Image Credit: Poster Web 2.0
Social Media has been defined thousands of different ways.
Wikipedia defines social media as,
“an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.”
They go on to say that…
“Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, message boards, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video.”
“a shift in how people discover, read, and share news and information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, tranforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many.)”
I’m going to give you my definition of what social media is and why it’s so important.
Quite simply, social media is using different types of media to engage and interact with others. Social media is a platform for communication. This includes blogs, wikis, forums, microblogs like Twitter and Ponce, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us and StumbleUpon, social news sites like Digg, photo sharing sites like Flickr, and video sharing sites like YouTube and Ustream.tv.
Social media is turning the casual web surfer into a content creator, a citizen journalist, and a buzz facilitator. Through the use of social media, it is now easier than ever to build traffic, attract links, and establish your brand using the buzz factor of your existing audience.
Here are just a few examples of how websites are using social media to establish their brand…
Salon.com reported over one million visitors when their story hit the front page of Yahoo Buzz and the Huffington Post received around 800,000 visitors from Yahoo Buzz.
2008 Presidential Candidates are using the power of social media to influence and engage voters.
Zappos, a popular shoe company, is using Twitter, blogs, and a ton of video blogging to give their customers a sneak peek into the personality of this booming shoe company. In fact, you can track over 400 Zappos employees right on Twitter.
Even the CEO of Zappos has a twitter profile where he covers the daily events at Zappos, asks for feedback, and even throws in a free shoe prize here and there.
Talk about engaging with your customers…
You see, people no longer buy brands. They buy hope, stories, and experiences.
And with social media you can tell your story, spread your message, and create exciting new experiences for your readers.
You can no longer seperate your business life from your personal life. It’s all connected. YOU are your brand – whether you’re quirky and crazy or a late night insomniac. You’re online identity is no longer anonymous. Be yourself and people will love you for it. People want to communicate with people, not an anonymous username.
The companies who acknowledge and ebrace social media’s ability to create rapid growth are the ones who are prepared to benefit from it.
It’s time to engage…
Here are some of the top social media tools you can use to engage with your community.
Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows you to share bite-sized messages (or “tweets”) of up to 140 characters long. These short snapshots give insight into people’s lives. People are given the ability to voice their opinions, ideas, thoughts, and more to an audience of thousands.
Twitter allows you to build your brand and establish a social personality. Twitter is also an excellent place to get feedback from your readers. Have a nasty case of writer’s block? Simply send out a tweet asking for ideas. You’ll be surprised at the amount of valuable feedback you receive.
You can learn about your customer simply by listening to the conversation. What are their problems? Their wants, needs, and desires? There is nothing more powerful than truly knowing your customer. Social media has created the most incredible market research environment ever known.
Social media platforms like Twitter allow you to engage in the conversations that are already taking place inside your customer’s head. Engage in that conversation.
If you’ve been online for any time at all now then you know that video is hot. But what about live video broadcasting? Imagine the benefits of being able to interact with your community through a live broadcast.
This is exactly what Ustream.tv allows you to do. Anyone with a camera and an Internet connection can have their own live TV show.
What’s really powerful about Ustream is that it’s interactive. Viewers are able to interact through chat. You could actually do an entire show simply answering people’s questions live. Talk about engaging your community and building rapport…
The biggest benefit of interactive video is that it creates a much deeper brand engagement. An engaged, interactive experience allows you to build a community of raving fans. Interactive video is also incredibly powerful for creating buzz and building up anticipation before an event..
To see an excellent example of video being used to connect with readers, check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s show, Wine Library TV.
Flickr is probably not a platform you’ve thought about for engaging with your customers, but it can be extremely powerful. Flickr allows you to upload and share photos with the world. For bloggers, it allows us to share snapshots of our lives with our community.
Share your flickr photos with your community. Let them know you’re human…that you have the same experiences they do. In today’s world of social media, you are no longer an anonymous avatar sitting behind your computer. Share your experiences and your life with an audience who’s hungry for personal interaction. Let them get to know the real you and watch your community grow.
Flickr also allows you interact directly with your community through the use of groups. You can actually join groups centered around golf, SEO, mountain biking, weight loss, and more. This is just one more place where you can join the conversation your community is already having.
The key to becoming a thought leader in your industry is to provide truly remarkable content, find the right distribution channels, and allow the readers to spread your message.
Each person in your community is a buzz facilitator… a content creator… a social bookmarker. Your blog readers are now becoming full-time word-of-mouth marketers that will spread your content further than you could ever dream of doing alone.
Create remarkable content and then allow your readers to market to each other.
By engaging your readers through social media, you will attract raving fans who spread your message for you. And with the viral nature of social media, you’re message can spread faster than ever.