Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Media Savvy

In asking both marketing and non-marketing business professionals about their thoughts on using social media tools for business development and branding, I am faced with the reality that many people still don't have a grasp on what social media is and thus are not sure if and how they should be using it to promote themselves or their businesses. Social media is an integral part of a company's online brand and should be utilized wherever it makes sense strategically.

I thought it might be helpful to provide a brief article on what social media is, identify some of the categories and key category players in the social media space and provide an overview of the benefits and limitations of each media.

First, we'll start with a basic definition of social media. According to good old Wikipedia, social media are primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.

Now we'll briefly describe some of the most popular and emerging social media types and properties.
  • Blogs - blogs are an online based communication tool where a user can publish articles, links and media on a topic of interest to them. Blogs are widely used by celebrities, business professionals, sports teams and also many everyday people who simply like to write and want to have an online voice. This blog, which I recently created is a place where I can discuss my thoughts on branding and various marketing related topics. Key players in the blog creation world include Blogger, Typepad and Wordpress.
  • Microblogging - a form of multimedia blogging that allows a user to send brief text updates up to a certain number of characters to various media outlets like a blog, facebook page, etc. The most commonly used tool for microblogging is Twitter. Other key players include Plurk and Pownce.
  • Social Bookmarking/News - Users save links to articles or web pages that they want to remember or share. It's a simple way of aggregating and organizing information about topics that interest the user. For example, I use Google Reader to subscribe to and review dozens of blogs related to branding and marketing as well as running. Additional examples of social bookmarking sites include Delicious and Stumble Upon. Social News sites like Digg and Reddit are user-controlled news sites where articles can be submitted and commented on and voted up or down. Think of it as dynamic online news.
  • Social Networking Sites - online communities that allow people to connect with friends, family, coworkers, clients, etc to follow their thoughts, activities and more. There are a number of sites frequently used for various groups and reasons. Key players here include MySpace, Facebook, Linked in and a handful of others. MySpace is mostly targeted to the younger demographic. It is extremely popular with teens. They can create their own page and customize it with content they like, meet new people, connect to existing friends, listen to music, watch videos, share photos, etc. Facebook is similar in some ways as MySpace though it is more heavily used by the college population and educated young to middle-aged adults. Facebook allows users to connect to other people and share photos, information, links, notes, join groups, etc. Linked in is really purely an online networking tool used heavily for business people who want to stay connected to certain people and/or groups. It can be used for business development, professioanl development, etc.
  • Media & Information Sharing - there are a number of sites for sharing pictures, music and information. Some of the more popular ones include Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but rather an introduction to popular types of social networking tools and sites. The best way to understand this new media is to dabble with it yourself. As you use and interact with these media you will have a sense for what may or may not work for promoting your business or cause.

If you'd like to have further discussion on this topic please feel free to email me at pachladis@prodigalmedia.com.

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