The first post on this topic, the Trinity of Social Media, connected three basic components of a social media strategy – the blog, and microblog and a social network. Each has been the subject of a separate post expanding on why they are connected and this post explores the social network and how it fits into the overall strategy.
This post is about the third and final element of the Trinity – a social network.
The idea of social networking is not new. It’s actually pretty ancient – think back to the time when when people gathered around commonly-held or agreed upon beliefs, ideas or tenets. Among the myriad possibilities, you could choose to align yourself with civic, faith-based, or business-based networks. People actively networked with one another, promoted one another’s reputation, shared in one another’s prosperity, and stood together to be counted for whatever reason.
Fast forward to today; this same kind of network is migrating to online communities. We, as a culture, are tearing down the barriers of time and distance using online tools and technology.
People without any technical skills can now use the technology to communicate with one another regardless of location or time of day. They are too; with housewives in Gilbert, Arizona, Middle School kids with cell phones and brands with global reach are all discovering what they have in common. Whether you see it as a virtual water cooler, the neighborhood corner, a cocktail party or night club, you are right.
Online is fast becoming the place people gather to share their ideas, photos, video and more. It’s also getting easier to find out where people you like, and are like you are hanging out – try searching for almost any topic that interests you in a search engine and you will likely be presented with a variety of online communities.
Audience and Strategy - The audience you want to connect to and the purpose for the communication will guide your selection of how to best deploy or involve your company in a social networking platform. You may find a private network will meet you needs best, but likewise a large pre-existing network with a global reach might better serve you efforts to connect to your audience.
Are My Prospects or Customers Online in Social Networks? Yes, The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in January of 2009 that “The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% now”. They categorize adults as 18+. The fastest growing segment has recently been an older demographic (25+), but the 18-25 demographic is still the dominate age band.
Nielsen in March 2009 reported that social networks / blogs now 4th most popular online category – ahead of personal e-mail. Does that make it important? Only if you want to actually connect with people and engage in a real conversation.
What Should I Expect? People – lots of people and variety – lots of variety. When referring to online community involvement and participation, a popular statistic running around is 90-9-1. 90 percent of the visitors to the site will visit and not interact – they are only there to consume whatever content you are posting. 9 percent will interact periodically and if the subject is something compelling to them. 1 percent is the number you can count on to drive the conversation and to be regularly involved in the discussion.
What About The Security of My Information? Public or private community? Open or closed? The answer to this concern is yes; you can be as open or protective of your online presence as you pretty much wish to be. Some of the controls and the settings are not intuitive as they might be, but in most cases you can restrict or manage how your profile and information appears and to whom the information is available to.
Why Would I Do This For My Business? For any one of a myriad of reasons. The top three departments or functions in a company that seem to benefit most from the use of social media are –
- Customer Service
It is emerging that there are other departments that might benefit from the implementation of social media tools, but these are the ones that will get the most immediate return on the investment of time and resources.
Engagement becomes an effort to blend content in the proper context so that the audience will hear about you, discover you are engaging and opt-in to create a meaningful dialog.
Summary – The ability to craft a strategy that is both compelling and meaningful does require regular attention and you will spend a lot of time and effort until you hit on an effective strategy by yourself.
It would be an error and a social media faux pax to use social media to broadcast a message one-way; that’s the model of traditional media that is unsustainable and unwelcome in a most social communities. Businesses, nonprofits and individuals are exploring the change and the most forward looking of them are aggressively pursuing online strategies that listen to the community and engage them – that’s the way to do it.