Today, we have a guest contributor. Chris Maienshein is a very recent graduate of Stevenson University. This past semester he engaged in an independent study with me on emerging media. Here is his take on Social Media. It is interesting and important to get the vision of a bright 22 year old.
For years television has been the number one tool to advertise products and services to a mass audience. The landscape of advertising has begun to unravel recently due in part to the excitement of social media outlets. The only problem with these brand new outlets is the question not too many people seem to be able to answer. How do you properly use sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to reach your target audience? Many people believe that these websites will replace the need to advertise on television and could end up being the most effective way to broadcast their product. I still believe T.V. will remain the number one advertising mechanism but realize the importance of mastering the social media landscape. The fact is that Facebook has over 250 million users and continues to grow. There are 44 million users on Twitter, 72.5% of whom joined in the first five months of 2009. YouTube has 75 billion video streams reaching an audience of 375 million people. These statistics cannot be ignored by any company looking to expand their products across a broad range of people. Therefore, the time is now to learn how to market your company’s product or service effectively through social media. I believe in order to do this correctly one must realize that social media should not be looked at as advertising. Rather, it is a place to build brand awareness. Many companies are failing to understand this concept and are attempting similar strategies they would use on other advertising media. Do not approach Facebook and Twitter as a place to sell more of your product. Rather use these sites to engage your target audience. Allow them to discuss your product and give you positive or negative feedback. Social media does not automatically create sales. They can only accelerate the learning curve for the target market. Several key tips companies could use in order to master the art of social media are: Constantly updating your Facebook, Twitter accounts, and blogs are a must. In order to understand your target audience you must be heavily involved in the culture. Read other companies blogs and Facebook pages in order to determine the best route your company can take. A mistake to avoid would be hiring people to leave nice comments on your social media websites. This is not a constructive use of social media. You want the customers to feel free to say whatever is on their mind. These websites are a great place to receive constructive criticism and gives the company a chance to redeem themselves with the customer. Social media is a place to be real. Do not act like a hired marketing consultant attempting to push a sale through your readers. Show personality and enthusiasm for the product. That will allow people to gain a level of trust, ultimately creating a loyal fan base. As mentioned earlier, keeping up with each site is a necessity. That means it is going to be a lot of hard work for you. The easiest way to add new material to your blogs or Facebook pages would be offering tips or advice for the clients. For instance, if you are a financial advisor looking to reach new cliental through a blog you should consider starting a blog with your financial tips of the week. Remember you are not advertising the fact that you are a financial advisor, only creating brand awareness. Eventually you will have a large enough fan base that they will start reaching out to you for further advice. That is when you can offer them your services as a professional advisor. When writing a blog, running a Facebook page, and “Tweeting” on your Twitter account make sure you respond to all inquires. Answer their questions and be thankful for their input. Their input adds a whole lot more value to your web content and will strengthen your social media expertise. Lastly, do not get involved in just Facebook or just Twitter. Get involved in every social media website you can, the more the better. You should have links from one site to your others so that people can become even more engaged with your content. For example, using the financial advisor scenario, at the end of each of your blogs leave a link to your Twitter account, your Facebook page, and any YouTube videos that relate to your financial work. This would then allow the reader to recognize, through your Facebook page, that you are a financial advisor with valid knowledge. Your links do not have to stop at just your personal pages also. You can lead your readers to other appropriate web content that you feel would increase your audiences’ knowledge of the subject. Again, doing so gains you more credibility as a legitimate source and will leave the reader wanting more. Remember to maintain a strong reputation as a reliable source and as a respectful communicator that does not insult the opinions of others. Do not try to be someone you are not. Show your true personality through your content. Always be truthful in your statements. If you do not know the answer to a question simply reply that you will get back to them after you have researched the answer. Lastly, if you decide to use social media as a tool to build brand awareness stay timely. Participate fully with constant updates of your material and quick feedback to your readers. Getting involved in social media can grow your brand, and reinforce the connection between you and your customers. The time you invest into your social media outlets will ultimately make you aware of what people want out of your business.
If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org