This article is intended to be a very straightforward guide to Social Media and everything that Social Media encompasses including blogs, social networks and forums etc. It is intended to introduce both newcomers and perhaps even any more experienced people to the world of social media.
So, what’s Social Media?
So, what’s this social media that has the Internet buzzing with excitement? Well, Wikipedia (an interesting form of social media in itself) describes it as:
“information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies that is intended to facilitate communications, influence and interaction with peers and with public audiences, typically via the Internet and mobile communications networks. “
This can encompass not only text and info based services like blogs etc, it can also contain image and video based services such as Flickr and YouTube for example.
Social media instigates a sense of community, making users feel connected with each other through participation and communication via many forms of media. Technorati, a blog submission service, has over 133 million blogs indexed, displaying the staggering rise in popularity of people wanting to be heard and connect to each other.
Social Media and your Business
Social media can benefit any type of business and if approached correctly, can help build relationships with consumers and other companies through networking and raised awareness of your service.
With social media you can easily speak directly to your customers, using Twitter to gather feedback on customer satisfaction, raising awareness of a recently launched product through Digg or using YouTube to promote your move into a new office location for example.
An example of a company using social media in a great way is Starbucks. Starbucks created another website and blog centred around customer suggestions for their service. A user would go onto the website and suggest a way Starbucks could improve, everyone registered on the website would then vote their favorite ideas and then Starbucks would post on their blog regarding which ideas they liked and how they would be actually implemented into the Starbucks service.
Companies are always thinking of better ways to run there service, social media gave Starbucks a way to connect with millions of existing customers and gave those customers an opportunity to build on the Starbucks service in a way only they could know how.
Burger King launched a Facebook application which encouraged users to ‘sacrifice’ 10 of their Facebook friends in return for a free Whopper burger. It was taken down by Facebook not long after launch citing privacy concerns, however in the relatively short space of time the application was live, it gathered over 20,000 users and consequently over 200,000 friends were sacrificed in the name of free burgers. This social media example was well built, was easy to share and gave the user the incentive to network with friends which made it very popular in the short space of time it was available.
These are only two examples of successful social media solutions by companies on the Internet, companies like Sun, Ford, Dell and IBM are all currently reaping the benefits of using blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook pages and other social media tools to connect with customers and make there companies more transparent to consumers. Social media, blogs especially, aren’t going to disappear overnight. They now act as invaluable customer service methods with the ability to conduct informal discussion with your customers and let them get to know more about you and your company in an inexpensive way.
Establishing a social media presence for your company gives you the ability to reach potentially millions of new customers through Facebook, Twitter, Digg etc, many of which may have been unreachable without a presence on these networks. Having profiles on the various social networks gives you the maximum potential to raise awareness of your brand, gain more visitors to your website and the capacity to convert those targeted visitors to customers.
Social Media in Numbers
searches through the Google search engine mostly all day
tweets on Twitter as of March 2009
photos added to Facebook mostly all month
blog posts mostly all 24 hours
diggs the most popular bookmark on Digg has received in the last 12 months
years it would take to watch all of YouTube’s content as of March 2008
hours of video uploaded to YouTube mostly all minute
Social Media Forms
Although social media can come in many forms, it has its main ones:
The most well known of ‘obvious’ social media forms. Blogs act as a frequently updated hub of contextual info where users can get involved and give their input through comments.
The oldest form of social media, in use before the term ‘social media’ was made popular. Internet forums act as areas for online discussion, mostly centered around certain topics.
Content communities differ from usual forms of social media in that they allow people to share and use particular kinds of content that blogs and forums don’t fully concentrate upon such as images (see Flickr), interesting bookmarks (see Digg and del. icio. us) and of course video (see YouTube).
A relevant newcomer in the social media world. Micro-blogging combines blogging and social networking in that it allows people to update small amounts of content online through web-based, desktop and also mobile clients (see Twitter).
Social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo etc allow the easy creation of personalised web page accounts that facilitates communication between users.
The Distribution of Social Media
People only have a certain amount of time to check their favorite websites, this mightn’t even include blogs or social networks. Couple this with the fact that people seem to be working longer hours than ever these days and also using blackberrys and iPhones to work away from the office, and you’re faced with a daunting task of attracting people to your blog or website.
One remedy to this has been the introduction of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. RSS feeds allow a user to effectively ‘subscribe’ to a website or blog, meaning they’re notified through a newsreader when new content is available.
RSS saves people a lot of time when reading blogs and website updates, meaning communities can grow and become more valuable to both the user and author saving both parties time and money.
Joining a social network mostly involves creating your own web page with info about yourself, be it personal, professional or otherwise and you then connect with other people on that network.
Although most of these networks are relatively young in their age, a selection of them are very popular and have changed the shape of the Internet for the near future at the very least.
After launching in August 2003, MySpace became the most popular social networking website in the United States in mid 2006, attracting well over 100million account holders.
MySpace has largely built it is popularity based upon its comprehensive music service where bands can upload tracks directly to their profile for fans to listen to, even launching it is own record label to release music from MySpace upon.
Bebo is a popular social networking tool with more emphasis on the younger user than its competitors. It is also geared towards colleges, schools and other educational institutes which is where Bebo has found it is niche. It was purchased by AOL in early 2008 for over