In the past ten years, social media has changed the way that businesses communicate with their audiences. Research shows that a significant number of people use social media to follow their favorite brands. According to a survey conducted by The Social Habit, 53% of those who follow brands on social media show more brand loyalty. This medium of communication has proven very effective, and also very dynamic. Shifts occur so often in the world of social media that whole websites exist just to keep track of them all. If you’re convinced of the power of social media for reaching audiences, yet are a bit befuddled when it comes to how to keep up with it all, then this guide is for you.
Why Social is Great for Brands
Needless to say, B2C commerce has changed a lot in the past decade. For a long time, brands depended largely on traditional advertising mediums, celebrity endorsements, and other gimmicks to get their message in front of potential customers. Then, they’d initiate the hard sell in order to close the deal. While these tactics still have their place in the business world, today’s consumers desire information and two-way communication more than ever. Consumers want to know all about the products and services they’re spending money on, and they expect brands to oblige them. Social media facilitates this by creating a platform for exchanging ideas. Information flows freely and easily across social media platforms, and allows brands to reach a large number of people with little effort. It puts everyone on a level playing field. Whether you’re a mom and pop shop or a multi-national corporation, you can reach your audience using the same technology. Social media is also free to use, and you can’t get more cost effective than free.
The downside to all of this is that since social media is so accessible, literally anyone can create a Facebook page and call themselves your competitor. Also, as mentioned above, social media is ever evolving and sometimes difficult to keep up with. Terms like “social graph” and “sponsored tweets” often pop up literally overnight. Staying ahead of the curve can seem daunting, but there are a number of ways to effectively keep on top of social media for your business.
There are a number of great blogs that will keep you up to speed when it comes to social media for business. Social Media Today brings together news and commentary about all things social media, and also related topics like content marketing and blogging. Social Media Examiner is another helpful source of social media marketing information. TechCrunch and Mashable are both highly respected blogs about internet and technology trends. The best way to keep track of these and other blogs is to sign up for an RSS reader like Feedly or Newsblur. These user-friendly platforms allow you to track multiple RSS feeds, therefore keeping you in the social media loop.
Follow the Right Accounts
Using social media to stay on top of social media is pretty intuitive, and also quite effective. If you know who to follow on Twitter, then you’ll have pretty much all the news you need in your Twitter stream. Social Media Examiner, TechCrunch, and Mashable all have Twitter accounts, as do notable social media mavens like Jeff Bullas and Heidi Cohen.
Google Alerts is a great tool for keeping your ear to the virtual ground. All you do is enter the keywords you would like to track (e.g, social media for business, social media trends), and you will receive regular emails with the top results for your keywords. You can choose the frequency of the emails, and also control how many results that get returned to you.
Attend Conferences and Expos
Catching up on news from the convenience of your home or office is great and all, but nothing beats going straight to the source. Conferences and expos give you the chance to do just that. Plus, they give you a chance to network with social media insiders and other business owners. Annual conferences like the well-known Search Marketing Expo (SMX) usually feature high profile speakers and guests that are on the cutting edge of social media trends. If you or your company have a vested interest in social media, then attending at least one conference a year is a worthwhile investment.
If you can’t afford a conference this year, or if you simply prefer not to travel, then attending a local business meetup might be a better choice. Meetup.com has tons of meetups to choose from depending on your location. You can also contact your local chamber of commerce to see if they’ll be hosting any meetings about social media, or see if any professional advertising or marketing organizations have chapters in your area (e.g, the American Advertising Federation).
If you have a team of people involved in your business’ social media efforts, then it’s a good idea to hold regular meetings so that everyone is on the same page. It’s a good time to talk about the company’s digital marketing campaigns, as well as update each other on news and tidbits. This is also a good way to clue other team members in who may not know much about social media marketing.
Social media is booming, and it certainly shows no signs of slowing down. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ allow brands to share information and increase customer engagement on a whole new level. Luckily, you have lots of ways to stay on top of the latest social media developments, though the best way to learn will always be to dive in and try it for yourself.