are able to make a significant brand impact — especially when the innately viral nature of social media is taken into account.

Social media has turned the online marketing discussion into a shared and democratic experience, which means that brands will need to invest in building and maintaining their social media presence as the medium continues to flourish and expand.

Key Social Media Players

There are new social media sites launching almost daily. Their audiences vary widely, targeting the general public, serving a particular area of interest, or they can even be applied within a particular corporate culture. The following is an overview of some of the major social media players serving the general public today. The list is by no means complete, and there are numerous other players throughout the globe. Each section provides a brief synopsis of the platform, user statistics, and why or when you should use these platforms.

Facebook

Facebook is the big kid on the block. It is by far the most popular social media site in the world, and its users are targeted by thousands of companies. It allows people and organizations to create their own spheres of influence. Companies and organizations create Fan Pages and solicit followers, who Like your page and subscribe to your news feed. You can share news, pictures, links and company promotions.

Facebook Facts

  • Monthly active users now total 955 million[1]
  • 543 million mobile users
  • 20% of all page views on the web are on Facebook
  • 100 billion connections
  • 2.7 billion “likes” per day
  • 57% of users are female

Why you should care

  • Build a following for your brand
  • Increase brand reputation and recognition
  • Create a buzz about your product or service
  • Serves organizations targeting the consumer
  • Effective tool to support search engine optimization
  • Identify trends for innovation
  • Analytics available

Twitter

Twitter is the top player in the microblogging community. Users communicate in 140 characters or less. This medium is great for immediate interaction, such as breaking news, promotions, events and generally driving traffic to a business website. It can be effective in a risk management strategy because of the immediacy of this medium. Unfortunately, as many companies and celebrities have discovered to their dismay, public outrage at an errant Tweet can rain havoc on a company’s reputation.

Twitter Facts:

    • There are over 500 million accounts[2]
    • 170 million active accounts
    •  400 million tweets a day[3]
    • 55% of active users are mobile
    • Top 3 countries on Twitter are USA at 140+million, Brazil 40+million and Japan at nearly 35 million[4]

Why you should care

  • Website traffic driver
  • Event and product/service promotion
  • Get immediate feedback on products or services
  • Effective tool to support search engine optimization
  • Heavily monitored by the media (for better or worse)

LinkedIn

LinkedIn was founded in 2003 as a professional business social network, and as of February 2012, has over 150 million members. This is currently the best business-to-business social medium available in the world.

LinkedIn Facts:

    • Two new members join every second[5]
    • 175 million members in over 200 countries
    • The US leads membership at more than 66 million; Europe – 34 million; Brazil – 9 million; Asia Pacific – 25 million
    • In 2011, there were 4.2 billion professionally-oriented searches
    • The fastest growing demographics are students and recent college graduates
    • More than 2 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages

Why you should care

  • B2B marketing tool
  • Find future employees
  • Find business leads and partnerships
  • Follow and participate in topic-driven groups
  • Effective tool to support search engine optimization
  • Affordably build brand awareness
  • Identify trends for innovation.
  • Stay connected to the pulse of your target industries

YouTube

Anyone who’s ever been on YouTube knows the marketing potential. In August, Nielsen released its latest statistics showing that in the US, YouTube had more unique viewers than Facebook by almost 6 to 1.[6] With television increasingly moving to a web-based platform, YouTube is in a unique position to capture marketing dollars and have significant marketing influence.

YouTube Facts:

  • 3rd most visited website[7]
  • 4 billion views per day
  • Over 1 trillion total views in 2011
  • Online video is expected to grow by 55% in 2012
  • Video has a 41% higher click-through rate than plain text

Why you should care

  • Brand awareness
  • Product and brand promotion
  • Customer testimonials
  • Client support and training
  • Available 24/7
  • Less expensive than traditional network or cable marketing
  • Effective tool to support search engine optimization

Pinterest

It appears that simple ideas are sometimes the best. Pinterest is all about the visual. You take a photo or find one on the web and simply pin it to your designated Pinterest wall board. Sound simple? It’s so simple in fact, that many marketing experts are still trying to wrap their heads around the unprecedented growth of this social media platform. Pinterest reached the 10-million unique monthly user mark faster than any standalone site in history. Ever. That makes this platform a force to be reckoned with, and one marketing departments better fit into their strategies.

Pinterest Facts and Figures

  • Third most popular social media site behind Facebook and Twitter[8]
  • Over 20 million registered users
  • Pinterest user profile: female (68%), upper income, have children (about 50%), and 27% are between the ages of 25 and 34
  • Users spend an average of 15.8 minutes on the site (more than Facebook or Twitter)
  • In January it was driving more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+[9]

Why you should care

  • A retailer’s dream
  • Create a product photo expose
  • Put faces on a company or team (support group, design team, etc.)
  • Publicize events and corporate social responsibility programs for PR purposes

Google+

Google+ is another rapid-growth phenomenon in the social media industry. Launched in June 2011, it has already grown to 170 million active users (as of April 2012). The site was launched as a direct competitor and alternative to Facebook. Its aim is to embed social signals into its whole-web and search engine strategy. Its attractiveness is the interconnectivity with the entire range of Google products and apps, most of which are free to users.

Google+ Facts and Figures

  • Google+ will hit 400 million users by the end of 2012[10]
  • 63% of Google+ users are male
  • Sites using the Google +1 button generate 3.5 times the Google+ visits than those without
  • The two biggest user groups are college students and software developers
  • The +1 button is hit more than 5 billion times daily[11]
  • 80% of users log in weekly; 60% log in daily

Why you should care

  • Google+ is the glue that connects Google’s other social and web properties such as YouTube, Android, and of course, its search engine
  • In July, Google bought Wildfire Interactive, a social media marketing company, to help create new opportunities for its clients
  • Many users find the interface friendlier than Facebook’s widely denounced Timeline display
  • Google has the power and interconnectivity to be a major player in the social media marketing industry

These are just a few of the top players in the social media industry at the moment. These platforms represent the parties any athlete-company must attend if they want to be a part of the digital marketing revolution. Those who refuse the invitation risk missing out on a low-cost but powerful medium for increasing brand recognition, reputation, and increased traffic and sales.

Don’t miss Part II of this series, which will address emerging trends that will impact the value of social media for your business. You will find out what is new on the horizon and how it will change and improve the value of social media to you company. The next two articles in this series are for intermediate and expert social media marketers, managers and C-level executives who want to grow their social media strategies and target and align them to their business goals.

 


[5] LinkedIn Press Center: http://press.linkedin.com/about

[7]James Wedmore, YouTube, August 31, 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LTPTt1wT3Y

[9]Mashable Social Media, February 1, 2012: http://mashable.com/2012/02/01/pinterest-traffic-study/

 

Additional Reading

Can “Social” Be One Key to Operational Excellence?

Social Marketing Optimization and the Future of Economics

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