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These 5 questions will help you to think differently about Social Media

Social media was an inevitability, our use of machines to communicate needed a tool with with our ideas could become public. I have always had an uncomfortable exchange with using social sites for the day job, yet not being a fan of self broadcasting. With some companies using social as the tool it was intended to be and others not even understanding it, I hope these questions will shed some light, where there are murky and dark tendencies.

1. What does social mean to me?

When I was a kid to be social meant going to the park and talking to my friends. I already knew them from school, from a playgroup or my brothers introduced me. As I got older, being social meant going for a drink, playing a sport, or going out for dinner, going to a party i.e Doing Things! I don’t like the tacit implication that participation in modernity means to self-broadcast. In the day job, I have to use it, I can’t deny it’s existence and the best people at what they do will use social media brilliantly.  I don’t like the idea that being social might mean I should go to my machine/device and tell everyone I once knew what I look like now or what I am doing now. If I was at the park, and said, ‘Hey guys, look at my face, its smiling, now I am eating some crisps! Do you like that? Tell me then…’ Yes, a crazy person, yes. To that end as a marketer you could apply this and all questions below to make social media personal to your business. What does social mean to my business? How do I want to connect with my customer base? If you ask yourself these questions before you rail against the 15th customer complaint in a week, stop and ask the above and following questions.

2. What is social media then?

Social media, since the advent of the printing press, has existed in some form or another. From chat rooms, private networks, email chains, private magazines, company newsletters, way back to private pamphlet distribution in 1446 was a form of social media. All these forms of publishing and media inclusive of the the paper and/or press to create them was not railed against. It was not admonished for its parchment density or privacy settings, it was a tool for users to exchange ideas. Same with emails, networks and chat rooms. Social media websites go beyond Facebook and Twitter, whilst they are the most popular and its easy to reference societal ills with their inclusion, there are so many other sites that make up the notion of what social media is. The desire to be social, to have a dialogue with another person, will never go away. We want to be participatory in conversations. To that end would a news site not be a social media site? How is http://www.nytimes.com/ different from a Facebook post? I have an item of information or entertainment that I have shared with a select group of people and they come back to me to validate or converse on that subject.  How is a standard post like: ‘Light or Dark meat people? You decide…” getting 84 comments and 340 likes, different from a New Scientist article about chicken. Both will have useful information, both will have a social element, so why is the New Scientist article deemed more legitimate than my post? For a business and marketeer they need to ask what social media is for them. As it can take the guise of a Facebook post or an in depth article it comes back to the answer to the question, what is means for your business. If you follow the golden rules, set out below more often than not you sleep well at night. [feature_headline type=”leftt” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ icon=”lightbulb-o”]Golden rules[/feature_headline] [icon_list] [icon_list_item type=”edit”] 1. Update often, but maintain quality: If you think as your feed as a broadcast tool, where viewers will switch on or off depending on the media’s content, think of its relevancy to your audience before you post. The right link, can gain you key followers and get traffic to your site. [/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”bullhorn”] 2. Be an authority: SEO relies on authoritative stances on your website. Aim to make the best content on the internet on your chosen field and you will be rewarded. If you are a carpenter you could look to provide instructional videos on YouTube, write about industry news on your site and create polls on Facebook. [/icon_list_item] [icon_list_item type=”hand-o-left”] 3. Be socially active: This last one sounds obvious, but if you use Facebook or twitter to reach out to customers, for customer service or to further the conversation, you will quickly find out more about your customers and service them in the best way possible.[/icon_list_item] [/icon_list]

3. Is social media wrong?

The short answer is No. But how you use sites with social elements is not helping the cause to keep them installed as part of the growing culture. They are there to provide businesses and blogs a good click rate, to give the voiceless a voice, to give anonymity to the masses, to create communities. However this quote always springs to mind when I hear that yet again trolls have made headlines for the same thing.
‘Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face’.
The loud minority love the advent of a public broadcast system. Once silenced by a witty reply or better yet the police, that loud voice becomes quiet. In that sense as a business you should always treat social sites as you would a wild animal. With respect. Understand that at any time the ‘social animal’ might turn their head to bite. Be prepared for backlashes even if your content is as straight forward as DIY carpentry videos.

4. What can I use it for?

Everything. Its always going to be a personal choice whether to use social sites and tools or not. For some businesses it simply won’t be relevant for their customer base. The best examples, for example Royal Mail opening a specific Twitter account for FAQs and complaints was not only a great idea but brilliantly executed.

5. Is social media making me a better person?

If you have uploaded a cat playing the piano video to YouTube, then no. You are not better by sharing what your cat is up to. Cats are not cool or funny the only thing that is funny or interesting is people. That’s why ‘ninja cat‘ is one of the most viewed and copied videos on the site. It is how the subject is viewed or changed by looking at it differently will make us better as social animals and people. And as marketers you should be asking if social sites are helping the business and adding value. Your business on its own is not interesting, entertaining or compelling. Just by having a product or service does not make you profit. It is how it’s viewed that will determine it’s properties or attributes and eventually be a causal affect of traffic to your site. However you use social media bear in mind that its a tool, just as your accounting software or your computer. You use them with discretion and rules to try your best to do the same when you are posting or commenting. Good luck people. @AndrewBalerdi

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