What is Social Media Really About?

Everybody regardless of their creative area of expertise should be engaged in social media. If you’re a designer, a copywriter, creative agency or advertiser, you can’t afford not to have a social media presence. Wisely, many are finally warming to the idea of making the move to Twitter and Facebook and are promoting their businesses and themselves through “social media”. Some are even hiring “social media” experts to help them Tweet, blog, post Facebook updates all in the hopes of keeping up with the competition. The problem? Few people understand what social media really is and thus all that time spent in updating a Facebook fan page or the time spent Tweeting is wasted. What gives?

I post a lot about design and thought it’d be interesting to step away from the design of printed stuff to the design of an effective social media marketing effort. As a freelancer, I rely on various online tools and platforms to promote my business. So do a lot of you out there for your freelancing or business needs. Yet, few actually get social media. When you hear someone utter the phrase “social media” you automatically think of Twitter or Facebook. That’s where many people start and stop and why their social media marketing efforts fail. It’ll take a few posts to describe what a functional, profitable social media campaign looks like but like any form of design, it starts with the mindset. Before you leap onto Twitter and Facebook you should ask yourself an important question: What isn’tsocial media? Figure out what doesn’t qualify as social media will help you approach and design a social media campaign that looks great and functions better than anything you can imagine.

1. Social media isn’t limited to Facebook and Twitter. How many times have you heard a company boast that they have a social media component of their business and all they have to show for it is a Facebook fan page that’s generic and not customized or a Twitter account that’s rarely updated and contains trivial information? The biggest misconception most people have is that social media is defined as being on Twitter and Facebook. It’s not. Social media is an extended conversation that takes place across multiple mediums and platforms over an extended period of time. Meaning one Tweet, a few status updates on Twitter and not even a random video posted on YouTube qualifies as social media. It’s a full-time job and responsibility. If you aren’t working on it a little each day and keeping things current, you aren’t engaged in social media. Sorry to burst your bubble.

2. Social media is not a fad. Some people think social media is a waste of time. These are the same people who refuse to accept the fact that you can no longer rely on print ads or cold calls to generate leads and interest in your business or product. Social media is here to stay and inventions like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (just to name a few) have changed how we communicate, receive our news and interact with others. If you aren’t engaged in social media then you’re already setting yourself up for an uphill battle.

3. Social media is a new way of marketing services and individuals. In the old days marketing experts were all about figuring out the unique selling proposition (USP) of their product. This was a very singular, one-size-fits-all approach to advertising. They created a message to target a specific group and would either create a print ad or commercial spot for radio or television. Fast forward to the present time. Audiences no longer respond to this singular monologue type of marketing. Thanks to the Internet, people expect and look for a dialogue. You have websites devoted to product reviews; discussions about products and advertising taking place on Facebook and Twitter 24/7; the power of print and radio waning tremendously. Social media is all about engaging your audience in a dialogue, being transparent, continuously being present and available to them and in their face. You can’t accomplish that through old ways of promotion or advertising but social media makes that constant presence very easy.

4. Social media is for all ages, races, orientations and genders. People have this silly idea that social media is for the young. They scoff at it being an integral part of any marketing, promotion, design or business because they often hear stories of people posting ridiculously personal or unflattering things online and getting caught doing so on Facebook or Twitter on a regular basis. That does happen, but that doesn’t mean all social media is like that. Effective social media stands as a way to easily reach out to your audience, or even prospects, and connect with them quickly at any time of the day. One study reported that the dominating demographic on Twitter is those aged 35-49 years. The fastest growing group on Facebook? Women who are older than 55! Both of those groups contains people who’d be willing to spend money on products or services. Want to reach them with ease? Build up a social media presence including a Facebook fan page, blog, Twitter account, Flickr, YouTube channel and LinkedIn page (for starters).

5. Social media isn’t limited to the computer. There are those who seem afraid of Twitter and other social media platforms; then there are those who completely embrace it and online marketing … but forget that integral “social” part of the media. Social is what you need to keep in mind when designing your social media efforts. You want to keep people talking and discussing your product and your work both on and offline. Word-of-mouth still is a powerful marketing technique. If you aren’t making people talk or discuss you or your work, then you’ll be left on the sidelines and often times overlooked. Effective social media takes place online and carries over into face-to-face discussions and offline lives. If you’re designing the perfect social media campaign then remember to plan for and develop your efforts to target people’s lives all day, at all times, on and off the computer or smartphone.

6. Social media isn’t something you shouldn’t be measuring. Why are you on Twitter? What’s the point of your Facebook fan page? Are you a photographer? Then why are you on Flickr or sharing your photos online? A designer? Then why are you posting to Craigslist everyday to promote your services? The answer to all of these questions, whether we like it or not, is that we’re all trying to make money. Social media is often about helping the bottom line and making a profit. Businesses don’t produce dozens of videos online for personal amusement. Companies are flocking to Twitter to tell their customers what little Johnny did at school the other day. If you’re trying to make money through social media, you can’t proclaim yourself an expert or that a campaign is successful without measuring results. How do you measure? You can note how much profit you’ve made through online promotions, the number of hits to your website, unique visitor counts, bounce rates to a website, leads generated, number of followers on Twitter, fans on Facebook, whether online discussions of your product are mostly positive or negative. What’s a good design without a bit of criticism and feedback? Start taking note of some of your stats and changes you notice since implementing a social media plan and report your findings on a continuous basis to your colleagues, clients or boss on a regular basis.

Now that you know what social media is not, you can start designing an effective social media campaign based upon what it’s really all about. Come back in the days to come for additional tips on creating your own social media marketing campaign.

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