Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A ruler measures

What is it that you would like to achieve with Social Media?

“Oh, umm, it is just a space which our company should be in.”

Sigh. Unfortunately, this is an all too common response to the first question I ask. If you do not know what you want to achieve, how would you ever know if your campaign was a success?

Every other tool you buy for your business is researched and planned. Every other system implemented is done so with a desired outcome in mind and measurement practices in place to check if these goals are met. Social Media should not be any different.

Outcomes will be different for each organization. Maybe you want to increase conversation, or sales. Perhaps you want to add value for existing customers, or find new ones. You could use SM to drive more traffic through to your website, or use it as a promotional channel for new products, services or events.

It can be used as an internal communication tool, or to get chatting with your customers. Just remember that if you have set up a public network for external communication, anyone could be eavesdropping – including your competitors and the media.

One of the key things it can be used for is market research, finding out what people think about your brand, what perceptions exist and by whom. This kind of qualitative research used to require focus groups, surveys etc. It can now be done by instantly and for free simply by typing your brand name into a web site like addictomatic.

These are just some of the different goals which could be desirable for your business. Each one requires a different approach, and different measurement tools.

If done in an integrated way, each outcome can be measured through analytics or monitoring programs. Isn’t the internet great?

Increases in sales, web traffic, customers etc are all fairly easy to check and they should be things which you measure already. Conversation can be measured, however it can be a bit tricky to locate thanks to text language and leek speak.

If promoting a certain event or a new product, you will probably have a dedicated landing page set up on your website. The success of your SM promotion can then be measured with analytics., or by number of people at the event, buying the product.

One thing which does irk me is when people try to measure and compare the engagement levels of Social Media to those of TVC’s and print. To me, that is like comparing having sex to watching Sex In The City. Watching ≠ engaging.

Engagement is the social part of Social Media and any campaign should elicit that as a matter of course. However, engagement is NOT measured in the number of friends/fans/followers that you have. It is how many people are talking with you and passing on what you say.

Trust me, it takes more than one half of a relationship to be engaged.

There are many different things you can look to achieve through the use of Social Media, and any desired outcome should be measured to ensure that it is successful. But if your only desired outcome is to have 100,000 followers, you probably won’t effect much change to your business.

The thing with having followers is that you need somewhere to lead them. And you need to be able to see when they get there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What is Social Media?

What the hell is Social Media anyway?

There is a lot of buzz around Social Media at present. It is a space which every company feels they should be in. But what is Social Media?

Social Media is a term which has come to represent the ways in which the internet is being used to connect people in a two way, conversational style. It allows any individual to generate content and share it with the rest of the community. This content can be text, such as comments, questions or opinions, or it can be photos, videos, audio files…anything which someone can create on their computer - or cell phone for that matter.

Think of a traditional website as an online brochure. It is a one-to-many form of communication in which one person talks, and everyone else listens. “Come and read what we want you to read. Now give us a call or go away.”

Telecom’s website is a classic example of an online brochure. Visitors can read what Telecom has to say about itself, but to interact with the company, they then need to leave their computer and pick up a telephone, or send an email and wait up to 24 hours for a reply. Telecommunication companies should be doing better. I am already at your website, I want to engage with you now! Help!

This kind of website is like a deaf and blind person yelling from a soapbox and handing out business cards. Social Media is a barbecue where you can invite your friends and customers to talk with you, while other people eavesdrop. And it is the eavesdropping which is the difference.

Social media is a many-to-many broadcast style. This is most usually thought of as the big networks, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn and YouTube. Services like this are indeed the most social of Social Media networks. They are entirely composed of user generated content and, depending on your privacy settings, this information can be instantly viewed and shared all around the world.

However the term Social Media should not be limited to just these services. It should also be used to describe any website where people can post their thoughts and have them read by anyone else. Forums and (most) blogs invite visitors to comment, question or debate. Some corporate websites do this very well too.

By publishing content generated by visitors to your website, you can turn your online brochure into a social media portal. You are allowing social interaction through the media you have provided. This can be done by building the functionality into your site, or by embedding it from existing sources.

The point is Social Media is not just Facebook and Twitter. Any website can be a Social Media portal. You just need to be lucky enough to have people who care enough about what it is you are doing to want to interact, and you have to be brave enough to publish what they want to say about you.

That is not to say that you should be publishing anything anyone wants to say, but it is important to acknowledge people’s frustrations when they arise. You may be amazed to see your brand champions jumping to your defense, particularly on fan pages on Facebook, or through twitter. These kind of set ups can be very self-moderating towards negativity, but you do need to consider a system to control offensive and incorrect comments. More on that later…

So, if I had to define Social Media in 3 words? "Eavesdropping with consent."

That is how I define it anyway. Maybe you disagree? If so, send me an email. I aim to reply to all emails in 24 hours. Just kidding. Abuse me in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter, or Facebook.

Footnote: I don’t know if Social Media is still the correct term, but it is a hell of a lot better than the extremely esoteric and self-empowering “Web 2.0”.