What is Social Media and How Can It Drive Business To Your Company?

People often think of Facebook whenever anyone says the words ‘social media’ but there is a great deal more to the field than that. What people don’t realize is that social media is a form of communication and when companies know how to use that communication, they can build their brand and their customer base.

Social media is similar to advertising in that it is a way to talk to your audience. Companies that use it are using a form of online reputation management that gives them access to what people are saying about them, and gives them the platform to answer. Facebook and Twitter certainly make up a part of this, but there is a lot more to it.

For one, there are also social bookmarking sites that allow people to learn new things that other people have bookmarked as interesting. A great example of this is Pinterest, which allows users to upload photos that they then share. If a brand is making use of this site, they are in essence sharing their offering with their customer base and beyond.

Social news sites allow people to read articles, vote on them and even leave their comments. Some of the South African sites that allow this include techcentral.co.za and 2oceansvibe. These sites give readers a chance to get up to date on what’s happening in general, or a particular field, and add their voices to the conversation.

Social networking is another field in social media and allows people to connect. Using Twitter, for example, allows people to share their thoughts and feelings and for brands and other people to respond to this. There are also wiki sites that allow people to add information and to read up on what they need to know, but the whole field of social media is growing on a daily basis. As this is the case, it is so important for brands to allow themselves to be a part of the online conversation. If they don’t know what people are saying about them, and they are not giving themselves away to respond, how can they hope to compete with others that do?

Understanding How Social Media Networking Works

Social media platforms are now being used by people of all ages from all over the world. While it was initially thought to be a passing fad, social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter now seem to be here to stay. Social media platforms allow users to scan through information as well as interact with the information presented. For example, being able to “Like” someone’s photo on Facebook or comment on a Tweet on Twitter is interactive.

A Few FAQs About Social Media

1. What’s the difference between social media and social news?
Social news websites are a type of social media. This does not mean that all social media refers to social news websites though. There are many different other types of websites that fall under the social media category.

2. What is a social media website?
A social media website is any website that presents information to a visitor and also allows that visitor to interact with the information. There are many different websites that can be considered examples of social media.

This is a list of a few particularly popular examples of social media websites:

Bookmarking: Social bookmarking websites allow users to bookmark certain websites and share these bookmark selections via the website. They can then also browse through other members’ bookmarked websites. Examples of social bookmarking websites include Del.icio.us and Simpy.
News: Social news websites allow visitors to read articles and comment on or vote for them as well. Examples of these social news websites include Reddit and Digg.
Networking: Social networking websites are probably the most popular form of social media websites. Users can invite friends, link to each other’s profiles and enjoy discussions via these social media networking sites. Examples include Facebook and Twitter.
Photo/Video sharing: This type of social media website allows users to share videos and pictures as well as comment on videos and pictures submitted by others.
Wikis: Wiki websites are social media websites that allow users to add to their existing database of informative articles.
Most websites these days are social media websites. Any website that allows users to interact with it is a social media website.

One of the most difficult things that young, up and coming digital marketers encounter is the absolute refusal by those who’ve been in the business longer to go with social media campaigns. It seems that the marketers who still subscribe to old school campaigns, those considered to be above the line, simply can’t see the value in putting an ad on Facebook. This may be because these businesses have found that their method of advertising, either on TV or in popular magazines has borne fruit, but guess what? It won’t for long.

Since Facebook, Twitter and even networks such as Pinterest and Instagram became popular, marketers have had to change their strategies quickly and drastically. In order to capture a new market, many businesses have even seen the benefit of employing a social media person, or in fact, a whole department, ensuring that they capture those who don’t care enough to buy magazines and who certainly don’t watch TV. It has been found in the fact that 94% of companies that have a marketing department in-house now include social media as a non-negotiable part of their strategy, and of these, over 50% have seen a sales increase in the last three years, despite the recession.

So what does all of this means for your business? Well, despite concerns about privacy on social media, or human error, there can be no doubt that using social media works well. The key here is hiring a person, or persons, who know the limits of social media and the know-how to create a social media campaign that will garner a positive spin for the business, rather than embarrass it. It was not that long ago that the South African social media controller for Durex made a joke about abuse against women on Twitter, causing the social media world to erupt in protest and shaming the famous prophylactics brand. That person is probably not working in social media anymore (or at least shouldn’t be) but the lesson has been learnt by big brands everywhere. Hire smarter, more social media savvy employees, and go through levels of approval before anything is posted.

So why run a social media campaign for your business? Because though it is a risk, it has been proven time and again, to be a brilliant way to get your company out there especially if you add a bit of personality!

Companies are often worried about social media and privacy and what employees will post on social media that could put the company in a negative light or attract bad publicity. The best thing to do is to set up a social media policy for your company so there are guidelines for everyone to stick to when it comes to social media.

If you are looking for a template or document you can use for your social media policy for your business, then take a look at this listing of social media policies, referenced by the world’s largest brands and agencies.