October 2012

Social Media Tools

Social Media Tools: Be authentic, Be an Influencer and Grow your Audience

By: Yin Chang, Phoenix Marketing Communications

Too many organizations are using social media tools without a strategy or a well thought out process. In my last article The Power of Social Media: Why It’s Influential and Relevant to Any Organization – I outlined why social media is important. In this article, we’ll talk about the various tools and their potential benefits.

Before we begin, the most important questions that need answers are:

  • What are the company’s overall objectives? What are the marketing objectives?
  • Who are our primary and secondary audiences? What’s the demographic profile?
  • How does my audience interact with peers?
  • Where are they going for information? How much time do they really spend online?

Only when you have the answers to the questions above can you begin to create a social media strategy and decide on the types of tools you can and should use.

Social Media Tools: The Basics

Facebook: The ever popular and now financially controversial Facebook remains a mysterious “must have” for B2B businesses, but the devil are in the details. Facebook gets 137.6 million unique visitors per month in the US with 54% accessing via a mobile device. Europe, Asia and North America are the biggest Facebook consumers (in that order). There is a nearly 50/50 split of male versus female users. And, not surprisingly, the largest age demographic is 18 to 34 with more than a quarter aged 35-54. So, the question is, does your primary or secondary audience fall into this category? If not, Facebook may not be the right tool for your social media program.

Why use Facebook? People live on Facebook and are loyal followers or fans. It’s been great a great tool for consumer businesses and amazing for local businesses. From a B2B perspective, having a Facebook page with useful information – anywhere from educational to strategic advice – can drive an audience. A single fan may be an influencer in his/her market. By gaining the right audience, the influence of your Facebook page could drive interest, generate queries that can be converted into warm leads, as well as increase brand awareness.

Twitter: With 500 million active users and 340 million daily tweets, anyone using Twitter can be easily lost. Dependent on who is using Twitter, a well-thought out strategy should be put into place. This 140-character microblog service can be leveraged in many different ways – from a content aggregator, conversation starter to gathering sales intelligence or as a way to monitor the interests and opinions of decision makers and influencers. Two of the most important, but often forgotten activities for Twitter are customer service or customer relationship management AND troubleshooting any irate customers or prospects.
LinkedIn: Likely the most useful social media tool out there is this online professional networking site. While good for individual networking, it can also be set to extend the company’s brand; create a platform or place to carry on industry conversations; culled for information on prospects, clients and competitors; and used for recruitment.

YouTube: The consumption of video has been growing and having online videos will likely be helpful for brand building and creating increased awareness for any company. When linked to other online mediums – such as a blog, corporate website or social media site – it can carry along some powerful message. Furthermore, if a video goes viral, it can garner much attention to the message, your brand and the company, but it’s the content that drives the value.

Google Plus+: I would be lying if I said I knew what to do with this. While it’s supposed to be the bigger, better Facebook, I have yet to see the value. However, I’m just one person. The ability to segment and target is amazing, but the mass adoption isn’t there yet. People haven’t flocked to this in droves. With that said, it’s still a tactic to consider based on objectives, audience and intended outcome.

Social Media News Sites or News Aggregators: People new to social media often overlook social network aggregators – such as Digg and Delicious. One of the reasons for exploring social media marketing is recognition. Once you’re recognized as an influencer, people will want to know what you think it important. Another reason is purely selfish – search engine marketing.

Blog: Taking stats from WordPress only, there are currently 42 million blogs with 329 million people viewing a blog and 500,000 new posts a day. Whew! That’s a lot of information to push out and take in. There has been a debate among marketers about blogs versus other social media tools (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and are blogs still relevant. I and my team don’t see it as one replacing another. Instead, we look at blogs as the center piece for some of our long-term social media marketing programs and have successfully tied all the social media tools together. In these cases, the blogs become a news-centric activity that clients and prospects go to for information. Again, we’ve taken on the role of educating and sharing information.

Social Media Management Tools: While we’ve covered some of the basics, there are many more social media sites and tools out there. For example, there is a number of social media management tools that can be used quite effectively to decrease time spent on posting content. These tools include: Hootsuite, Postling, Sendible, Sprout Social, Tweetdeck, or Vertical Response Social.

Where do we go from here?

Too many people think of social media as “what can it do for me” at the very beginning of planning. While that’s an important question with an equally important answer, it’s more fitting to create an atmosphere of authenticity with a “pay it forward” attitude. By leveraging social media and creating your own social media sites/tools with the spirit of helping others, you will help yourself…or, in this case, your company. No one wants a sales pitch anymore, but if you’re genuine and helpful versus being disingenuous and sales-y, you’ll get much further with your social media program.