Social media is so new and ever changing it is hard to find one definitive definition for it. My definition is an uncensored conversation in as few words as possible, in as little time as possible, to as many people as possible on a worldwide stage. That includes blogs, wikis, social-networking sites and other online communities, and virtual worlds. According to Alexa.com the top social networking sites in the U.S. are (in ranking order): Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Craigslist, Blogger, Photobucket, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tagged, Ning, Twitter, and Yelp.
Here’s ten tips to using social media effectively:
1. Keep content current. Do updates frequently to stay credible and to keep people coming back for more. Mix up what you post. Keep the content helpful, fun, and informative.
2. Pick and choose the best for you. You do not have to be all places. Pick the networks that are right for you. Determine your demographics first. Then target the networks that fulfill your objectives and where you will have the most impact. Remember to be engaging!
3. Just do it. Try out a social site personally first. Watch for about 30 days to get a feel for how people interact. Once you get a good handle on how it works, and then create a company profile page.
4. Embrace conversation. Don’t just feed information about your business. Remember, this is an opportunity to talk, interact and create advocates from your customers.
5. A picture speaks louder than words. Content is important but don’t forget the visuals such as photos and videos.
6. Be friendly. Create advocates. After you join a network, make sure to connect with other businesses like yours, industry people, and major brands that partner with you and others in the industry. The more people you connect with, the more they can spread your messages.
7. Give people a reason to participate. Social networking is an incredible outlet for grass roots marketing within this high tech culture. Create reasons for people to talk back, enter a contest, or simply participate in a discussion.
8. Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell. When people are invited to participate in online communities, they expect resorts to listen and consider their ideas. They don’t want to feel like they’re simply a captive audience for advertising. If they do, they’re likely to leave and not come back.
9. Jump on the bandwagon now, and remain in the conversation for the long haul. The sooner you act, the more leeway you will have with experimentation. You’ll also be a significant step ahead of your competitors (unless they get there before you).
10. Oh the humanity. Get creative and try to let the conversation flow freely. The more accessible you are to your customers than your competitors, the more likely it is that you’re going to be a part of your customers’ lives. So, as a brand, this is your opportunity to humanize your company and be part of your customers’ life experiences and their personal networks, from which they draw so much. You can be part of a positive association in the good times. And, in the bad, you may have the support of your friends and followers when you need it.