Social media is everywhere. Most people have access to the internet whether via cell phone, computer, or other electronic device. Where there is access to the internet, there is access to social media and networking. Social Media is a means for people to get connected to each other whether through common interest, common location, or common backgrounds.
Philippe J. Maarek puts it very simply in his book, Campaign Communication & Political Marketing, when he defines social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Maarek defines these social networking sites as “an Internet variation of personal ads found in newspapers, but where the initial form to fill out when you become a user records personal details of your life (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter) or more professional data (LinkedIn).” This is a tremendous tool for businesses to conduct research because they have access to people’s personal information at their fingertips. Businesses have demographic information readily available and can use the social networking sites to communicate with their public and gain useful feedback about the business’s efforts. Social networking is helpful because it is a means of one-on-one communication with the public without the need to spend money and time travelling to them.
Let me show you a couple of variations of social media sites that can really help your business. We will look at Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and Social Mention.
Let us start with the most familiar one to most of us Facebook.
Facebook was created in 2004 as a free, public social networking site for college students. To join Facebook one had to have an email address from a college or university. It created an online meeting ground for college students to stay connected with their friends at other schools and their fellow classmates. Since it was created, Facebook has opened to the general public.
Anyone and their mom can, quite literally, have a Facebook account. To create an account, you must enter some personal information, the amount of information and how public that information remains up to the user. A profile can contain pictures, videos, interests, quotes, pages “liked, and much more. Facebook includes advertisements and businesses can create profiles. Facebook allows friends to comment, like, post a message, and send private messages to other people on Facebook which enable people to stay connected.
Yet you are wondering how it can be useful to me as a business? Facebook can be used in a number of ways to reach out to clients. A business can form their own Facebook profiles where supporters can become their “friends” and the business can have an open line of communication with their constituents. This is a great tool because customers can see exactly what the business is up to, where they are, videos, links to blogs, the company page, and can give their input (positive or negative) on what matters most to them. Facebook profiles create a real sense of humanity for the business because they are reaching out and being personal and Facebook can help give the business character. Facebook can also be used by a business in its ability to advertise. A business can also use Facebook profile information in marketing research because essentially all demographic information for an individual is listed in their profile. This concept enables a business to segment their public to more effectively reach their target audiences.
Now what about LinkedIn? LinkedIn was developed in 2002 and up-and-running in 2003. It is the largest professional networking site available on the Internet with more that 175 million members worldwide. LinkedIn is a free, public social networking site that focuses primarily on forming professional connections. LinkedIn is arranged so that a user can create a profile which resembles a resume. The information included in a profile may be educational background, previous and current employment information, and the reason you are a member of the site. LinkedIn functions in several different ways, it serves to reconnect colleagues and classmates, to find connections when looking for employment or business opportunities, and to gain or share advice about business with experts.
LinkedIn provides a backdrop for businesses to interact with an audience of professionals. Members of this social networking resource include executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies.
LinkedIn also contains tools useful for businesses such as LinkedIn Answers. LinkedIn Answers is used to pose questions in different professional groups. This means that the information provided in each profile enables marketers to segment LinkedIn’s population to reach a specific professional group and ask questions. This is like being able to pass out a survey or ask a group of professionals for their opinions on topics, current issues, etcetera, without having to manually seek out the target group, and create and distribute questions. It also provides immediate feedback to questions rather than lagging responses that are associated with mail-outs and email questions. LinkedIn Answers can also pose general questions about business’ performances, character, and choices. This could be an important tool for businesses to see where they are failing and succeeding in their work in the public eye.
What is Ning? Ning is a social network creator which allows people to build private social networks. There is a cost associated with this website building site. Ning offers a wide variety of options for its users such as the option of whether to make their network private or public, require approval for membership, and allows for moderation of actions on the site. This website builder also allows the user to incorporate other social networks into the new one, making the users reach even greater.
Groups can be created within the social network as well which may aid in segmenting the network community into smaller, specific groups. A site designed on Ning meets the specifications of each user; there are a variety of options for displaying information, pictures, and videos, as well as a plethora of theme options. Ning also offers a variety of ways to collect money such as collecting money per site usage, collecting donations, or running the user’s own advertisements. When reviewing the possibilities that Ning presents users, it is easy to see where a business could benefit from utilizing this service.
By using Ning and creating personalized social network it enables a business to interact with public or private communities, collect donations (if you a non-profit and all that), and conduct marketing research all on one site. Ning creates a perfect environment to interact with their consumers and gain feedback on the business’s initiatives. Ning therefore aides in creating sites where a business can gather pertinent information in a controlled group setting which gives an advantage when a business can properly use that information to better a product.
Another useful tool for businesses that are on any form of social media is Social Mention. According to the website, “Social Mention is a social media search platform that aggregates user generated content from across the web into a single stream of information.” This means that Social Mention is a means of searching the web for keywords or names, the frequency they appear, where they appear, and whether or not their appearance has a positive or negative connotation. Social Mention also provides an immediate analysis of searches. This enables a business to gather information immediately; Social Mention provides an excellent basis for constant data collection.
Businesses can utilize Social Mention for marketing research. Understanding how this tool can be used requires knowing what information can be gleaned from keyword searches on the internet. A business can search their name and find how much it is mentioned, where, and whether it is positive or negative in nature. A search for a business marketing campaign can give an idea of how the public is reacting to the marketing. Social Mention is useful to a business because it can assess how a business and its opponent are ranking among internet users.
There you have it a few ideas for the business that just is not quite sure where to go on social media and really even what options are out there. If you are going to be on-line and available to the world (or even if you are not) it is always a good idea to know what people are saying about you even if it is nothing. Social Mention is only one of many tools that can be used to find this information. This enables you to stop wasting you hard earned marketing dollars and put it into a location that just might earn you a better return on your investment and a better return is something everyone at the company can enjoy.
I hope that helps you get a better grasp of possibilities from a few different types of social sites and how each of them provides different options.