Jungle leaves

Social media: A Jungle survival guide

What is social media?

Social media marketing (also referred to as earned media) is a branch of digital marketing where brands and businesses communicate with customers by participating in social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Social media is a term used to describe the overall space and the activities around social interaction – blogs, postings, tweets and the sharing of photos, videos, music etc. Here’s a rundown of the most popular sites and an explanation of where earned media comes into its own:

Facebook is a unique way of conversing with your customers that can lead to a deeper engagement with your brand and increase the chances of them telling their friends about you.

Twitter is a great way to point people to new or interesting content and to react to very topical or fast breaking news – just don’t use it to tell people what you’re having for dinner!

LinkedIn is still considered to be the most appropriate place for B2B networking to take place (even if the recruiters have taken over.)

Flickr can help people and businesses share photos and video images.

YouTube provides online access to any video or TV content you submit and is now the Internet’s second largest search engine after Google.

Pinterest is a pinboard-styled photo-sharing site that offers a new way to get your product seen by interested users.

Market size/Industry trends

A recent report by Social Media Examiner found that a significant 90% of marketers consider that social media is important for their business with 88% stating the number-one advantage of social media marketing to be generating more business exposure, closely followed by increased traffic and improved search ranking.

According to Search Engine World, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are now considered to be the holy trinity of most social-media strategies with 94% of respondents stating Facebook is one of their top three priorities, followed by Twitter at 77% and YouTube at 42%.

Social Media highlights video marketing as a massively important growth and investment area, with almost four-fifths of businesses stating they planned on increasing their use of YouTube and video marketing in 2012.

According to Social Media Examiner and eMarketer, there are now more than 800 million active Facebook users and some 100 million Twitter users. The infographic below, courtesy of our friends at mediabistro.com gives an excellent overview of what’s happening in the earned media market place.


Advantages

There are a great many advantages to social media marketing such as rapid viral exposure for products, increased search engine rankings and, above all, qualified leads and sales. Earned media can help your digital marketing strategy to fly in a number of ways.

Firstly, it allows you to do market research without having to lift a finger. You can eavesdrop on your customers’ thoughts, and take them into account when designing products in the future. It also allows you to interact, and to engage with your customers, finding new ways to expand your target audience, and asking them how they would improve your products.

It forms part of your customer service, by supporting users who have questions, queries and complaints, in a public forum and it helps you manage your reputation. If your company is seen actively solving problems through its social media outlets, customers will talk about that and generally react positively.

Disadvantages

There’s no doubt that social media marketing is a fantastic tool – if used correctly. That’s why it’s important to always use the services of a specialist Internet agency when deciding to use this particular digital strategy. Here are some of the pitfalls:

Not for commitment-phobes. Whether it’s a blog, a Twitter feed or a page on Facebook, if your company starts something then you’ve got to maintain it. After all, what does it say about your business if a customer taps into your company blog in July only to find it hasn’t been updated for sixth months? It says you’re too busy or lazy to care; and they’ll go somewhere else. So, either designate someone in-house to commit at least 6-8 hours a week on maintaining your social media links or use the services of a specialist digital marketing agency who can do that for you.

Long-term strategy. Social media isn’t a quick fix, it takes time to see that all-important ROI. So, if you aren’t prepared to wait anywhere from a few months to a year before seeing the benefits of increased customer loyalty and sales, then this isn’t the strategy for you.

Bad-mouthing. The nature of the social media beast is that sometimes your company, product or service will attract its share of negative comments. The flip side of this is how you deal with it – be positive, take responsibility, fix what needs fixing and let your customers know you’ve done it. In other words, see this as an opportunity to manage your reputation and improve customer service.

Glossary

We thought this bite-sized glossary of keywords and phrases might prove useful.

Blog:
Online commentary on a particular topic that’s regularly updated by an individual or company.
Earned media:
Also called social media marketing. Any unpaid publicity through digital outlets such as social networks, communities, blogs, forums or podcasts.
Forum:
An online discussion site, also known as a message board.
Likeconomics:
An economic model in which the global currency isn’t made of paper but relationships. So, the value to the reputation of a brand when it is ‘liked’ on social media sites such as Facebook.
Troll:
Internet slang for someone who posts provocative messages in an online community with the intention of disrupting normal on-line discussion.
Twittersphere:
When somebody Tweets, the message goes out into the Twittersphere.
Wiki:
A website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages allowing for collaboration between users.

Useful links

http://www.mashable.com
http://www.econsultancy.com
http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
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