As I write this blog post, I am wrapping up another term of teaching two Social Media MBA courses: Social Media Marketing and Social Media Marketing Strategy. I am reminded why I love teaching social media while viewing students final papers, wiki projects, and blog projects. These students have passion, they enjoy learning about these effective new ‘tools’ we have for the marketing industry, and they cannot wait to start the next social media course! This first course of three (Social Media Marketing), is a real eye-opener for some who know little or nothing about social media and what it has done, and can do, for marketers. Others know quite a bit about the various platforms but have not yet worked hands on with the tools with marketing and/or personal branding in mind. This first course always yields rave reviews at the end of the term, citing how it is helping the student personally and professionally. These are the emails every instructor loves to read!
Examining the Social Media landscape and its application to the Marketing industry (within the context of this course) reveals it can help drive efficiencies while also presenting various opportunities to engage with consumers. Consider how many times a day you actually use some form of social media? I guarantee you use more than you think. Social media is not confined to Facebook and Twitter. Social media applies to technical help boards, review sites, online support groups, personal and corporate blogs, Apps — basically anywhere communication becomes interactive can be considered a form of social media. Perhaps you check your Facebook in the morning to catch up with friends and notice your neighbor has sent you a message that she wants to start jogging in the morning with you. You then decide to purchase new running shoes on Amazon.com for your morning runs. You browse the reviews on Amazon to help solidify your decision to purchase. Then you “like” the running shoe brand on Facebook to see if they have any promotions or fitness information for you. You immediately get a response from the brand with a coupon for a running App for your iPhone. Social media has made communication direct and in real time. This is HUGE! Organizations have the opportunity to learn first hand about their customers and build relationships through relevant communication.
Social media networks worth mentioning are:
- Twitter: Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that limits posts to 140 characters and allows link and photo sharing. Use of the #hashtag has made information search and engagement with your target market easy. For example, a search you should look for (and save) is #smm or #socialmedia . Similarly, there are weekly chats you may be interested in joining via Twitter.
- Facebook: Facebook allows users to engage with friends and family via posting photos, videos, sending direct messages, and posting on ‘timelines’. Facebook is becoming a great way for brands to connect with users with ‘fan pages’ considering the high usage rates and the approximate 100 billion friendship connections on the website.
- LinkedIn: This site is geared more to the professional. It is a social network that allows you to post a photo, career history, education, and skills while offering a search function to network with existing colleagues and the opportunity to establish more connections. LinkedIn also offers a ‘jobs you may be interested in’ section that incorporates your connections so that it may be possible to make an introduction to the prospective employer via your connections. Another great function LinkedIn has is the ability to give and receive recommendations to those in your network. I have also found many of the LinkedIn groups to be a great source of information and support. This website, for instance, is the sponsor of the Social Media Strategies for Business LinkedIn Group, which should interest anyone who wants to learn more about and discuss social media strategy.
- You Tube: YouTube allows users to post video content. YouTube is a great way for companies to provide valuable content to users as well as users to share experiences. YouTube also enables you to create and organize your own channel with your favorite videos and share them via email, Facebook, Twitter, embed them on a blog, etc.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is an invitation only network allowing the user to create and organize boards of images they wish to share. This is a newer platform, but definitely has some great potential for business.
- Google+ : Google+ is a social networking site similar to Facebook, but you are able to organize people in circles (professional, social, school, etc.) and share different things with different people. Functions I think are great for business are: “Hangouts,” which are essentially video chats for multiple people, and “Huddle,” which organizes a group chat/text.
This list is not a complete list of networks. These are the most popular networks that you may wish to explore. Each has their own unique qualities and can be used by companies to further enhance their relationship with customers. I suggest utilizing each of the above networks if you have any interest in Social Media Marketing and want to engage with your customers, colleagues, and network with others in your industry. These tools offer so many opportunities! It is my hope businesses will utilize these sites to at least create and nurture brand loyalty.
Organizations now have multiple ways to connect to end-users to research and better understand what consumers want and how they feel about brands. Social media has changed the landscape of traditional customer feedback. It is important to note that simply using a social media platform to ‘speak’ to customers is not enough. Brands must actively listen to the customers first, and then engage in a meaningful way. A conversation never needs to be one sided, and communicating via social media is no different.
Is your business active on all of the above platforms in the growing landscape of social media?
The views expressed are those of the author, and do not represent those of Texas A&M University-Commerce or Southern New Hampshire University unless stated explicitly.