Being Strategic About Social Media

In my discussions with people who are new to social media, I typically encounter one of two reactions: utter dismissal of the medium and its potential, or unrestrained and underinformed enthusiasm for social media.  The first group tends to include veteran communicators who appear unimpressed with social media’s results and are admittedly reluctant to learn about a new communications method.   The latter group embraces social media, and is enchanted with its low cost and few barriers to entry.  But these adherents don’t always seem to understand how social media can best be used for their clients, so they try everything — taking more of a shotgun approach.  Which isn’t really harmful, but it’s may not be the best use of their resources.

Taking a strategic approach to social media may be the prescription for both of these types of communicators.  The traditionalists may not realize that using social media is a lot easier than they might have imagined.  On the other hand, the early adopters need to understand that social media is not a magic wand, and it does require planning and resources to use it as a communications tool.

The strategy boils down to relevant content and targeted audiences.  Social media works to raise your online profile but it works best as a niche marketing tool.
Let’s take the example of podcasts — the audio or video equivalent of a blog.  Podcasts can be a wonderful way to communicate key messages, but they aren’t appropriate for every marketing campaign.  Podcasts require a great deal of planning and resources to execute well.  To be successful, podcasts have to deliver highly useful, educational, and relevant content.  Content that is still branded.  Anything overly promotional will not go over well with podcast audiences.  And podcasts, at best, have a limited, but targeted audience.  While the audience has increased by 12% over the past two years, you can’t invest in podcasting expecting to reach millions, or even thousands, of people.  Podcast are best to used to reach an audience of impassioned brand ambassadors, membership groups, and people are dedicated to a particular issue.  According to the Pew Internet and Amerian Life Project, researchers have found that while nearly 20% of Americans have downloaded a podcast, very few do it on a daily basis.  Podcast audiences are heavy online users, are highly educated, tend to affluent, and still skew slightly male.  The number of women who have downloaded podcasts has doubled in the past two years, however.

The podcast audience is predicted to grow by 250% over the next four years, and advertising spending on podcasts increases signficantly each year.  So podcasting looks like a great long-term communications strategy for organizations and companies that will benefit from it.

Social networking — creating an online prescence on Facebook, MySpace, and other social sites — is a popular marketing communications strategy for companies and nonprofit organizations.  But in the US, less than 24% of Americans use social networks frequently (every other day).  eMarketer predicts that this figure will increase to 44% by the end of this year, however.  Globally, social networking has varying levels of adaptation.  Social networking is even more popular in the Netherlands, the UK, and Taiwan than it is in America, but social networking is less prevalent in countries like Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, and the Phillipines.

As with podcasting, social networking for marketing purposes works particularly well for specific, defined membership groups and other well-defined groups of people who share a common interest, passion, or mission.  Creating and disseminating highly relevant, high quality, valuable content for these groups will increase the social network outreach strategy’s success rate.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on February 18, 2009, in Facebook Tips, Podcasting Tips, Social Media Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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