Social media leaflets and merchandise on a wooden surface

Social Media “The Good and the Bad”

Summary

This document is not a guide as such, but a discussion about social networking, its obvious benefits and it’s not so obvious pitfalls.

Hopefully, this document will assist you in deciding which social media to use for your business or perhaps whether or not to use it at all.


So, somehow you missed the big thing called “Social Media” and as such are unsure how it can benefit you or how it can work against you. That’s ok, for many people social media isn’t something they consciously think about but may already unwittingly use a daily basis.


Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein also define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”[1] Businesses also refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media


So, That all Made Sense Then?

Well perhaps not. Let’s break this down a little.

Social media takes so very many forms, most commonly in the form of blogs (like an online diary or collection of articles), social networking websites (such as Facebook or Google Plus), RSS feeds (live updates from websites displayed by an RSS reader) or most commonly these days, sites/applications/mobile applications which allow you to post one-liners about what your doing right now (such as Twitter).

For the purposes of this article about social media, we will cut through the swathe of social media available and refer only to three examples; Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There are many more, of course, virtually any reputable company uses social media and media companies, in particular, make great use of applications and programmes for communicating with customers.

Facebook (www.facebook.com) is a site which allows individuals to share information and media such as photographs and video or information from other websites with their friends and leave comments. Business’ also use Facebook to engage with customers and often us it to run competitions designed to impact loyalty and increase the number of visits to their websites.

Twitter (www.twitter.com) is in almost every way the opposite of Facebook and instead of allowing you to share almost everything the site is genius in its simplicity. You can post anything you like so long as its text (and as of 2011, images) and is less than 140 characters long (this has updated in 2017 to be 140 characters not including URLs to photos, videos, polls and quotes) Twitter is snappy, short and as such easy to use and used frequently.

In the last few years, Twitter has become an absolute ‘must have’ marketing and networking tool and a source of ‘social proof’ for your brand.

YouTube (www.youtube.com); YouTube was very much a phenomenon when it arrived on the web. YouTube allows users and businesses to create a profile and upload and share videos. It’s that simple. Youtube is still a resource which is underutilised by companies in general. Being able to post videos that customers can watch is incredibly powerful and many companies still are yet to leverage this on their websites as engaging content.

  • Want to network socially or engage with customers? Use Facebook.
  • Want to keep your network up to speed with your news, status or offerings? Use Twitter.
  • Want to share in-depth tutorials and video? Use YouTube.

In all cases, social media applications and sites can and are used to generate traffic to websites, to create a buzz about products and to canvass popular opinion. Can you really afford to ignore it?

The above is enough background for you to get through this article, however, if you want further information I thoroughly recommend that you visit each of these sites, read a little about them and set up a profile on each site and play with the options available to you. It really is the quickest way to learn and the benefits of each will likely become quickly obvious.

Interacting With Social Media

Social media is all about interaction. Everything becomes a conversation. Your friend posts a tweet about something they are doing; you may comment back, you may pass their comment on by posting it yourself. Using this kind of media can result in rapid and far-reaching communication of information.

So how is social media used today? Personally, I access my social media through a variety of channels and these channels differ based on whether I am consuming or generating content. For example, socially I use my mobile phone which is carried with me pretty much 24 hours a day and is never really out of my sight. Social media applications on my phone notify me when someone I follow (a person whose information I have subscribed to) makes an update. This is an avenue in real time into my life for friends, family and businesses 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This is not an opportunity to ignore.

If I am authoring or creating content then I use a number of tools in a work environment. For interacting with people and businesses, especially during hashtag hours I use Hootsuite as the dashboard provided gives a great real-time overview of my account and all its interactions. A hashtag hour is a set time and day when like-minded people can in effect talk to each other by appending their tweets with a particular hashtag.

For posting and scheduling content for Twitter or any of my other social media accounts, I use a product called Buffer. Buffer is fantastic if you have lots of content which you simply want to put into a big queue for publishing.

To use such tools correctly is a very effective marketing tool for any company

On my phone, I follow posts made on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube as well as others. I don’t have to take any on-going action to do this, however, after the initial subscription to a feed the application on the phone pulls that information from the web. My phone then notifies me of any updates that have been made. Using such applications is now commonplace and is adopted by the majority of young mobile phone users as well as those from other generations who may be more tech savvy.

Applications on my laptop and my desktop workstation do the same job but in more detail and display much more information, as much or as little as I choose, onscreen. Whether at home, work, in the street, at the top of a mountain, social media reaches everyone in real time. Recently the first tweet was made from the summit of Everest.

Common Mistakes Using Social Media

Overdoing it, sounds straightforward doesn’t it? You may have experienced this already, a friend of yours who updates their twitter feed approximately every fifteen minutes from the moment they wake to the moment they sleep.

Posting excessively on Twitter does a number of things. Firstly, constant updates from that person flood the app you use and in effect stops you seeing updates made by other people you are following.

Secondly, update fatigue sets in. Constant updates which are either of little interest or from the same person cause fatigue which can cause you to check your feeds less often or like the first example can result in your deleting that feed to make things easier and less tiring to manage.

In contrast to the above example of ‘overdoing it’, underdoing it can also be damaging. Infrequent and low-quality updates to social media will render the Twitter feed, Facebook or YouTube profile useless to the person that signed up for it. Not updating frequently enough means that not only do you miss out on the potential traffic that the feed could generate for your website, but you effectively become invisible. When the user sits down to cull their social media “friends” your lack of activity will likely put you in the bunch of feeds deleted. This I think speaks for itself.

Social media can be such an amazing tool for generating and maintaining interest in your website, product, or just a great conduit for information. Making your social media updates available on your website can be a massive benefit for several reasons. Social media allows you to display a tweet, video, news etc. on your site which you can update from your mobile phone, computer etc. No need for a web designer to add the information for you, and its free. As always I encourage restraint, please don’t add social feeds to your site just for the sake of it. Ensure that they add something meaningful and avoid posting lots of links away from your website to your social media pages. We want to encourage people to your website from your social media profiles and not the opposite.

I actively encourage using social media on websites as a way for my clients to make quick and easy updates to their news. However, along with the benefits come risks. Should you not update often or carry out frequent housekeeping it can appear to viewers of your website that you are not active, and they would be correct. The knock on effect of this is that it can make your site look old, as though it is not current or as if your site and your communication don’t matter to you. I know that when I visit a site which is not frequently updated or view a media feed that hasn’t been updated in a while that I consider the following:

  •  Is the company still in existence?
  •  If they don’t care about their site, will they care about my project?
  •  Why don’t their customers matter to them?

I strongly advise that if you’re not going to update frequently then not to add such social media to your site. Without commitment, the negatives can far outweigh the positives.

Social media survives on fashion

Lastly, social media survives on fashion. New social media applications, trends and must have programmes come and go on a daily basis. I recommend sticking with the big three, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. The reason for this bit of advice is that the sites have remained popular long enough for them to be more resilient to fashion and trends. They will likely remain not only in existence but also popular, for a good while to come which means you can invest your time in them with a bit more confidence.

Fewer people use MySpace (as of 2017 Myspace is no longer even considered as a meaningful social media channel outside of music.) since Facebook became so popular.  Always check your industry to see what the expected form of communication is. Do not, however, adopt every form of social media open to you. Not only will you create a massive amount of work keeping them all up to date, you will become fatigued and develop apathy with keeping the many profiles up to date. Tools that have some degree of automation like Buffer or Hootsuite can help with this.

Helpful Tips for Managing Your Social Media

I run both personal and business social media accounts. Although the benefits of social media are obvious to me, posting comments on each site or using each application is laborious. There are many wonderful applications available for free these days which can help with such repetitive tasks.

Authors note: The following indented paragraph is now obsolete as Ping.fm closed down in 2012. I have left them here for nostalgia and information only. For both business and social I now use Hootsuite and Buffer as my primary social media management tools.

One application which I adore is called Ping.FM (www.ping.fm) ping allows me to update all of my social media accounts in one go. Simply write your update into your ping.fm application and press send. Ping will send that information to all of your social media accounts automatically on your behalf.

Whose Job is social media?

So, who will manage social media for your company? One of my clients struggled to manage all their feeds and as such allocated each account to a staff member. It is their job, first thing when they arrive in the morning, to make one tweet which is designed to lead viewers to their website. Just one tweet a day. Although in 2017 one tweet a day would be insufficient to make a noticeable difference (we recommend a 4 or 5 posts a day) there is still benefit to be had in terms of appearing to be active rather than dormant.

When responsibilities are spread across staff members this makes the tasks manageable and actually gives great rewards. Ownership of an account gives staff members pride in what they do, especially when they can see that as a result of their work they have generated x% of the total traffic to the company website. The role becomes a challenge and a fun part of turning up for work.

If you are a sole trader or simply don’t have the staff to keep social media up to date, have you considered contracting that work out to someone else? I manage and update newsletters, social media and profiles and news items for many of my clients. In fact, I’m proud that many of my clients view me as a team member, not as a contractor.

Five things to remember about social media

If you are new to social media then this article may have left you with many questions. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss these further. If you aren’t sure how to implement social media on your site and you only remember five things from this article. Let them be the following:

  •  Do not use social media if you cannot dedicate resource to keeping it updated.
  •  Give ownership of the task of updating social media.
  •  Do not “spam” your social media accounts. People won’t want to follow you for long.
  •  Don’t ever think of your website or your social media as being “done”. Online information is organic, it needs constant attention to remain effective and add value.
  •  Social media is relaxed. Don’t be too starchy or formal with your interaction.

If you would like to discuss your social media in more depth please don’t hesitate to give me a call or fill in the form on the contact page. I will get right back to you.

Paul Edwards
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Paul Edwards

Web consultant and Front end developer at ICW Digital
12 Years designing, building and maintaining websites and ecommerce. I am so much more than a web designer, I am an enabler. I provide strategy, direction, mentoring and websites that make a difference.
Paul Edwards
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