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Social Media 101

You’ve probably heard about the advantages of social media in terms of marketing your products or services, but perhaps you’re not sure where to begin. Social media doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. With just a few basic lessons under your belt, you’ll be ready to go.

Lesson #1:  What IS social media?

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Digg, StumbleUpon … the list of social media applications goes on and on. While there are many different social media outlets, the concept is the same. “Social media” is a blanket term referring to conversations happening all over the Internet. These conversations happen in real-time, all the time, all over the globe, between people who don’t even know one another. Social media is different from a basic, static website because it is fresh, live, and changes constantly.

Lesson #2: Social media is exploding.

Use of social media is growing by the second. It’s almost impossible to track stats because it is growing and changing so rapidly. But here are some numbers that will astound you:

  • Six out of ten websites are now social in nature—meaning they’re either blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and so on.
  • Google, once the “king of the Internet,” has now fallen to second place compared to Facebook; each week, Facebook pages log more weekly traffic than Google.
  • Conservative 2011 estimates put Facebook at 500 million users alone. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world!
  • YouTube videos get approximately one billion hits per day. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • There are over 200 million blogs online. 77% of Internet users read blogs.

Can you see why everyone is talking about social media?

Lesson #3: Social Media is a cheap resource for savvy marketers.

Smartphones have revolutionized the use of social media, and have played a huge part in the rapid expansion of social media networks. With a smartphone in your pocket, you have access to the Internet and social media tools at all times.

Social media has been credited as one of the biggest factors in helping inform the world about the Egyptian uprising in early 2011. One (anonymous) Cairo protestor was quoted as saying: “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” Because of free and easy accessibility to social media, the entire world witnessed as this major event unfolded.

Lesson #4:  Social Media is easy to use.

Most people who are reluctant to use social media think it’s either too time consuming or too hard to use. The truth is, once you get over the initial learning curve, social media becomes a fun and easy way to build relationships with others. When you accomplish the basics, social media can provide an outlet where you can talk to your customer base and get new ideas.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are three of the most popular social media platforms.  All three are also completely free to use. If you don’t have an account with each of these three outlets, go ahead and sign up for one now. It takes just a few minutes, and signing up is an easy process. You’ll be guided step-by-step. Once you get those initial accounts created, play around with it. Dabble a bit, and don’t expect to conquer social media in a day. Odds are, though, that you’ll be surprised at how quickly you learn and how much fun you’ll have doing it. If you’re too intimidated to even think about signing up for these services, ask a teenager to help you.

Lesson #5:  It’s all about the content.

It’s been said that with today’s face of marketing, content is king. Nothing exemplifies that more than the new face of social media. Why? Social media content, by its very nature, is always fresh and continually changing. Regularly updated content drives the social media landscape, whether it is through frequent blogging, updated Facebook statuses, or new tweets on Twitter.

Unfortunately, this rapidly changing content is what scares some marketers off. Many small business owners are afraid they won’t be able to dedicate the time to update their content regularly, so they throw out all social media. This is a mistake. If you approach social media as just another piece in the puzzle of your marketing mix, you’ll make it a priority and find the time.

Still not sure social media is for you? We’ll be talking more about social media in the weeks to come.

Next week: Social media etiquette, and why the hard sell is a no-no.

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