Beginners guide to social media

If you think Twitter and Facebook are just for teenagers, you’re missing a massive trick. If you’re still not up to speed, here’s a guide to what Web 2.0 can do for your business.

You know that old saying the more you give, the more you will receive? Truer words were never spoken when it comes to understanding how Web 2.0 and social media marketing can benefit your business. In fact, I was invited to write this article via social media tool Twitter!

It’s perfect for small business owners, it doesn’t cost a cent to use and—most importantly—it can raise awareness, create a following of loyal customers and give you instant feedback allowing you to shape your business around your customer’s needs; a win-win situation.

If Web 2.0 sounds like a mystery to you, or you’re not sure if or how your business can benefit, rest assured if you’ve used the internet in the past couple of years you’ve already been exposed to it. It’s even likely you have participated in it. Have you watched a video on a website? Read a news article and noticed some comments below? Found a service using a search engine  and read reviews about the business? All of these activities can be classified as Web 2.0.

Essentially, the term Web 2.0 can be used to describe the evolution of how people interact with content on the internet. It’s all about interactivity: with content, within personal networks and with businesses. And it’s not just for teenagers. Social media is a result of this new interaction.

Within social media you’ll find the traditional types of media: text, video, images, audio and the new platforms internet users can use to publish and share that media. Social media is all about connection, contribution and conversation. It’s about participating, engaging and adding value to the people you connect with.

Popular social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Digg, Flickr and YouTube and their usage is growing quickly, month by month. If you want to reach and engage with the new evolution of internet users—including your customers and potential customers—it’s time to get your head around social media.

Marketing using social media
Sound complicated? It’s not. Essentially, social media marketing is a modern day method of word-of-mouth marketing, using rich media, social networking, social news and bookmarking as a way of spreading that word via the internet. Here’s what you need to know: your internet audience (therefore your potential and existing customers) is learning to ignore passive messages like banner advertising and opting for interaction instead. They’ll talk amongst themselves about your business, products or services and, if you want to attract new customers on the internet, you need to add value to this conversation.

How do businesses benefit?

So how do you succeed in the Web 2.0 environment? Your audience expects transparency, honesty and engagement. Your approach needs to be one of relationship building, not the hard sell. While it may be difficult to measure the direct effect it has on the bottom line of your business, the opportunities and rewards will appear if you present yourself authentically. The two greatest benefits of engaging your business in social media are that you can build reputation and trust, two crucial factors when doing business anywhere.

Like anything, seeing the results of your interaction with social media can take time but if you embrace it, you can build a following of loyal customers who will act as brand ambassadors for your businesses. In this word of mouth environment, where advertising is not trusted and trust is gold, that’s priceless. The best news about participating in this new environment is that it costs nothing to use, is incredibly targeted (you can build yourself an audience of people receptive to purchasing your products and services) and is highly effective, making it a perfect internet toolset for business owners.

Using social media to ‘callout’

1.    Create a network of your potential and existing customers using Twitter, Facebook, Linked in, Flickr and You Tube.
2.    Receive immediate feedback to help shape your products and service offerings.
3.    Engage in genuine conversation. Add value to your network and you’ll receive opportunities through building your reputation as an expert.
4.    Build loyalty to create priceless word of mouth marketing between social networks to promote your business.

5 thoughts on “Beginners guide to social media

  1. Jeff Goldman

    If using LinkedIn, here are some tips/tutorials I have made. These are free interactive simulations and include customizing your URL and using LinkedIn as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. Using it as a CRM can be very helpful to any using it for professional networking, businesses or job seekers.
    http://www.minutebio.com/LI/PowerTips.htm

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    Reply
  2. Mark Parker

    Good article Clare,
    I think there are a couple of areas that you’ve overlooked, specifically around the importance of listening, the time investment required, and the need for the business to consider the cultural implications of engaging in web 2.0/social media. Whilst many social media tools are free, the organisation needs to realise that once you’re on board, you’ve got to invest time – and time for many organisations = money; which kills the whole free and easy argument.

    Just quickly on the cultural front. This is hard for most companies as to be really good at engaging with the community an organisation needs to have a mindset that permits unencumbered contribution. Most organisations stumble/fail at this point – the idea that you’d give knowledge or information without a quid pro quo is foreign to the extreme. This is a far deeper issue that many in the marketing/web 2.0/PR space are yet to grasp.

    Organisations need to also consider how they set boundaries around the use of the tools, both within their business and in the wider community. I know many so called social media experts decry the idea of setting boundaries but this mindset is dangerous and in many respects negligent if you’re a Director of an Australian business. The ideal of simply letting the community do as they please just doesn’t cut it – and it’s time the marketing and PR types owned up to this fact and stepped back from their free-love ideal. Interestingly some of the key thought leaders in the US (such as David Meerman Scott) are starting to understand this and commenting to this effect.

    Clearly transparency is important but the organisation needs to give thought to how they deal with extreme situations such as employee misuse or an anonymous person spreading misleading information. Where an organisation has a clearly stated policy regarding questionable content, the community (will generally) respect this. Where most companies are caught out is where no policy is in place, which then gives the community the impression that they are either trying to hide something or are making things up on the fly – never a good look.

    Sorry if I’ve been too critical as I liked the piece you wrote. I think you clearly articulated the need for organisations to just get in and start doing it. We’ve done some interesting work around this idea of the collision of the four core communities and how this drives enterprise performance. I’ll save that for another day

    Cheers Mark

    Reply
  3. Mark Parker

    Hi Clare,
    I need to qualify my earlier post as I overlooked the fact you dealt with the time issue on page 2 of your post. Your comments are spot on and very much in line with my thinking.

    It’s easy for someone new to the social media world to think that they can jump in and results just magically happen.

    cheers Mark

    Reply
  4. Mike Michelini

    Great article Clare! Yes, seems we’ve reached a real tipping point with web2.0 everyone is talking about it. Old, young, rich and poor. Sure the internet has been around for quite some time, but I really believe 2009 has been the year everyone is online

    Reply

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