Defining Social Media for Small Business

In order for a business, big OR small, to succeed with Social Media, you need to have a complete understanding of what social media actually encompasses. There are hundreds of various social media platforms out there, many that you’ve probably never even heard of. The majority of those platforms you will probably never use. But, understanding what is out there will help you choose wisely. You understand your organization, and you understand what you need to communicate to your customers/supporters/clients. Picking the right social media platforms will help you communicate those messages most efficiently.

Here are some categories and definitions that will help you navigate social media:

  • Social Networks
    • A social network is an online service that focuses its users on building relationships among people with shared interests or activities.  A social network service consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services.
    • Some examples are: Facebook, MySpace, Google+, and LinkedIn.
    • There are also social media sites that focus on a specific topic. For example: LibraryThing for booklovers, PatientsLikeMe for patients seeking community, and CafeMom for mothers.
  • Blogging (and Microblogging)
    • A blog is a journal-style website of frequently updated information (microblogging is publishing brief text messages. Think Twitter.). A blog is a website or part of a website that should be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.  Although not a must,  good quality blogs will allow visitors to leave comments and communicate with other blog readers. This often distinguishes a blog from other static websites.
  • Social Bookmarking
    • Social bookmarking allows users to save and share web pages. You can save and organize favorite web pages in a single online location for future use or for sharing with other Internet users. Sites such as Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit provide social bookmarking.
  • Media Sharing
    • Media sharing occurs through social networks and online communities and collect, upload, compress, host and distribute images, text, applications, videos, audio, games and new media. Viewer commentary usually accompanies shared media.
    • Some good examples: Flickr, YouTube
  • User Generated Content (UGC)
    • User generated content refers to information on websites, and other media sources that is produced by the website users themselves.  This is different than, for example, a website designed by a company which publishes information written by professionals. In user generated content, it is the amateur or fan (not employee), in most cases, who contributes the content.
    • Examples: Wikipedia, World66, and Youtube.
  • Social Reviews
    • Review sites  are web-based services that help people find reviews and recommendations about local businesses. They’re places where people post their opinions and come to discover or research a product or service. So it’s important to have a listing on these sites! There are sites that focus on just one industry, like Chowhound and Urban Spoon are for food and Shelfari and GoodReads are for books. You will know a company that is confident in it’s customer service when they advertise their links to social review sites on their website or at the entrance to their shop!
  • Location Based Social Media
    • Location-based services allow users to connect with others based on their current locations. In most cases, people use their smartphones  to “check in” to businesses. These locations can be broadcasted to the user’s friends online. Checking-In on a phone can unlock the tips left by your friends and others for that particular business or area as well as discounts, promotions and/or freebies.
    • Some examples are: Facebook Locations, Loopt, Foursquare, Whrrl, and Gowalla.
  • Presentation Sharing
    • Presentation sharing sites allow you to make your presentations public. Upload a presentation and then share it via social media, or your website or send directly to clients that need the information in your presentations. While it might take a few extra minutes to set up, it is worth the effort to make your knowledge and expertise known.
    • Slideshare
    • Scribd
  • Traditional Communications
    • Don’t forget the traditional methods of communication:
    • Web Content (yes, I classify this as traditional!)
    • Brochures
    • Newsletters
    • Email
    • TV/Radio
    • Billboards
    • Print Ads

    Unlike what some may say, traditional communication is not dead, just different. You need to integrate all of your social media tools with your traditional communications to make your organization’s promotion a complete circle. Include your social media links in your email newsletters. Insert a flier into your product packaging to encourage customers to follow you on Twitter or like your Facebook business page. And we’ve all seen and heard business adding their social media links to radio and TV ads.

    Pull it all together and get it connected. Don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed with the number of options. Choose a few that will work best for your industry/business. For example, since Santa Clara Design does not see clients in our office, a location based check-in service would not serve us well. However, for our clients who have local business, location based services should be a key element of their social media campaign.  Choose a few outlets that work for you, and get rolling. Then, you can allow your customers to choose THEIR favorite method of keeping in touch with you and your services, and they won’t be disappointed!