Key to effective engagement with social media is understanding the rules

Will you Join the Social Media party?

Social Media is changing the way that businesses, communities and individuals are communicating. Thinking Achievers can help you meet the challenge. On this page you will find what we hope is useful information about Social Media.

Social Media services from Thinking Achievers

Thinking Achievers can support your Social Media objectives in the following ways;
  • Consultancy
  • Media Management

We tailor our Social Media services meet our client requirements. If you would like to explore ways in which we can help you join the digital party please use this contact form to let us know.

A brief guide to Social Media

Social Media honeycombeAsk twenty people how they would define social media and they will probably give you twenty different definitions. Take a look at the Social Media icon banner above and you can see twenty unique social media icons. A little research will reveal some 200 social media platforms.Clearly, social media comes in a number of flavours. When it comes to managing our approach to social media, it is important to understand what we are talking about.

Geocities is generally regarded as the first social platform. Launched in 1994, Geocities enabled users to set up web pages/sites connected by common subjects. This enabled the creation of virtual communities grouped by relevance. Over time the popularity of social media has led to the creation of numerous opportunities to connect on-line - so that many different types of user requirements are catered for.

The Social Media Honeycomb1 illustrated right, can help us begin to understand why users might gravitate towards one site or another. Each of the functional building blocks represent a perceived benefit that is sought by a social media user. Generally, users are seeking a blend of benefits that meet their needs for example, a LinkedIn user might prioritise Identity, Reputation & Relationships whereas a YouTube user might look for Sharing, Conversations, Groups, Reputation.

It is the mix of these building blocks that explains why and how user profile & activity varies from site to site. From a commercial perspective, understanding this concept is essential since it informs our social media strategy enabling us to identify how each platform is being used and asking questions such as; Where are the conversations taking place? How are these conversations being enabled? Who are the thought leaders5 in this space? Are competitors already active? What will our response level(s) be?

Social Media - the numbers

Alternatively, Social Media, why should I bother?

Why? is an important question to ask and answer. Remember, the phrase is Social Media not; I'm in business, what can I get out of it? Businesses that engage with social media without understanding the requirement to give before they take will at best be ignored, at worst, be pilloried by the community.

Evidence indicates that Social Media users will engage positively with commercial interests - providing they play by the rules. The number of active Social Media users illustrates why business is taking an interest;

The total number of active2 U.K. users on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn is shown by the graph. Facebook are clear leaders followed closely by YouTube.

Amongst the four platforms displayed, there a total of 92.9M users. Of course, many users operate accounts with several providers. This survey covers all ages and found that more than half of all U.K. pensioners have a Facebook account.

Facebook has experienced remarkable growth since its launch in February 2004. By the end of 2004, 1M users had registered. By September 2012, Facebook announced 1.01BN users.

So the answer to the question why should I bother? is another question; can I afford not to?

Below we outline an approach to developing your Social Media presence;

Stephen Covey's first habit3 should be regarded as the starting point for social media engagement and if you are not already asking existing clients about their social media involvement - now would be a good time to start. In particular, look to identify centres of influence - clients who are prominent members of local life and therefore likely to be well connected. In terms of understanding the wider conversation, there are a number of tools available that enable a business to 'listen' for specific phrases such as the business name or perhaps industry orientated conversations.

Social Media honeycombUnderstanding how Facebook and LinkedIn usage differs will help a business to work out if, how, where & when to engage. The social media honeycomb will assist with understanding media platform preferences. Note that individuals may use these platforms differently. For example, LinkedIn for professionaly orientated conversation and connection whilst Facebook is generally utilised for social and cultural exchanges.

In order to understand we need to listen. Are we hearing an isolated voice or trends? Are the conversations specifically directed or are they part of a conversation? Understanding the context and analysing the content is key to identifying if and how to engage.

Engage with Social Media

Ideally, our initial engagement will be perhaps to contribute to a conversation - perhaps by sharing relevant thoughts and/or third party collateral or perhaps we have asked a question. If this is the case, then we are off to a good start. At this point however, we are confronted by a potential challenge. How quickly am I able to reply to the next stage of the conversation? If for instance we have asked a question and a number of replies have been posted, how quickly is my reply expected and what is driving the customers anticipation? What are the consequences of not replying within an appropriate time?

These questions and the potential consequences of miscalculation illustrate the importance of listening and understanding before engaging. Some choose to limit their engagement purely to listening and monitoring.

Some businesses however, choose to engage when they really should have listened or they forget that all activity can be commented upon. If you are perceived to behave in an inconsistent or incongruent manner you can rely on the community to point this out. A perfect example is described in this Washington Post article (opens in a new window). Note that once you are visible to on-line communities you will be subject to comment regarding online and offline activity. Of course, if you are not on-line you may already be the subject of comment of which you are unaware.

Further examples of social media faux pas can be found in this entertaining podcast from social media
guru and MDRT speaker Scott Stratten4. 'Why you shouldn't leverage disasters on Social Media'
will provide plenty of food for thought. Bon appetit!

Engagement can be limited to listening and monitoring. However, this approach clearly reduces the opportunity to engage which after all, is the purpose of social media. Perceived wisdom suggests that social media is about customer engagement and demonstrating that you can be trusted without invading privacy.

Monitoring Social Media

Often referred to as Social Media Analytics (SMA), this is about collating, measuring and analysing the results of Social Media activities across various platforms. This differs from the wider 'understanding' item above where the remit has a breadth designed to pick up on trends along with general industry or business references. SMA is focussed on the impact of engagement activities when compared with the objectives that were agreed at outset. I.e. what is working, what needs tweaking etc.

Some SMA programs are able to monitor at geo-location levels which makes them very useful for 'local' as well as large and global businesses and monitoring sentiment is currently occupying social media thought leaders5. More on this to come.

We have positioned monitoring between engagement and response. This approach is designed to illustrate the importance of measuring the impact of engagement. Thinking Achievers can listen and monitor on behalf of our clients.

Monitoring Social Media

In the context of this article, response is the stage in the process that is distinct from the engagement process. Response is about how a business contributes to conversations that they have engaged in. It is about ensuring that contributions are consistent with the social media strategy. For example, you have listened and subsequently engaged in a conversation about the pro's & con's of obtaining financial advice - perhaps triggered by media activity in this area. As a result of the conversation, various 'likes', 'tweets' & 're-tweets' etc have resulted in the conversation expanding to include many more people than were originally involved. You are aware of this because you are monitoring activity. As the conversation has expanded, additional comments/challenges have appeared. Now is the time to respond, now is the time to demonstrate that you were listening, not invading privacy and can be trusted.

Alternatively, perhaps you have started a conversation that is developing. Beyond engagement, how long should you monitor - allowing the group to (possibly) self moderate before you respond?

Intentionally starting a conversation should be a tactical part of a social media strategy. Some businesses know that they are going to be 'discussed'. British Gas witnessed the power of Social Media to pass judgement on their decision to raise their tariffs. Seek out #askBG to see the full story or click here for the www.londonlovesbusiness.com report.

Along with active engagement, response is an area that many large organisations struggle with. There are various reasons for this and amongst them is the suggestion that for a response to have true value in the eyes of your customers it should be timely (along with relevant and genuine). This means that subjecting responses to a prolonged approval or sign-off process will result in a break in continuity and the participants who are possibly anticipating the response will quickly verbalise their views regarding the delay. A lack of agility in any aspect of marketing would create a potential issue for most businesses, when it come to social medai 'Response' a lack of agility should trigger fundamental questions around the importance a business places on social media engagement.


Why businesses use Social Media

how businesses are using social mediaIn the previous section we explored some key considerations in developing a social media strategy. In particular, we looked art how different platforms address different consumer needs and wants. If it is right for a business to engage with social - and it is not a given - then the following might be of interest.

Over time, and reflecting the way user activity evolves, we are starting to see clear patterns of business usage emerge. Understanding these patterns can add to our social media development strategy - although I would not advocate blindly following the herd. It's more a case of learning from others and using the knowledge to inform your approach.
Businesses are increasingly using Social Media to achieve in five areas;

The key platforms are; These items are not listed in any priority order and we will reference YouTube shortly. Eagle eyed readers will have noted that we have not included recruitment in the big five listed above. We will be covering recruitment later in this article.

Lets take a quick look at the range of activities that the five areas cover. It's worth stressing that subject to the nature of the business, the weighting for each area will vary;

     
Reputation Building; Activities designed to influence the way you are perceived - your desired reputation.
Showcase your skills by leaning-in to conversations at the right time and place NB. Participate then contribute.
Contribute to thought development/trajectory using video blogs / papers and other collatoral.
 
     
Prospecting; Identifying & connecting with potential clients.
Pro-active & reactive, make use of reputation building collatoral to enhance prospecting credibility and your authenticity.
Enhance your networking effectiveness through the addition of digital networking channels and platforms.
Do not miss opprtunities to generate interest by contributing to selected conversations.
     
Customer Service; Define your customer service channels, your SLA's and ensure you deliver.
Can provide exceptionally cost effective solutions throughout the customer engagement chain.
Tailor the service / contact elements of your proposition to accomodate generational preferences.
 
     
Getting found; Activities designed to attract relevant attention to what you have to offer - before your competitors.
Ensuring that your activity is in the right format, timely, relevant and visible on the most appropriate platforms.
Connecting through links to maximise SEO.
Maintain your collatoral, if it's out of date it is unlikely to be relevant, if it's archive content ensure it is marked up as such.
     
Research; Listen, meaning listen and learn. Where are your clients? What are they saying? What are they saying about you?
What needs are your prospects & customers discussing? What trends are developing? How can you help?
How is the competition engaging with social media?
Utilise tools such as Hootsuite, Tweet Deck et al.

Next Steps

We hope that you have found our brief guide to Social Media to be of interest. Next steps will vary according to your requirements and you may want to 'test the water' for yourself which is a great way of getting to know what is happening. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss your Social Media strategy with Thinking Achievers please contact us. Our 'Soup-to-nuts' Social Media proposition includes photography for your bio's, video production for your proposition and a complete strategic map designed exclusively for your business.

Please either email Jan Willmott or click here for our contact form (opens in a new window) and we will get your Social Media activity moving - beginning with our 18 LinkedIn essentials.

After all, you don't want to be left in the kitchen at this party, do you?

1Social Media Honeycomb. Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P., Silvestre, B.S., 2011. Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons 54, 241-251. 2Research source: umpf.co.uk. Numbers in Millions. 3Steven Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 4www.unmarketing.com 5I apologise for using this awful phrase!

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Jan willmott
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