The Power of Social Media – Are You Connected?
Wikipedia describes social media as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.” It adds that it uses “web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogues.”
The general definition is any online platform that allows user-generated content to be created, exchanged and shared. In short, social media is a way of connecting with other people through the internet.
With the spread and greater accessibility of the internet comes ever more impressive forms of viral marketing, and perhaps currently one of the most significant is that of social media.
Whereas once we may have baulked at the idea of sharing information through cyberspace with complete strangers, it is now an almost natural phenomenon that has dramatically shifted communication methods and relationships on both a personal and a business level.
There are many forms of social media communication, ranging from blogs and forums to video sharing websites, online reviews and social networking sites such as Facebook. Many are free, and sometimes without even realising it, users are at the mercy of subtle advertising or marketing – taking in a slogan here, a logo there.
However as Gap recently found out, social media is a hugely powerful tool that can also cause a company campaign to backfire in what is bound to leave a lasting legacy for quite a few years to come – or was it all just a cleverly conceived PR stunt?
Gap recently commissioned an agency to change their world-renowned 20-year-old logo into something more “contemporary”. Having chosen a design and announced their intention to roll it out as their new global brand, they were quickly greeted by a barrage of criticism from the online community, led mainly by Twitter and Facebook users.
With the same force that resurrected Rage Against the Machine’s expletive-heavy 1992 hit and rocketed it to Christmas number one last year, and that brought Cadbury’s Wispa back to our corner shops, Gap’s new logo was unceremoniously binned amid thousands of complaints that soon brought the old logo back.
It’s an interesting sign-of-the-times story that shows the sort of hold that online communities can have on a brand. And if we can learn any lessons from Gap, it’s that social media certainly shouldn’t be ignored. Perhaps they could have instead harnessed the power and asked their online followers to vote on their favourite logo before making their decision? Regardless, the idea could certainly form the basis of campaigns in years to come.
Social Media for Businesses
On a professional level, one of the most popular social media websites for business is LinkedIn, an online platform that allows businesspeople to create a profile – similar to a CV – and build a network by connecting with other people and professionals.
The free version allows users to connect and message each other, and it can be a powerful way of opening both yourself and your business up to potential clients, suppliers, new employees, or even a new boss. Although widely considered as the most ‘professional’ online social network, many users are yet to understand its full potential.
It’s essential to create as full a profile as possible, as this can help inform other people and will also enable your profile to rank well in search engine results. Being an ‘active’ user can be hugely beneficial – and there are plenty of opportunities to be had.
Dan Martin from Business Zone recommends monitoring and answering questions in LinkedIn Answers, and sharing information or starting a group related to your company. You should then send out requests to invite others to join your group, and start discussions regularly that will encourage your contacts to participate (we have our own LinkedIn Group page).
You can use LinkedIn to post job applications, and also request recommendations from people you have worked with. Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most trusted forms of marketing – and building up a number of referrals from other businesspeople can go a long way in the trust stakes. (After all, when making a decision in your personal life, would you base your choice on TV advertising, or on recommendations from friends?)
Another popular social media base for business is Twitter – the free micro-blogging tool that allows users to post short updates of what they’re doing. The network is created by accepting others as ‘followers’, and useful tools like Tweetdeck allow you to keep up to date on the ‘tweets’ that your connections are posting.
As a free tool, the likes of Twitter can be useful for broadcasting news and raising awareness of an event, special offers, or raising awareness of your business.
Today, there are now hundreds of popular social media sites, and many more thousands of smaller sites and online platforms covering a huge range of channels, that pretty much touch on every conceivable topic that comes to mind.
Somewhere in that vast web of questions, answers, discussions and knowledge are people that could directly benefit from the product you have to offer – be it office space, a meeting room, or some sound advice that could lead to your next client. If nothing else, social media is certainly worth ‘having a go’ – and there are more than enough free online web resources out there to help you get started.
While the list of social media sites is long, at officebroker.com we have chosen a few social channels including a blog, a LinkedIn group, individual LinkedIn profiles, Twitter, and online reviews.
We are building up our social media presence, and we are interested in other businesses in the industry that are doing the same. What channels do you use to communicate with your clients, and how does this work for you? Do you wish you had time to do more? Are you experimenting with any lesser-known social sites?
We would love to hear your views on social media, so please get in touch using the comment box below, or by emailing email@example.com.