Social media has been credited with igniting the recent protests in the Arab world, resulting in the successful ousting of the old regime in Tunisia and Egypt. Egypt is a nation of 80 million people with 5 million Facebook users. YouTube video posts on Facebook and Twitter delivered real time reporting enabling protesters to rally support.
A recent study by eMarketer indicates that Facebook will surpass Yahoo in display-ad revenue in 2011, and that more than one in five US display dollars will go to Facebook: $4 billion on Facebook worldwide, with $2.2 billion of that in the U. S.
As B2B companies compete for fewer customers overall and face longer, more complex sales cycles, the ability to impact positive word-of-mouth user endorsement in the social media channels is a critical differentiator.
Since social media strategy is still in its nascent stages, this article is written to provide fundamental, practical tips that one really needs to know to get started in this brave new world.Social Media Defined
Social media are primarily internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among people across the spectrum of human life, including personal and professional interests, news, research, politics, sports, shopping, socializing, and entertainment.
In business, social media enables customers to have power and control not previously available. Customers can easily share their product experiences in blogs and forums, thus influencing potential buyers who value peer reviews and product recommendations. To stay competitive and relevant, businesses need to develop a social media presence and actively engage with customers in a way that improves product development, enhances customer service, and increases revenue growth through earned customer advocacy.
A typical social media strategy is usually built on the "Big 4": blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. A good strategy uses a hub-and-spoke model that leverages blog content as a destination, with off-blog social media participation and other content syndication as the outposts. These outposts include LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as other platforms such as YouTube, Slideshare, and others which are used to amplify and extend conversations in the social web.
Blog - Hub of a social media strategy. It's the platform for establishing thought leadership and for customers and partners to exchange information and comments - comments that grow a strong and supportive user community.
LinkedIn - A must for all professionals, particularly for building your network and sharing your expertise. This is done best by participating in groups and contributing to questions and answers.
Facebook - Almost always a high priority for B2C. It's increasingly adopted by B2B business, because of its tremendous reach, over 500 million active users worldwide.
Twitter - A micro-blogging service that allows you to publish short news announcements and links to current articles and events of interest. Great for timely communication of promotions and events to a broad audience, including your customers and partners.How You Personally Can Get Started
As a business professional, start with the Big 4, particularly LinkedIn. Consider guest blogging until you're comfortable with creating your own personal or professional blog. Use Facebook to communicate with family and friends. Use Twitter to listen to what people are talking about. Then engage with people on topics and conversations that interest you and about which you feel passionate. Remember, social media allows you the freedom and ability to create and engage, on a massive scale not previously available, in dialogues that are meaningful to you and like-minded people.
Here are a few tips:
- For inspiration, research how your friends, colleagues, and/or competitors have set up their profiles. Remember, it's easier to use another profile as a template than to create one from scratch.
- Make use of search engines, because the Help Menu may not always be adequate. By Googling "How to set up a LinkedIn profile", you can access video and Slideshare tutorials, not simply LinkedIn's user Help Guide.
- To the extent possible, use the same name and descriptive information for all of your social media sites. This will help establish and maintain your personal brand.
- To avoid premature broadcasts as you create your site content, pay attention to your privacy settings, particularly on LinkedIn and Facebook.
About the author: Nancy Chou, former VP of Marketing, helps executives in both B2B and B2C enterprises across high tech, green tech, and biotech, to develop and execute effective marketing that generates revenue and corporate growth. She is a Certified Social Media Strategist, and an instructor at Stanford University's Continuing Studies Program. Contact Nancy at Nancy@NCMktg.com or her social media contacts, http://xeesm.com/nancychou/.