“Is it just buzz? Some still feel this trend won’t last, and as technology advances and changes today’s social media tools will be yesterday’s news. Do I feel this way? Absolutely not.”
Guest Post by Shane Haggerty
I read some of Shane’s work over on his site, and he knows his social media. The last guest post went so well that I couldn’t help but ask him to write one as well. There are a few sites he mentions that I have not visited before reading this, which I am thankful for finding. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Web 2.0/Social Media are the buzzwords of the day, especially in the industries of marketing and communication, as well as information technology. Talking Twitter and forcing Facebook down people’s throats is easy to do when there is so much word-of-mouth out there about the shift in communications to web-based tools. So is it just buzz? Some still feel this trend won’t last, and as technology advances and changes today’s social media tools will be yesterday’s news.
Do I feel this way? Absolutely not. I am convinced that web 2.0 is just now positioning itself as mainstream, and while most utilize these tools for personal reasons, it gives those of us in marketing, communications, and honestly any profession the opportunity to engage massive and targeted audiences in an authentic, transparent, and simple way.
So what are the practical uses of social media and how can we engage consumers and communicate with our audiences with these tools? Here is a look at the ways you can use some of the tools and also how some companies and other professionals are currently use it:
- Facebook: This social utility is now the largest social community and one that businesses and individuals have taken to in order to engage and do outreach. I work in educational public relations and have seen a major move by universities and colleges to use Facebook to connect current students and alumni. In the October issue of the Public Relations Society of America’s Tactics magazine, TheAmerican Cancer Society and General Motors are both featured and showcased for how they utilize Facebook. For the American Cancer Society, their director of web, film and interactive strategy David Neff communicates that Facebook is a place where they find current and on-going conversations already taking place and join them in-progress, as well as beginning new conversations. They have also developed their own Facebook application that people can add to their blog or website. This app allows people to share tips on cancer prevention and also give out cancer ribbons. They are also using Facebook to raise money, something that has become big with other non-profits through Facebook’s Causes program. For General Motors, they use Facebook for conversational purposes, according to the article in Tactics. Their coordinator of social media communications, Adam Denison, will join different groups and engage in one-on-one conversations with members of the groups, as well using discussion groups to create conversation and get feedback
- Twitter: This microblogging phenom has truly proven as useful of a tool as anything else I’ve used. I am using it not for two-way conversation at this point, but rather for a tool that allows me to keep our audiences and stakeholders updated through my tweets. This offers me the opportunity to also drive more traffic to our website as my organization’s strategy is to allow our website to become the central zone of all our communications and information, thus saving us dollars on print materials and direct mail, which also ties into our school initiative to “go green.” Beyond the strategy I use Twitter for, it has also become a bastion of pitching stories to media types: reporters, assignment editors, producers, and bloggers. Other ways it is being used? Southwest Airlines, an innovator in social media tactics, uses it to update customers of flight statuses (same goes for JetBlue). For CNN’s Rick Sanchez, the anchor of the weekend primetime edition, recently used Twitter to update people on Hurricane Gustav and this year’s political conventions. It can be used to simply create and build awareness, to post job opportunities, create a live event experience by tweeting frequent updates, and for reputation management and crisis communication
- YouTube: The last time I checked, YouTube garners 10% of all online traffic with over 100 million views per day. That’s quite the audience so it would be ridiculous for any online social strategy to not include this tool in the discussion. Many universities and colleges, once again, build their own unique and branded channels to host video. Many companies throw videos on in the hopes of creating a viral sensation. Have you seen the “Will it Blend” YouTube commercials? This is one of my favorite practical examples of using YouTube to build awareness and increase sales. It is quite the success story, how this company, Blendtec, created a YouTube campaign with their CEO showing the true power of their industrial-strength blenders by blending just about anything, including an iPod, a barbie doll, a rake. And they were produced with little or no budget in a “cheesy,” and “campy” way. They became a viral sensation! A huge amount of visitors increased sales of their blenders for this small company and generated brand awareness. It also generated national media attention and the product was featured on Good Morning America and CNBC, for instance. Certainly not everyone has the success of Blendtec and there is truly no magic formula to create a viral video. It just happens with little rhyme or reason. But YouTube can also be used to respond in crisis situations and to allow customers to create their own commercials, for example
- Issuu: This little know web 2.0 tool allows anyone to upload PDF files and create digital flipbooks. Now, instead of linking PDF files to your website, link digital flipbooks that people can read online in the same fashion they would read a book or magazine. We are planning to use this tool to replace direct mail. Instead of mailing out to everyone, we will utilize an email database to mail-out the link to our digital course catalogs. PDF’s are nice, but are an outdated way to share information on a website or blog, in my opinion. Issuu allows the publication to truly look like a book or magazine and allows the reader to read the document in the way it was meant to be read
- Finally, I would encourage people to explore and adopt social media tools for their individual uses and create new practical ways to make the most out of this amazing shift in the communications model. Some other tools to explore for practical use include:
- Flickr, Friendfeed, Plaxo, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg,
- PitchEngine, Ning, Plurk, Lulu, SocialVibe, WetPaint