In the last few years everyone seems to be talking about social media. The buzz is in the hallways throughout college campuses. It has become a topic of discussion at board meetings and is highlighted in the news on a regular basis. A question which has been asked (and is still being asked) speaks to the so what aspect of social media. So what is social media all about? What’s in it for ME?
Looking back to my first encounter with social media, I was a recent graduate from high school and had just been accepted to Towson University. Since I was entering this next phase of my life, I was able to interact with others via Facebook. That is because, when Facebook was first introduced in 2004 until 2006 the only way to access this social network was with a valid college email address. I remember connecting with old friends from my childhood and from that point onwards the next few years flew by as if someone was holding a remote control with their finger pressed on the fast forward button. Since then Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin have increased to hundreds of millions of users between the “Big Three” and are growing at an exponential rate. It is difficult to navigate through a website these days without a stumbling upon social media icons or an option to share the news with others.
In my strategic marketing course at Towson University my professor constantly mentioned how we must take a step back from 30,000 feet and address the situation at hand. The same applies for social media. How can we apply it to our business, professional organization, as well as our personal lives? What’s in it for ME?
Some considerations to keep in mind before dipping your toes into the social media waters as well as while you’re navigating through the social media sea.
- Where? Where is an appropriate place for you to purchase a house? Do you take the time to consider if the community is suitable for yourself and your family prior to this decision? The same applies to social media. Is a blog the best medium for your topics of discussion or is the micro-blogging site composed of 140 character messages on Twitter more appropriate? Would it serve you better to spend time on location based networks like Foursquare, Gowalla, or Brightkite?
- Why? This connects to the previous consideration of determining your whereabouts. Why do you want to step into social media? Is it to communicate with your customers and gain feedback on your products or services? Do you have a talent such as cooking which you are passionate about and you’d like to share your insights with others? Are you trying to build your personal brand using online vehicles where the barriers to entry have lowered? Identifying the why will help clarify which channels are fitting for your purposes. What do you want to accomplish by entering social media?
- What? Once you determine your playing field, what are you going to communicate with others? Do you have a theme which you will deliver information on? Are you going to post entries about gardening tips? Will you upload videos of your agriculture assets through sites as Vimeo or YouTube?
- When? By all means, this is not the last question to consider when entering the social media universe, but when are you going to post entries, videos, or updates? If you become popular enough and create a following you will have an expectation to live up to. Are you capable of posting blog entries and status updates on a daily or weekly basis? Think about this prior to entering and evaluate your strategy.
It is safe to say that the digital landscape is changing and will continue to change with time. Nowadays by accessing applications on a mobile device, taking a picture, and sending it to various media outlets a former “nobody” can become recognized thus making a name for him or herself.
Make sure to understand what you want out of social media and identify your goals prior to entering this environment. Like any decision in life, it is important to weigh the pros and cons and review all considerations which you may encounter. Social media is about building relationships, connecting with others, being authentic and transparent.
Stop and think for a few minutes and make a list of what you’re passionate about. Consider how you can join the conversation whether it is through the means of a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other various platforms. You can expand your network and make a name for yourself. Keep in mind this can have positive or negative impacts on your environment and personal brand. Think back to the Domino’s Pizza video scandal in 2009 which became viral on YouTube and how unsatisfied customers complain(ed) about their Comcast, JetBlue, and UPS experiences through Twitter.
Go ahead, and explore social media and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for social media. Everyday there are developers and motivated entrepreneurs thinking of the next greatest wave which will pass us. Do you want to step in the playing field before you get left behind?
Let me know how you’ve encountered social media in the past and what has or hasn’t worked for you. Keep in mind that we’re all learning something new about social media and will continue to do so.