Virtual communities and networks exist today off the back of Web 2.0 technology and the ideas-based renaissance that came with it.
Web 2.0 is an informal term coined in 1999 to describe the evolution of the way in which websites and web pages were used. There was no update on the web as such; the phrase caught on and became popular in 2004.
After the dot com crash, the internet experienced a ground zero period. The aftermath of the failure of the first digital economy led to websites based on interaction, collaboration and sharing.
Weblogs – The Original Social Media
Instead of users being limited to consuming information passively, they could now produce it themselves. Web blogs were arguably the first wave of social media, especially since the commenting systems on web blog entries created entire discussion communities.
These sites began to fulfill the vision of the the internet being a “collaborative medium” as originally intended by World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Originally, social sites were not meant for marketing, but usually, marketers will use all and any tools to gain a competitive advantage in the online commerce pace.
Today, social media is generally quite saturated. With the early adopters having benefited by building their audiences, there seems to be something of a bubble.
The masses have now fully accepted the role of social networking in their daily lives and because of this millions of businesses flock to these sites to plug their wares and try to capture the ever decreasing attention of of potential buyers.
Pay to Play
Most social media sites eventually succumb to heavy monetisation.
The throttling of algorithms introduced by social networks themselves are often used because of the amount of content being posted. But it’s also a pretext to promote the “pay to play” systems for circumventing the algorithms and buying your way to the top.
The problem with paying for social ads is that they do not always give the return on investment. Getting lots of Likes or Retweets may feel good but I know for a fact many people do not measure the return.
I know one client who didn’t have Google Analytics installed on their site. I mean, come on!
Spammy & Derivative
Personally I consider 95% of social media marketing spammy and derivative, yet there are still ways to score huge victories with these sites if done right.
Most people misunderstand social, treating Facebook, Twitter and other sites like a classified newspaper ad. It’s like going to a business networking event to just get rid of your business cards.
That doesn’t work and its equivalent doesn’t work online either.
Getting to know people and giving them something they have a stake in is the way to do it. A conversation. A group.
Someone on my favourite website discussion forum made me laugh. They said SPAM probably should stand for Sending People Annoying Messages.
Social Burn Out
A serious problem for marketers today is the notion of social burn out. With so many networks available (and more being launched all the time) it’s tempting to try and use them all out of the fear of missing out on sales, connections and website traffic.
Spreading oneself too thin for just for the sake of being online and “part of the conversation” is a big mistake.
You might set up a social media presence everywhere but can you be effective everywhere?
“Distracted from distraction by distraction”
As social animals, we want to belong. We cannot help it.
Let your social strategies be measured and thought through, otherwise you might be allowing these distractions to take away precious time as well as leaving you exhausted.
At present, I use three social networks for Small Biz Geek. It’s a reasonable number of channels to operate. Some people might opt for more or less but my reasons for picking these are as follows:
Twitter allows me to have quick, brief conversations. I’ve also used RSS aggregation tools to turn my Twitter timeline into my own RSS reader.
The Twitter API is also pretty good and means I can embed timelines in my website
Although it’s had its ups and downs, I like Google Plus. It’s quieter than Facebook and more civilised.
The communities are good to post in and Google Maps are big part of local SEO.
I love making videos and it’s an effective way to communicate ideas with my clients and peers. There’s nothing like a video tutorial when written instructions are not clear.
YouTube integrates directly with Google Plus making them more or less one and the same thing.
When you post video to YouTube or comment on other videos, that activity is posted to your Google Plus feed.
Whatever you do, be more concerned with the quality of your interactions and not so much the number of followers you have.
Meeting people in the real world and using social to stay in touch is an effective approach. The websites and tools available are an extension of the relationship.
Don’t let social websites destroy your real offline social relationships. There’s no substitute for meeting people. Anything less means you’re hiding.
“A fixation with connecting with ‘friends’ online comes with the risk of disconnection with friends waiting for you to be present in the offline world.”
― Craig Hodges
YouTube is another social site and the second largest search engine next to Google. Keep an eye out and you’ll see I frequently embed YouTube videos into posts where I give demo tutorials.
You might copy this concept and find a way to use YouTube for your own business, whether it’s a slideshow image montage or a clip of you talking to the camera.
If video isn’t your thing, you can always try podcasting, aka on demand audio users can subscribe too. This is a fantastic, low cost way to produce an on demand downloadable radio show archive in mp3 format.
Podcasting is a passive information delivery medium and is VERY easy for customers/clients/audience to consume your message.
It is not meant for aggressive sales pitching (this is a social medium, remember).
Soundcloud (another social network) is free to use and offers 180 minutes under their basic account.
I listene to dozens of podcasts and even created a few myself. When I send artwork to web design clients I might include an mp3 recording on a branded USB stick.
Technically speaking, that isn’t a podcast because there’s no RSS feed but the principle of passive prerecorded content delivery i nan attempt to have better communication is very much a social act.