What is Social Media?

Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques – Wikipedia

“Social media” are really just technologies that facilitate conversations. – By Sean Carton, ClickZ

A lot of people talk about social media, but what is social media really? To some, the phrase “social media” is  synonymous with Facebook, sort of like Kleenex is the same as “facial tissue.” They might expand that definition to include Twitter. But social media is bigger than those two websites or any specific websites. Social media is not a particular web site or group of sites–it’s the larger idea of those sites.

Social media websites come and go, but the idea of social media will remain and is in fact growing. Social media use has increased by 230%  since 2007, according to this study. The particular platform isn’t as important as the concept. That’s because today’s Facebook or Twitter might be tomorrow’s MySpace. The web in its infancy was about communicating with a small group of friends (or academics, actually). Then it expanded and became a place for businesses and marketing. Now it’s back to being more about relationships, but this time brands are included in those relationships. What is clear is that it won’t go away.

To be social is in our DNA. We seek out connections with other people – it’s a basic need. You’d think that connecting online wouldn’t be as powerful but a new study shows that it is quite powerful. This new study explains the passionate testimonials you see from people who have fallen in love with social media. There is some science behind it. Social media triggers chemicals that signify generosity and trust.

To me social media is about interacting with and sharing information with others online. There are many categories of social media sites, but they all have one thing in common: they are about being social and conversing with others.

Types of Social Media Web Sites

There are so many social media websites – both small/niche (like PR Open Mic specifically for public relations professionals) and large (like Facebook). It’s good to go niche because it’s very targeted – but it may also have less traffic. A larger social network has a general focus but gets more people because it’s a 1-stop place to connect.

There are 5 categories of social sites in general.

  1. Social news websites where you submit news and share it with others: Digg, Reddit, Kirtsy
  2. Social sharing websites where you share pictures and video: Flickr, YouTube
  3. Social networking sites where you interact with people: LinkedIn, Facebook
  4. Social answer sites like Yahoo Answers and Wikipedia
  5. Social bookmarking sites where you save your favorite web sites online where others can see them and you can see who else bookmarked them: Delicious, StumbleUpon

Advantages of Social Media Marketing

Beyond defining social media, what can social media do for small businesses? Not only do people get to know you, but you get people to like you. It’s a great marketing and branding technique with a seriously low budget. You save the budget, and customers use businesses they trust. What’s not to love?

Here are some stats that I just love from a study by Chadwick Martin Bailey:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of consumers who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to buy those brands after becoming a follower.
  • 51% of Facebook fans are more likely to buy after becoming a fan.

Here are some additional benefits of social media marketing:

  1. Increases traffic to your website/blog.
  2. More subscribers to your newsletter or RSS feed
  3. Higher visibility
  4. Brand recognition
  5. More links to your website (which improves your search engine placement)
  6. Talk directly to your customers and create a direct connection with them.

Are you Ready for Social Media Marketing?

Even though there are tools to help you manage your various web sites, one part of social media is participation. If you belong to the local book club but you only pop in for a meeting a few times a year, how strong will that relationship be?

  1. You must be willing to learn new technologies and tools – if you don’t have the time for it or it isn’t a priority, then social media marketing will be a lot more work.
  2. You have to devote time to social media. If you don’t make time to interact and be social on a regular basis, you won’t see much of a return. Some brands simply report on, reflect, or track social media mentions and don’t maintain their own accounts.
  3. You’ve got to interact. If you say you’re social and then don’t interact, people won’t connect with you. Or if they’re feeling particularly malicious, they can spam your account if it looks like you’re not engaged or monitoring your account. Even worse, if you are rude or caught off-guard, you could get blindsided. It could generate a lot of bad press (just ask Nestle).
  4. Know your goals. Some people want to increase traffic, and others want to build links. Still others want to provide customer support to their customers. Others want to get feedback (like a focus group). Any of these options is great, but you should find what is going to do the most work for your business.
  5. Here are some ways to get started with social media marketing.


Vitaly Tennant

What an informative article, thanks so much for sharing. You’re right… social media is here to stay.

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