Social Media: What It Is, How To Use It, and Where To Begin

Social media is an all-encompassing term used to describe any of several online channels that utilize the technology to facilitate social interaction through written, visual, or audible communication. Examples of different types of Social Media sites include:

The use of social media as a marketing and promotional tool and strategy is becoming more and more popular with businesses because it can be an extremely effective way to promote products and services to a targeted audience. Websites can function as a static billboard to promote products, services, or ideas – but social media opens up a dynamic dialogue with your audience, allowing for interaction and personal connection.

All too often I’ve witnessed people shying away from social media for one of two main reasons:

  • They don’t understand it, or don’t know how to use it.
  • They don’t believe in its true value.

I’d like to provide some insight into the value, benefits, and Return on Investment (ROI) involved with social media to prove that it’s worthwhile for you to take the time to participate. I’ll then provide information how to get started, what to do, what NOT to do, and how to manage your time doing so.

Social Media ROI

Whenever we think about investing our time, ROI is an important criteria. Although success metrics will vary between individuals, and even different sized businesses (“SMBs”, or Small/Mid-sized Businesses, vs. Fortune 500), each will need to establish the criteria they wish to measure.

CashFor example, a Twitter campaign for a major corporation might be more focused on the number of followers (quantity) while a SMB Twitter campaign could be more focused on demographically and geographically targeted followers (quality).

In addition, more quantitative campaigns like content creation (also known as “linkbaiting”) can deliver ROI through increased search engine rankings from inbound links to your Web property. Promoting content through social media channels will also bring social traffic, traffic from links, traffic from increased rankings, increased comments and subscriptions on the site; which in-turn brings more organic sales and leads as a direct result of your Social Media efforts.

As you can see, it’s a matter of setting up and defining qualitative metrics or quantitative metrics for a campaign depending on your end-goals. Some examples of ROI you may wish to pursue and measure include:

Qualitative

  • Brand Awareness
  • Interaction/Engagement
  • Trust/Loyalty
  • Influence/Authority

Qualitative metrics are much harder to measure since things like brand awareness and loyalty are difficult to track. Since qualitative results are tricky to measure, they are often broken down into micro-quantitative metrics. For example, a campaign to increase “authority” would result in breaking down micro-quantitative metrics to analyze increases in influential Twitter members retweeting you or the number of influential blogs linking to you, etc. A service like Twitalyzer might help measure these metrics.

Most social media campaigns are comparable to traditional advertising and promotions in regard to the fact that they both have the intent to create brand awareness and mindshare, but also both have a hard to measure direct ROI. This is where micro-quantitative metrics can really help.

Quantitative

  • Sales
  • Leads
  • Traffic
  • Links (Rankings)
  • Subscribers (RSS/Newsletter)

These are the traditional metrics that most people judge marketing success by. But the fact that they are simplest doesn’t mean they are more valuable. For example, sales may be the most desirable end result but they will be hampered by a lack of Brand Awareness or Loyalty.


Image Source: http://www.slideshare.net/yongfook/social-media-roi

How Can I Monetize Social Media?

That’s not an easy question to answer but one asked by every business looking to invest their time. The easiest way to start is to consider this simple truth:

In order for a site or business to be successful it needs brand supporters and advocates helping build buzz.

Your site will build perpetual motion and pervasively spread if it can win over supporters and advocates. Social media marketing is an excellent way to get people to come into your site to take a look at what you have to offer. If you are successful in earning your visitors trust, and you can gain permission and marketing privileges within your community, there will always be a loyal audience for you to promote to.

The immediate value of social media comes from the direct and indirect traffic you can drive to your site by providing and promoting great content. A decent percentage of your visitors will be people who publish their own content, have their own sites, often share links, etc. Some of these people will become your advocates in sharing content and linking back to you so it’s important the content appeals to the emotions that drive them to do so.

The links you’ll receive count as votes in the eyes of search engines. The more votes you have, and the higher quality they are, the more your search engine rankings will increase. The more your search engine rankings increase the more qualified traffic you have coming to your site on a residual basis.
If that’s not enough, here are more reasons why you should consider using social media:

Purely Organic

The traffic patterns and link patterns your site gains through social media efforts are detected as completely natural and warranted by search engines. This means that Google will elevate your content in search results when there is a large amount of social media activity pointing to it, whereas a large burst of links from traditional methods, most likely, would look highly unnatural and raise red flags.

High ROI

If you’re doing it yourself the only cost to you is time. I’ll get into how much time you should spend later in this article. The benefits will often exceed the cost. It would take you thousands of dollars to buy just a few links, but social media has the ability to give you that for free!

Versatile Benefits

There’s no department in a company that can’t benefit from social media. Social media helps PR, sales, marketing, advertising, and everyone else. This is tricky because companies often have specific budgets allocated to individual channels, so in your organization you may need to seek matching funds for social media efforts from complimentary departments.

Efficiency

There’s no other way you can spread a message to millions so quickly without spending a dime. Also, there’s no other way target messages to specific niches and audience so easily.

Personal Connection

Social media opens up a two-way dialogue between consumers and the organization, company, or brand they are dealing with. This allows the consumers voice to be heard and listened to a lot more carefully. Ideas, suggestions, and opinions can be expressed and heard by anyone. This feedback can help with product development, improved service, and repeat business.

Don’t take my word for it. There are a plethora of case studies where you can read about how business have used and benefited from social media here: http://www.interactiveinsightsgroup.com/blog1/social-media-examples-superlist-17-lists-and-tons-of-examples/

Participation

Where Do I Begin?

Patience is a virtue since it often takes months for social media to provide results. Unfortunately, many people and companies dive into social media without knowing how to use it properly. Let me provide you with a bit of advice before you begin.

Where many people get frustrated is in the time gap it takes to start seeing results. You must have faith that you’ll get out what you put in eventually. So allocate at least 3-6 months to test any social media program, and make sure you pursue it vigorously during the test period! Also, remember that Social media focuses on the “7 C’s“:

  • Conversation – Have them
  • Connections – Make them
  • Community – Build one
  • Consumer – Is King
  • Creative – Stay fresh
  • Collaboration – Team effort
  • Content – Add constantly

Before you unknowingly dive in on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else, observe the conversation in these communities. Get a feel for how they collaborate, how the site works, what content thrives and what content doesn’t. Once you have a feel for the community, and have read some general do’s and don’ts, dive in! But remember that different platforms have a different feel, so don’t treat them the same or you’ll get a harsh reaction from users on one or more of the social media platforms.

What To Do:

These general tips apply to all of the social media platforms.

  • Have manners and use proper etiquette as you would in real life.
  • Listen first, respond second.
  • Contribute to the community.
  • Be yourself but watch what you say.
  • Be honest and transparent.
  • Be concise but personal.
  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Practice good karma and you’ll receive favors.
  • Invest time and resources.
  • Measure results of actions.

What Not To Do:

Commit these cardinal sins at your own risk. These are the surest routes to failure in the social media world.

  • Be fake
  • Only talk and never listen or respond
  • Be overly self-promotional
  • Repeat yourself
  • Strictly focus on sales
  • Spam

Further reading: The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers

How Much Time Should I Spend?

I wish there was a simple answer for this. It all depends on what your goals are for trying to communicate online with others.

Each social media site operates differently so each will requires different amounts of time. Time will also vary depending on goals and what kind of user you have to be to achieve those goals. There are many different user-level activities you can participate in. You’ll want to participate on all levels but ideally you’ll want to be at the top of the ladder as a creator.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Like I mentioned, activities and strategies vary across different social media sites. Here are some diagrams to help shed light on what I mean:

As a good rule of thumb, here’s a good way to start spending your time:

  • Listening/Monitoring 25% of the time
  • Communicating/Engaging 50% of the time
  • Creating/Promoting 25% of the time

After that you can adjust your time based upon your results, metrics, and goal achievements.

Conclusion

If you’re new to social media this is a lot of information to take in but don’t be intimidated. Social media is simply community interaction. You do it on a day-to-day basis anyway, this just changes the platform of communication. Be brave and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice!




There are 13 comments

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  1. Aidan

    Excellent article, I’m going to link it from at least one of my sites (already tweeted). i like how you point out the hours required, some folks seem to thinka tweet or two will do the job.

  2. Nancy E. Wigal

    Very nice graphics to outline the level of effort. I know a number of SMBs that are actually hiring a full time marketing person to just manage social media; it’s only going to get bigger. This is a great article that ties together the necessary elements and it also illustrates the amount of time needed. Very eye opening – thanks!

  3. Vago Damitio

    Thanks John for having this great post from Jordan. I’ve read a lot on social networks but never seen a list such as this with all the detail and information. I’ve been sort of blundering with my social media but i think that might all change now. Great post.

  4. Brandon Sheley

    I’m addicted to social media, I’ve been able to meet some wonderful people directly from sites like twitter.
    I’ve also picked up several jobs from people finding me on Twitter.

    ps.. you have some typo’s up top (â€)


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