Social Media: Commonly Used & Frequently Misunderstood

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you should already know a little something about this thing  called “social media.” Social media is big. Just how big is it? If Facebook’s user population represented the population of a country, it would be the third largest nation in the world. Social media, which was once constricted to the Internet, is now so ubiquitous that it is nearly impossible to go a day without interacting or being exposed to it. Today, we see social integration in just about every communication channel – from TV to digital to print. Despite its rampant popularity, many businesses (and people) don’t seem to quite get social media or understand how to utilize it effectively.

#1. Know Your Audience

Worldwide, more people use social media online than any other type of website. While social users used to primarily be younger individuals living in more developed countries, the widespread adoption of the Internet amongst the demographic segments has changed that. My 70-year-old grandma uses Facebook more in a day than I do in a week.

Sorry Mema, I’m Proving a Point.

ImageThe PEW Research Center, which likes to track all the cool things things we do on the Internet, came up with this lovely infographic that shows the current demographic landscape of social media users.


As you can clearly see, considering the amount of people that are currently on social media sites, it is obvious why companies and brands have hopped on the social media bandwagon. The problem for many of these companies who decide to incorporate social as a part of their marketing strategy is that they often do not know why they should be on social, what they should be doing, how they will measure their results and who they are trying to target through these sites in the first place.

Many companies adopt the social strategy of setting up a brand or company profile on as many different sites as possible and directing their current customer-base to these sites. They fail to to assess their target demographic and see what social networks they are using and how they are using them. For example, in 2012 many companies incorporated Pinterest into their social strategy due to the site’s explosion of unique visitors and the large amount of time users were spending on Pinterest per visit. If you were a urban basketball shoe and apparel company looking to expand your social presence you might think, “Hey! We have some awesome looking stuff. Let’s get on Pinterest and start pinning like crazy.” What you’d fail to realize (like many other companies did) is that about 80 percent of Pinterest users are white females. Uh oh.

Not all is lost for male-branded companies on Pinterest. Check out some simple tips for easy ways to market to men on Pinterest, courtesy of ThumbPrint Marketing Group.

Just like in all other marketing efforts, a good social media strategy knows who the audience is and knows the best place to reach them.

#2. Want to Engage Customers? Be Engaging!

No company develops a social strategy with the objective of annoying their followers and providing boring, repetitive content that users will be dying to scroll past as quickly as possible in their newsfeed. With social media, the objective should be to engage your customer with compelling content that transcends mere promotional material and serves to build brand loyalty and awareness. This is true with all inbound marketing channels. (Check out my previous post on Inbound Marketing).

Sometimes, the best way to learn how to do something is to see how NOT to do it. Check out Applebee’s social marketing nightmare here as well as Kelly Clay’s “6 Things You Should Never Do On Social Media” courtesy of Forbes.

#3. Make the Customer Feel Special – Social Care

I think that social care, the ability for companies to monitor customer feedback through social media sites and respond directly to them, is the most unique and amazing aspect of social media. Companies who utilize social care are able to field and respond to customer complaints and comments in a way that no other medium allows. Twitter is an especially good resource for social care. Today, I can tweet at a company, brand or celebrity I like (or hate) and there is a chance that someone will actually respond to me or at least read what I have said. Companies who make an active effort to interact with their followers in this way are likely to do a better job at dealing with crisis, and maintaining and strengthening brand image and reputation than companies who have no system of social care in place.

Why does this work? For example, if I (@markmantweets) tweet at my university, Western Washington University (@WWU), and say “Hey @WWU, y’all should really pave the C-lot. It’s embarrassing that I pay $14k a year in tuition and still have to park in a pothole-ridden war-zone,” there is a chance that Western will respond with “Sorry @markmantweets! You are a valued student here at WWU and we will get on this right away. U R right, it is embarrassing.” If this were to happen, I’d feel pretty special and my issues with the unpaved parking lot might subside because an entity bigger than myself made a personal effort to alleviate my discrepancies and make me feel important.

Here is a great exchange over Twitter between an aggravated customer and Fred Meyers that shows the value of social care. (Picture courtesy of Conner Mullan. Check out his blog: Con_Iver)


#4. Be Consistent

Your social marketing strategy should not exist separately from your marketing strategy as a whole. Consistency is crucial, not just between the messages you send on different social media sites but also between the messages you send via social and the messages you send through other channels in your strategy. Develop a planned, consistent, engaging and caring social strategy and you can establish relationships with your customers that would not be otherwise possible. Blindly hop on to every social site you can in hopes of getting the world to follow you and you will not only be wasting time, but you will look stupid in the process.



One thought on “Social Media: Commonly Used & Frequently Misunderstood

  1. Pingback: Winter Is Coming: The End of Digital Marketing…..class | DIGI MARK(man)ETING

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