Social media has changed the Internet and the world. Social media has grown from a glorified teenage chat platform to a medium credited with sparking national revolutions.
But while it's great that you can connect with your best friend from third grade, it still remains an open question in marketing as to how to actually employ social media (not to mention generate results).
We talk to lots of people who are investigating social media. They're asking a lot of similar questions so we figured we'd put together a short checklist to help you evaluate if social media will work well for your needs.
This checklist is really just a beginning, but the major pillars we're going to cover are:
Does your audience want to communicate with your organization socially? If they do, then continue on. If they don't, then you don't need to worry about it.
It's not a failure of some sort if your audience doesn't want to hear from you socially. Take your own experiences, for example. There are undoubtedly a number of organizations and services that you rely on and value, but that doesn't mean you want to hear updates from them throughout the day in your Facebook feed.
Understanding your audience's needs and desires in relation to your organization will help you set out in the right direction.
Social media is its own medium. It's not a website, it's not an RSS feed, it's not email, etc. The abilities of social media impose expectations that we are held to.
The primary component we're going to consider is the interactivity of social media. Social media brings a newfound ability to have a conversation with your audience. If you are employing social media, it is important that you make use of its abilities by responding to comments and interacting regularly.
Think of the difference between a radio and a telephone. If you ask me to use a radio, I won't get frustrated that the hosts of NPR aren't responding to me as I add my own commentary to the news. If you ask me to use a phone, I will certainly get frustrated by an experience in which I'm not allowed or enabled to add my two cents. The difference is all in the expectations I associated with each piece of technology.
If you don't want to have a social commitment, then social media isn't for you. There are other media that will better facilitate your needs and provide your audience with a better user experience.
Social media is much more time- and energy-intensive than people realize. In our quest to be interactive, we need to check our accounts at least daily and we need to be able to provide relevant and unique content on a regular schedule. How regular depends on your organization and goals, but a couple times a week tends to be the minimum.
When social media users follow/like you, they are indicating that they are interested in the most up-to-date happenings on a regular basis. If you give them scarce or sporadic updates, they will be dissatisfied with your social experience and perhaps your organization.
Successfully building a social media following requires a highly regular commitment of time and energy.
Social media should never be used in place of your website. If you use social media, use it as a supplement to your website, pointing people to its offerings and offering them a bonus experience.
To put it another way, your website is the cake and social media is the frosting. Sure, we've all been tempted to sit down with a tub of frosting and just eat it. And heck, maybe you've actually done that. But 1,924 calories later, no one feels good about that experience.
Back to the point, your website is the backbone of your web presence. It provides the substance and credibility that a social media post never could. It also shows up in search results where social media might never appear.
Moreover, you have a great deal more control over your website than you do a social media platform. Your website is basically there to do your bidding. Social media is there to make money for Mark Zuckerberg and company. That means that whenever the business model needs to change, your abilities (or lack thereof) on social media are going to follow suit.
The best rule of thumb is to host all your important content on your website and then use social media to point back to your site. Never the other way around.
Social media isn't all that different from buying a pet. It'll be great just as long as you know what you're getting into. If you're interested in learning more, feel free to shoot us some questions and we'll see what we can do for you.