Everything You Need to Know About Social Media

Originally Published July 11th, 2016

Oxford dictionary defines social media as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” That’s a little formal for something so casual. Social media covers all platforms that enable digital networking and sharing. Social media is ever changing, but it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Once thought of as just a fad, social media is now one of the largest marketing channels for business and is used widely by all types of organizations.

History

SixDegrees.com was the first social media network, originally launched in 1997 by Andrew Weinreich. This network focused on connections of connections and reached 3.5 million users. Its growth was restricted due to the limited number of people with access to the Internet at the time.

Friendster was started in 2000 as another friends-of-friends network for dating or simply meeting new people. Considered by Silicon Valley as one of the largest blunders, Friendster turned down an offer by Google to purchase the company for $30 million in 2003. Six years later, Friendster had reached 115 million users and was sold for just $26.4 million. In 2011 they moved away from networking nearly entirely to become a gaming site.

MySpace started in 2003 and had many new features- such as blogs- and focused on connections between people who started as strangers. It was purchased in 2005 for $580 million (the largest sum a social network had been sold for at that point) and was the most popular social network from that time to 2008. MySpace was the first network to have a significant influence on pop culture and music.

All three of these wound up fading out not long after they became “in”. This is because these networks were formed on looser connections. Not all your best friends were on that network- just someone you vaguely knew through a friend of a friend. This made leaving the networks easy as no one was overly invested in receiving updates from people they don’t actually know.

As they grew and evolved, newer networks were able to capitalize on the idea of more intertwined connections, where people knew each other well and had overlapping friend groups. This aided the longevity of the networks and increased engagement.

Facebook was founded in 2004 and was originally only available on specific college campuses. The idea was to give people the opportunity to connect with people they knew from college and high school, recognizing that people are more likely to remember someone’s face than their first and last name. After expanding to the general public, Facebook was able to grow very quickly and now controls most of the social media market. Facebook made it easy to connect with friends and family, giving people the ability to share brief life updates across the globe.

Twitter stepped into the game just two years after Facebook was founded. This platform was the first to have such strict character limits- 140 per update with pictures and links reducing this further. With Twitter, people can follow each other instead of friending- which allowed users to receive updates from celebrities or politicians without having to know them.

The stand-out feature of Twitter is how live it is, with quick updates being available within seconds. The live-ness of Twitter has become increasingly evident with the United States Presidential Election this term. No longer are the days of listening to the radio for updates from candidates themselves, they can share them out immediately, in 140 characters or less! Information spreads across the globe instantly with Twitter, depending on the accuracy of the information that can be great or absolutely terrible.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter are anything like what they were when they started. This lends to their longevity as keeping up with trends kept them relevant.

Right now, there are six main social networking sites. (This doesn’t include networks made specifically for messaging like Snapchat or Whatsapp.)

Starting with the smallest of the six, Pinterest has just under 200 million users and growth has essentially flattened out since its start in 2010. It is very DIY-oriented and gives users the ability to pin recipes, crafts, fashion ideas, and more. Pinterest is essentially an online bulletin board!

LBA tip: Use visually appealing vertical pictures!

Instagram has around 300 million users and is still growing steadily. This network is visually focused, as images are the main content. Instagram is more follow oriented than Pinterest with the ability to follow friends, celebrities, and businesses.

LBA tip: Use bright colors and high quality photos!

Google+ is often considered a social networking platform for Google employees. Although it piqued great interest initially, Google+ fell greatly. With about 300 million users, Google+ is mainly helpful for improving SEO ranking for businesses.

LBA tip: Most people will only ever see your profile- optimize it!

Twitter has about 310 million monthly active users sharing millions of updates every day. Twitter allows users to share brief updates with the ability to add photos, videos, gifs, and more.

LBA tip: Include a photo and/or two hashtags to hit an engagement sweet spot!

LinkedIn has over 400 million users and is a professional-oriented network. Mainly to connect with other professionals over work experiences.

LBA tip: Encourage employees and partners to follow your company!

Facebook is the largest network with 2.2 billion active users and over 1 billion users a day. It allows users to friend people and like pages.

LBA tip: Use videos to drive engagement!

Should you care about something that 15-year olds are concerned with?

The short answer: yes.

The long answer:

Getting on social media will allow you to attach your business to the latest trends- keeping you relevant. [Click to Tweet] This will provide a level of stickiness that just doesn’t exist with native print advertising.

Further, social media allows a great level of outreach. If you pay to be on a billboard, only a finite number of people see it, and even on the off chance they wanted to, they couldn’t share it with friends. Social media reduces that barrier. You could attempt to reach everyone in India, or you could make a few Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter posts and probably see more success.

Even more than just reach, social media provides the ability to listen. [Click to Tweet] For example, one of our customers isn’t active on social media and their customers were having tons of issues, prohibiting them from being able to make a purchase. Since we’d been tracking their mentions, we were able to identify the issue near immediately. We alerted them and they were able to make sure it was resolved for customers. Since they were not checking their mentions, they didn’t even know there was an issue and wouldn’t have for a while!

More and more people go to the internet for a first opinion on a business. If they come across tons of unanswered negative comments on this search, the business has a made a pretty terrible first impression. When companies respond to and resolve these, it looks far more reliable, responsive, and professional. Unless no one in your market has access to internet-and even then-it would be worthwhile to have a presence on social media. (Especially since it is relatively easy to find success in social media, no matter where you stand.)

The best part about this is social media marketing is inbound marketing. People decide they want to see your posts, unlike a billboard shoved in their face. As marketing moves more toward being a conversation instead of a single-touch interaction, this is increasingly important.

Big Improvements through Small Changes

For small and some mid-sized business, if nothing else, they should at least have their accounts set up. This greatly helps search engine optimization score (SEO). If the company has time, it would be great to dedicate some effort to managing social accounts as they are great for inbound marketing and do provide ROI if used and maintained. Otherwise, there is a cost to poorly maintained profiles. Customers may think an organization is out of business if their profile stops posting for months at a time. It is important for the company to work through content creation regardless. Creating content for a project ensures the company’s message is staying fresh and relevant. Further, it keeps everyone on the same page about what marketing message to share.

Larger businesses have the opportunity to invest in social media more so than smaller organizations. Larger organizations usually have an advertisement or brand focused budget for reinforcing the personality of the organization. Social media as a service (SMaaS) for larger organizations should be approached as a blended partnership, with several resources managing their accounts. There should be both staff in house to promote messaging as well as staff focused on responding to service focused responses. Outside of the team, partners should be utilized to study industry and audience analytics. It is important for a company to determine what the best engagement strategy is for creating meaningful content and schedules in cooperation with partners.

Like our customer success story above, there are many ways to utilize social media (a free technology tool) to create value in your business. You can call our team at LeewardBA (a free conversation) to learn of more ways to integrate your business online, and on social media.

Gen Z Marketer Passionate About Communities

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