Sunday, 3 October 2010

What social media is NOT and what it is!

Social media has over the past two years grown from an experimental and anticipatory stage to a new level of adoption and acceptance from organisations across all industries. The only concern is the fact that many organisations still jump into the bandwagon - just to keep up with the "technology" without actually having a strategy. Many are not clear what what social media is and what it is capable of doing for organisations. Many still have wrong notions about social media, which I aim to help clarify through this blog today.

Let us start with what social media is not.

1. I refer to my previous blog to re-assert that social media is not just Facebook and Twitter.
Social media is not something to keep up with competitors but a new avenue to establish relationship and engage with customers. Many have the misconception that if I have a Facebook fan page or a Twitter fan following, then I have incorporated social media. This is a means of using social media, but without realising the full capability of what a social media initiative is capable of.

2. Social media marketing is not a short-term activity
It is not enough to gather fans and accumulate "likes" or followers. This traffic should not meet a dead end on the fan page. The traffic needs to be harnessed using a good social media strategy to convert it into sales and maintain customer relations. Corporate websites and social media platforms should not be independent but interlinked as a unified strategy.

3. Social media does not come for free
Yes, social media is a low cost/no cost activity. However, a good strategy needs significant manhours to achieve good results. Popular opinion says after initial set-up, dedicating about 1-2 hours everyday is essential to get good returns. Also, good measuring tools and KPIs are essential to monitor and translate effort into results.

4. Social media is not a fad anymore
Until lately, social media was considered to be a "fashion" that would fade away gradually. But with proven results and facilitation by main proponents, more and more organisations are adopting it and it is here to stay.

So, what is social media marketing?

1. Social media comprises a variety of platforms including social and professional networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, content sharing websites like Digg, Flickr, YouTube, and User Generated Contents (UGCs) like blogs, discussion boards, etc. (More on the categories in a subsequent blog)

Its a customers' era where customers are enormously empowered with social media. With customers already discussing about brands among themselves in these platforms, it is essential to monitor what good/bad is being said about the brand in these platforms and use it to improve the brand or clear misconceptions about the brand. It is a chance for brands to build on these existing platforms to reach out to the interested prospects.

2. Social media is a long term strategy
It should not be a last minute addition but a part of a marketing plan/strategy. It is foolish to follow the league without a strategy. Choice of media is very important. It is important to figure out where the target customers flock and which platform would be the most appropriate to target them. It is a long-term relationship building platform. It is a means to establish effective communication with customers and clients. It is a transparent platform, and has its downsides where users are free to posts negative comments as well. It is a platform to show customers that you care about them.

4. Social media requires time and resource commitments
Comments, feedbacks, content sharing (videos, text, pictures, etc) etc need significant time and dedication. Constant monitoring is required of what is being said about the organisation by people and to respond accordingly. Having facebook fans or twitter followers is not the end - next and a more important step is the follow-up; a plan to convert traffic into sales.

Social media marketing can help reduce marketing costs and result in higher returns and an efficient CRM system if used appropriately and with dedication. There are many case studies of social media success stories - Ford being a widely cited example. More on success stories will be covered in upcoming blogs! Watch out and please leave comments to the post.

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