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StrategyNov 17, 2010

The Ocean of Social Media: Are You Ready to Take the Plunge?

Emily Schulhoff

Before diving into the world of social media, it’s important to know the currents and how to swim in them. Social media usage continues to grow at a swift pace, demographics continue to expand, and over 50% of Fortune 100 companies are using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The number of social media users is equally staggering; according to the May 2010 Pew Internet and American Life Project, 86% of 18-29 year olds, 60% of 30-49 year olds and 47% of 50-64 year old internet users are active in this space. What does that mean for popular social networking sites? Traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. Facebook currently has more than 500 million active users who spend an average of 45 minutes a DAY on the site. Twitter has over 105 million users who generate 55 million tweets daily, and the site adds 300,000 accounts each day (Danny Brown). Realizing that target audiences are spending ample time on social networking sites, companies need to understand the value of these channels and how to properly use them to reach and expand their target audience. Before launching a social media campaign, three components must first be established: overall strategy, channel selection and setting goals, which are used for measuring.

Overall Strategy

Social Media Today provides great recommendations for creating a compelling social media strategy, including determining resources, the target audience and messaging types. Consistent messaging and daily posts, tweets, or updates are key. Decide if you will have a resource dedicated solely to social media, if it will be a shared responsibility or if it will be outsourced. Social media has three main elements: listening, connecting and publishing. When publishing messages, apply what has been learned through listening and keep the customer’s wants and needs in mind. End users most frequently use social media to learn about specials and sales, followed by those who want to learn about new products, features, and services. Establish an owner and then understand the ways in which you can leverage social media for your company, including lead generation, brand management and awareness, product feedback, news distribution and customer support.

Channel Selection

When selecting social media channels, consider your audience, your messaging and your goals and then decide which channel best suits your needs to produce the desired results. The five most popular channels are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogging. Each can provide unique advantages based upon your objectives; below are highlights from Danny Brown for each of the 5.

•    Facebook users have an average of 130 friends while being connected to 60 pages, groups and events; this channel is recommended when you want to leverage  your customer base to reach their sphere of influence

•    Twitter is heavily searched, with over 600 million queries per day; Twitter works very well when you want to disseminate quick snippets of information and creates an opportunity to become recognized as a thought leader

•    LinkedIn is used by over 80% of companies for recruiting, and executives from all Fortune 500 companies are on this site; this is an excellent channel when seeking out professionals, building your brand professionally, or increasing business presence internationally

•    Over ½ of YouTube’s users are under the age of 20, and it would take 1,000 years to watch all videos currently on YouTube; this is a recommended channel when engaging younger audiences and creating viral campaigns among teen demographics

•    77% of internet users read blogs, with corporate blogging accounts for 14% of all blogs; this channel is best suited for sharing larger streams of information while integrating the business and personal side of your organization

Setting Goals

You can measure social media success through a number of different metrics.  Selecting metrics will depend heavily on your goals, and they can include:

•    Web traffic

•    Business development leads

•    Creating positive brand association

•    Page views

•    Content consumption

•    Content distribution

•    Tags

•    Conversion into sales

Once you have your strategy, channels, and success metrics, you are ready to dive into the ocean of social media and launch your campaign!