Wednesday, September 25, 2013

About Social Media

© 2013 Ben Delaney.
For several years now, people have been talking about the importance of social media. But it seems that a few people, and even fewer organizations, really know how to use this medium.
Now this is not revolutionary stuff. You may have read bits of it in many other places. But so many people don't seem to get it, or only understand part of the social media paradigm. So, at the risk of repeating things you may have heard before, let me go over this territory.
FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Flicker, Instagram, Google+ – it seems the list is endless. And we all hear about the great successes that some people have had with social media. But the reality is, going viral on Twitter is as  likely as winning the lottery. Sure, Justin Beiber has 44,786,131 fans. But the likelihood of your organization getting even close to that number is slim.
One thing to remember is that social media primarily reaches the people you already know. That makes the problem one of getting people that you know to sign up for your social media. It's a chicken and egg situation:  if you don't already know someone, how do you  tell them about your social media?
It may surprise you that many people are introduced to social media through conventional media. Most commonly, this is through the very oldest form of human communication – talking. Yes, people talk to each other, and tell their friends and acquaintances about their Twitter accounts, urge them to like them on Facebook, talk about shared photos on Pinterest. This works. If you use social medial, it's likely that you got started due to a recommendation from a friend or colleague.
Obviously, this is a slow way to build up a following. I doubt that Justin knows 44 million people. So how did he do it? He did it with various techniques that you can follow and emulate.
Here are my 12 tips for social media success.
  1. Follow: Follow people and organizations that you find interesting. They'll see you following them, and some will follow you in return.
  2. Lead: Post original ideas and thoughts. Express yourself and take a stand. People want to know what you think, and they will follow you if you have interesting things to say.
  3. Make news: Give people scoops on stuff. Talk about the first, the best, the most interesting. Don't wait for others – if it's important to you, it's important.
  4. Report news: Tell about things that no one else is talking about. Talk about the great things you and your organization are doing. Report on local events the mainstream news doesn't cover. It's the internet age, we are all content creators.
  5. Entertain: A little humor makes your posts more interesting and fun. Surprise people and make them laugh and they'll come back for more.
  6. Inform: Talk about what you know well. People are hungry for good sources of reliable information. If you are expert in something, tell people how it works.
  7. Connect: Be sure that all of your online presences are connected. Put social media button on your website, your email, your signs and print ads. Use QR codes to send mobile users to your sites. Every medium has its place, and that place is connected to every other medium you use.
  8. Share: Tell everybody about everything good. Talk about the great things your partners are doing. Share the restaurants, vendors, and people you love to work with. Share your grandma’s recipes. Share tips for fixing things, getting the best stuff, and making great deals. The more you share, the more people will want to know you.
  9. Be there: Don't be a stranger. Noting is older than a month-old tweet. Be sure you can maintain your social media with new content at least weekly. Better not to start if you can't keep going. People will lose interest fast if your content is stale.
  10. Promote: Tell the world. Your social media is worth the time. It's exciting! It's fun. It's timely and interesting! In fact, you can't live without it! Use every media opportunity to promote your social media. Talk about it, put it in brochures, mention it in print ads and be certain to cross promote all of your social media. You don't know where your next follower is lurking – be sure she gets the message.
  11. Dialogue: Social media is a two-way street. Answer comments and thank people for retweeting or favoriting your postings. Share info on Facebook and LinkedIn to increase the number of people who know of you. Don't just sit there – engage!
  12. # & @: On Twitter and Facebook, you can use a hash tag (# symbol) to indicate a cross reference. Anything with a # in front of it, like #Socialmedia, becomes a searchable item. Your tweets and postings will be seen more if you include 2-3 hashtags in them. The @ sign indicates another user on Twitter. For example, I am @BenDelaneyNow. If you include these handles in your tweets, people are informed, and are more likely to check you out. By the way, don't overdo it. A recent study of Twitter found that the optimum number of hash tags is two  or three. Fewer or more than that tend to be ignored.
Be sure you remember traditional media, but be equally certain that social media are in your promotional mix. Remember, optimizing media to reach your audience with the message you want them to get is both a science and an art. As such, pay attention to the research, and use all the tools at your disposal.