The Business of Social Media :: Part II

As promised earlier in the week, I’m posting the second installment in this series, based on the talk I gave in November for the Arizona Retailers Association.  Today, I’m focusing on where to start and ideas for choosing the right platform.

In the previous post, we left off with the need to define your goals, which is truly the place to start. Don’t put on the brakes and let analysis paralysis keep you from getting started, but you do need to have a reasonable set of goals in mind.  It’s those goals that serve as your landmarks against which you map your strategy.

For some of you, your primary goal might mean expanding your brand through visibility and recognition, or engaging with your customers to build a loyal following that can influence others to become new customers. In that vein, here are some ideas of the types of opportunities you’ll have with many of the current major platforms, broken down by category.

Blogs/General Publishing
Examples: Blogger, Tumblr, Wikipedia, WordPress
Once upon a time, getting published normally meant leaping tall hurdles to convince someone, like an editor or publisher, to print your work.  That time is long past with so many choices now available that allow you to put up anything you want in a matter of seconds. And, by anything, I do mean ANYTHING.  Poof… you’re published.

You can use these platforms to publish information, whether it’s sharing a tip about how to best use a particular tool or an editorial about recent news that impacts your industry, which gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to help grow your reputation.

Best uses: Self-publishing articles; Outbound messaging.

Community Networking and Sharing
Examples: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn
I consider these platforms, including Twitter, the bread and butter of the overall social network.  These are the platforms that have drawn the most traffic, which means the largest audiences. Find where your customers or colleagues are spending there time, and you’ll have found your true audience.  MySpace also fits this space, but their relevance has been on a steady decline since Facebook established their foothold.

Best uses: Building supporters and brand recognition; General Networking; Follow industry information (most platforms); Outbound messaging; Targeted advertising (most platforms); Participate in conversations.

Media Sharing (Photos/Video)
Examples: Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, YouTube
Sharing is about much more than just words.  Just like a picture might be worth a thousand words, seeing is truly believing.  And it doesn’t matter where you are, or where your audience lives in the physical word, sharing rich content gives you unlimited ways to share your story.

Best uses: Sharing of Integrated Media; Brand reinforcement; Advanced ‘Storytelling’; Training.

Examples: Twitter
I separated out Twitter from the standard blogging or publishing apps given the somewhat unique nature of this platform.  There may be other similar sites that allow publishing of short messages, which is what drove the term ‘microblogging,’ but none have caught on like Twitter.

The constraint of 140 characters has driven people to become more efficient in their communication, resulting in what’s almost become a brand new language. Add in hashtags (e.g. #hashtag) and the convention for targeting a message recipient by adding the @ symbol to the front (e.g. @patrickdaly16), and you’ve built in a way to mark messages with keywords that become easier to find. That constraint has also created opportunities for other related providers, such as link shortening services that compress long links into something much more compact.

Best uses: Outbound messaging; Follow industry information; Measuring customer sentiment; Brand reinforcement; Open customer service.

This is really just a small sampling of the platforms and potential uses, and there are many other options in these categories.

Don’t forget, many new platforms are sprouting up everywhere, so it’s important to know that you may need to adjust your approach or expand to other channels over time. Information moves quickly, so be prepared to track to where your audience calls home.

In my next post, I’ll provide some additional general tips, such as integrating social media platforms into your overall strategy, to help guide you in taking your next steps.

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