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Social Media Basics

    This article will address the Who, What, When, Why and Where of social media.

    Your customers are probably using social media in a variety of ways. At the very least, they are likely using at least one social media network to help them keep in touch with family and friends. They may also be using select professional or industry-specific social media networks to develop or advance their careers. Your target audience profile should include an examination of how your customers and prospects are commonly interacting online.

    The term “Social media” is used to refer to all forms of blogs, microblogs, forums, social networking, podcasts, wikis, social bookmarking, opinion/review, community gaming, and picture/video-sharing websites. A few common examples of these different types of social media are provided below.

    • Blogs – TechCrunch, Mashable, TMZ
    • Microblogs – Twitter, Yammer, FMyLife
    • Social Networking – Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn
    • Podcasts – This American Life, How Stuff Works
    • Wikis – Wikipedia, Wetpaint, PBWorks
    • Social Bookmarking – Delicious, StumbleUpon, Diigo
    • Opinion/Review – Yelp, Epinions
    • Community Gaming – The Sims, Second Life, World of Warcraft
    • Picture/Video Sharing – Flickr, YouTube, Picasa

    If you’re not currently using social media to engage with your customers, consider starting small. At the very least, you should identify which social media networks your customers and prospects are actively using and begin ‘listening’ to what they are saying about your industry, your company and your competitors. Social media listening will not only offer a tremendous amount of insight into your customers and prospects wants and needs, it will help you to develop your targeted communication strategies.

    Identifying which social networks your customers and prospects are currently using will allow you to create the most targeted and efficient social marketing plan. It is unrealistic to think that you should manage a social media presence on all available sites. Your initial research will also reveal any industry-specific sites that can be leveraged for additional advertising. If there are no industry-specific social media sites, consider creating a company/brand-sponsored industry site to establish your company as the industry expert.

    Social media involvement requires a serious commitment. Once you develop a presence in social media, you must consistently maintain a voice and actively listen to the feedback you receive. The amount of time that will be required and the schedule you will need to follow will be based on the social media network or social media mix that is most appropriate for you and your company.

    Social media marketing is the newest tool in the marketer’s arsenal because it adds another dimension for communication with customers and prospects. The social media platform offers additional opportunities for companies and brands to develop stronger, more personal relationships with customers and prospects. These social media channels are unique because they allow the company or brand messages to merge with the user’s personal communications. This environment also provides a forum for customers to publicly voice their opinions and either positively or adversely affect the how their personal network views the noted company or brand.