To Tweet, or Not to Tweet: What Social Media Platform is Right for Your Business?
Part I: Facebook, twitter, Google+
Facebook, twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr., Reddit, Stumbleupon, WordPress, Blogspot, LinkedIn, Google+; Yikes! Where does it end? And, where should I begin? If you’re new to Social Media Marketing, and realize Facebook isn't the only star in the sky, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. There is an entire galaxy of Social Media platforms out there just waiting to be explored. Ready to blast off? You’ll need a flight plan. Let’s start with the basics…
Let's “face” it…everyone is on Facebook, right? Well not quite – but very nearly. Over 1 billion people have Facebook accounts. If Facebook were a country it would be the world's 3rd most populous behind only China and India. There is a reason Facebook is currently valued at over $65 billion, even with that embarrassment of an IPO and the stock's weak performance since then. Short-term and long-term forecasts are strong, however. Why?
Because in the Digital Age, information = $$.
Hundreds of millions of users log in every day, posting status updates, pics and links; liking & sharing products and pages; and interacting with their favorite brands. All this activity generates an enormous amount of raw data. This is where Facebook's algorithm goes to work and the real magic happens.
Every time you engage Facebook, whether it's as passive as checking into your favorite sushi spot or as active as Liking a brand's page or commenting on a product post, you are feeding that algorithm kitty. You are telling Facebook what your interests, tastes, buying habits, income level, education, job sector, age and gender are. Facebook is constantly gathering, storing, and reformulating the data you feed it in a relentless drive to more specifically define you as a consumer. That is more than everything an advertiser needs to place you in a demographic and tailor its marketing directly to you. When you purchase ads on Facebook, you can define the parameters of your target audience as broadly or as narrowly as you like – by geographic location (even hyper-local), age, gender, etc. And the results are instantaneous.
I'm sure you've noticed that the Sponsored Ads along the right margin of the page refresh on a regular basis when you are in read mode (i.e. not posting, liking or commenting). And as soon as you post a comment about, let's say…the upcoming Conference Finals between the Kings & Blackhawks and the Penguins & Bruins (I'm a huge hockey fan) that ad bar updates to include the highest paying advertisers prompted by that algorithm. At the top might be an ad from the NHL itself, and then officially licensed fan gear pages, the team pages, Facebook Groups and Pages for hockey fans, etc.
Where else in this world can you pitch your product or idea to a potential customer the very moment that customer is thinking about your product or idea? That's not marketing gold; that's marketing platinum.
Social Media Marketing has become not just an important driver of marketing strategy, it is proving downright disruptive. It has radically changed the way we receive and share information and spawned a new profession within a growth industry. Over-used words like “juggernaut” and “paradigm shift” come to mind when one thinks about the socialization of traditional and digital marketing (which grew 23% last year) and how far both have come in just the past few years.
Facebook is a “big umbrella” within the world of Social Media. It's really a no-brainer. It is free and easy to publish and maintain a product or business page and reach the people you need to reach for pennies on the marketing dollar. If you are in startup mode, run a small consulting firm or a home-based business and you have zero budget for marketing and advertising, do yourself a favor and create a Facebook page. You must have a web presence. If you cannot afford the several thousand dollars required to design, build, launch and maintain a website, a Facebook page is the next best thing. Because people will Google you. People will ask where they can find you on the web. And you must have an acceptable answer for them. Facebook is the vanguard, but by no means is it the only weapon in your arsenal.
93% of marketing professionals use social media for business, and by now it shouldn't be a mystery as to why they do it. We don't even have to go looking for products or services; they find us. But only 14% of us trust advertisements. On the other hand, 90% trust the recommendations of a friend. This is the value of the “social” part in Social Media.
53% of twitter users recommend products, services and companies in their tweets.
So, tweet. A LOT. Follow hundreds or even thousands of related companies and fellow professionals. They will Follow you in return. Retweet relevant content, make product and service recommendations and others will return the favor. The virality of twitter is very high. Through the use of hashtags and @ prefixes you can expand the reach of your tweet beyond your own Followers to include others participating in that # subject/conversation and the Followers of the @twitterAccount you've just mentioned.
Because of this unique virality, twitter is especially effective for personal and professional networking and B2B reach. Participate in Follow Friday (#FF) and send new Followers a direct message thanking them for their Follow. Invite them to Like your Facebook page or subscribe to your blog. Include a link. If Facebook is your voice, twitter can – and should – be your megaphone.
Every time you publish a blog post, tweet an announcement with a link. Just had a great meeting with a client? Tweet it and thank that client. Don't forget to include @ThatClient. (Follow him/her first. Are you Following that client? You should be.) Reading a book or article that inspires you? Tweet it. Include #booktitle or a link to the article. Every time you do that, you are announcing to the twittersphere that you are engaged in your profession, value the power of networking, and have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of Social Media.
Oh, Google+. What is there to say about you? Most people would respond, “well…not much.” Don't listen to most people. When Google first announced their plans for Google+ many in the industry (and probably everyone at Facebook HQ) collectively snickered in derision. Because, let's be honest, it takes Google-sized cojones to dump millions of dollars and thousands of development hours into a platform many assumed would be “just another Facebook” and would soon go the way of the Dodo Bird and MySpace. Those people were wrong.
While Google+ has not experienced the same astronomical growth as industry leaders Facebook, twitter and Pinterest it has carved out a tidy little niche for itself. Because, well…as the Bard once asked, “what's in a name?” When your name is Google the answer is, “everything.”
Google is by far the largest, most successful search engine in the world with a reach that almost defies quantification. It has transcended its original use to encompass every aspect of our digital lives. It has insinuated itself into our culture and even our lexicon. Google isn't just a company, brand, or search tool. It's a verb. I can't even begin to imagine how many times a day someone on this planet utters, “just Google it” to a friend, family member or co-worker.
If you care at all about your brand's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you ignore Google+ at your own peril. Everything within the Googlesphere is connected. Social Media Today calls it the “social spine.” It runs straight down the middle of all your other web activities (and Social Media is the web's #1 activity) and connects your presence to Google Analytics, Places, Gmail, and YouTube – the web's second largest search engine – which Google bought in 2006. If someone decides to “Google” your company, having a fully-integrated presence within that Googlesphere will enhance your page rank. This determines how close to the top of the search results your website (or blog, or Facebook Page, or LinkedIn profile) will appear. It is especially important if yours is a company just starting out or if your web presence is relatively new.
Social Search is what drives search engine results today. Those results are highly personalized and give precedence to your previous browsing history, your social media connections, and your geographical location – a vital consideration if you are a Brick & Mortar company dependent upon hyper-local traffic such as a restaurant, book store or clothing boutique.
Your page rank also hangs on the number of reviews and recommendations your past customers post to your Google+ page. Hence, the social part of Social Search. If other members of one of your Google+ Circles recommend a company or product, that company's website will rank higher in search results than one none of your friends are using or talking about. So encourage your clients to hop onto your Google+ page and post a review. Make it fun and rewarding. Offer incentives to the first to post such as a gift card or discount coupon.
Because of its affiliation with and seamless integration of YouTube, Google+ is also video-centric. If you are a business consultant, motivational speaker, DJ, Life Coach, or in a similar service sector you should be taking advantage of Google Hangouts. A Google Hangout is like a video version of a podcast or a Ustream webcast, but more interactive and conversational. It's even more social.
Invite guests to join you in your living room studio for an interview or chat session and invite your Circles, Facebook Friends and twitter Followers to come hang out with you. Once the Hangout has concluded, you can publish it immediately to your Google+ page for future reference and cross post to your YouTube Channel (more on that next week). Make it fun and informational.
The Hangout, like every social media endeavor, should be less about advertising and more about educating. You have to tell a story and give people something for their time. This is how you build brand recognition and trust.
The interconnections of Google in particular and Web 2.0 in general allow you to get creative with cross-posting and cross-promoting. So play. Have fun. Find what works for you and your brand and exploit it to the limit. And remember, the sky is not the limit. Aim higher. We're just now beginning to comprehend the power and reach of this new galaxy called Social Media. So refuel the rocket and keep your space suit handy. Next week we'll explore YouTube, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
Diane E. Curtis is an Atlanta-based Social Media Strategist, Blogger, Multi-media Artist, Steampunk Cosplayer and all-around Geek Girl. She consults in the fields of Corporate Branding/CID and Social Media Management & Content Generation. For more information and articles on Social Media Marketing, please visit her blog: lemonademarketing.wordpress.com.