What is social media?
A great place to start is to think about what social media is. A great presentation from Sean Duffy stated that social media is nothing new, it’s the same principles we have been using for millennia.
To really appreciate what it means we need to go back to the essence of communication. If we go back to before the written word, communication was people talking to each other. This meant individuals had the power. Then if we fast forward to learning how to write and particularly the advent of the printing press, it meant for the first time ever, there was mass communication. And with the advent of broadcast media such as television it meant brands had more power and individuals less. However, now with social media it has come full circle with the power shifting back to individuals. For example on social media the voice of an individual can be just as loud and powerful as that of a brand.
Social media is business
Social media has a direct impact on our purchasing decisions. 38% of social media users pointed to other consumers as their most reliable sources of information (Veronika Tarnovskaya). In the business to business world purchasers are doing much more research before contacting potential suppliers. Most do not contact potential suppliers until 57% of the purchasing decision is complete (CEB).
This marks a fundamental shift from several years ago when purchasers would contact potential suppliers much earlier. Therefore the more information about our products and services we can share online the more awareness and interest we can generate about our products and services before potential customers contact us.
Social media is not an island
Social media should not be viewed in isolation. It, now more than ever, needs to form part of a wider digital communication strategy. This is because the user doesn’t see the distinction between our own internal silos’s (Christopher Haggstrom) and how companies are organised. Companies will likely have a communications team, a PR team, a web team and a marketing team and a social team. What is important is that there is a strong sense of continuity throughout all of these teams and the content. And quite often social media is the common thread that runs through all.
Social media is everyone
The number of social media users in 2018 is 3.1 billion, a 13% increase from 2017 (Global Web Index). It really is now where we spend our time and this is also true for our employees. Gone are the days where a company had one official spokesperson. Now, every employee is a potential spokesperson. Companies need to realise social media means the democratisation of their brands. Every employee is an extension of their brand and if they are smart they will adopt employee advocacy and use it to their advantage! Companies can’t stop or reverse this trend, they need to accept it and then embrace it. Employee advocacy should not replace a company’s social media presence, however it should complement it. It needs to be done in a professional non-intrusive conversational way. That means your employees should not become “tweet-bots” regurgitating company content and then forgetting about it. Rather your employees should become social advocates or employees 2.0, where they are an extension of the brand engaging and having meaningful conversations on behalf of the company.
And with the Edelman Trust Barometer report showing a decrease in trust of what companies are saying and an increase in trust in what individuals are saying employees on social media will become ever more important.
Social media is a dialogue
An interesting and often overlooked dimension of the rise of social media as a form of communication is that it offers marketers a great research tool. It’s all too easy to concentrate on what you say and forget to listen to what others are saying. Communication is 50% listening and social media provides a great way to really listen to what people are saying!
Social media can also be a great way to co-create content with our stakeholders, a good example of this is the Atlas Copco Instagram account. Much of the content is not created by the Atlas Copco communications team, and rather it comes from customers, employees and fans.
The future is social
The future of social media is likely to come even more personalised. In light of the Facebook algorithm shift announced earlier this year there will be more emphasis placed on what people are saying opposed to what brands or media outlets say. Therefore, localised and relevant content that drives real conversation around a topic will do best. Social media and those working with it should not view the channels in isolation – they must look at the wider picture and integrate it into the communications mix.
Social media is here to stay, the platforms will augment to reflect the way we use it. You can see this in the rise of ephemeral sharing (or stories). A story is a way for users to share content that only lasts for a short time before disappearing for good. Last year stories were synonymous with the social platform, frequented by Generation Z, SnapChat. Now, you can find stories on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
Social media will integrate into all parts of a business. It is already an integral part of external communications and becoming more used for internal communications. But the rise of messaging apps Like Facebook messenger or even Twitter for customer service is increasing a lot and is another way social media is embedding itself into our business processes.