Social media is a collective term for websites and applications which focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Forums, microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media.
Many individuals will use social media to stay in touch and interact with friends and family, while others use it to communicate with different communities. Many businesses will use social media as a way to market and promote their products. In addition, business to consumer (B2C) websites include social components, such as comment fields for users. Other tools have been created to aid in tracking the number of mentions and brand perception.
Social media has become larger and more accessible thanks to access to mobile applications, with some examples of social media including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.
Business applications of social media
In business, social media is used to market products, promote brands, connect to current customers and foster new business. In terms of customer feedback, social media makes it easy to tell a company and everyone else about their experiences with that company, whether those experiences are good or bad. The business can also respond very quickly to both positive and negative feedback, attend to customer problems and maintain, regain or rebuild customer confidence.
Social media is also often used for crowdsourcing. Customers can use social networking sites to offer ideas for future products or improvements to current ones. In IT projects, crowdsourcing usually involves blending business and IT services from a mix of internal and external providers, sometimes with input from customers and/or the general public.
Other B2B applications of social media include:
Social media analytics - the practice of gathering data from blogs and social media websites and analyzing that data to make business decisions. The most common use of social media analytics is to mine customer sentiment to support marketing and customer service activities.
Social media marketing (SMM) - takes advantage of social networking to help a company increase brand exposure and broaden customer reach. The goal is usually to create content compelling enough that users will share it with their social networks. One of the key components of SMM is social media optimization (SMO). Like search engine optimization (SEO), SMO is a strategy for drawing new and unique visitors to a website. SMO can be done two ways: by adding social media links to content such as RSS feeds and sharing buttons, or by promoting activity through social media via status updates, tweets or blog posts.
Social CRM (customer relationship marketing) - can be a powerful business tool. For example, establishing a Facebook page allows people who like a brand to like their page, which creates avenues for communication, marketing and networking. Through social media sites, a user can follow conversations about a brand for real-time market data and feedback.
Enterprise social networking allows a company to connect individuals who share similar business interests or activities. Internally, social tools can help employees access information and resources they need to work together effectively and solve business problems. Externally, public social media platforms help an organization stay close to their customers and make it easier to conduct research that they can use to improve business processes and operations.
Challenges of B2B social media
The integration of social media in the business world can also pose challenges. Social media policies are designed to set expectations for appropriate behavior and ensure that an employee's posts will not expose the company to legal problems or public embarrassment. Such policies include directives for when an employee should identify themselves as a representative of the company on a social networking website, as well as rules for what types of information can be shared.
Types of Social Media
Here are some examples of popular social media platforms:
- Facebook is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
- Twitter is a free microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users' tweets by using multiple platforms and devices.
- Wikipedia is a free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users known as Wikipedians. Anyone registered on the site can create an article for publication; however, registration is not required to edit articles. Wikipedia was founded in January of 2001.
- LinkedIn is a social networking site designed specifically for the business community. The goal of the site is to allow registered members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust professionally.
- Reddit is a social news website and forum where stories are socially curated and promoted by site members. The site is composed of hundreds of sub-communities, known as "subreddits." Each subreddit has a specific topic such as technology, politics or music. Reddit site members, also known as, "redditors," submit content which is then voted upon by other members. The goal is to send well-regarded stories to the top of the site's main thread page.
- Pinterest is a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images found online. Pinterest requires brief descriptions, but the main focus of the site is visual. Clicking on an image will take a user to the original source. For example, clicking on a picture of a pair of shoes might redirect users to a purchasing site and an image of blueberry pancakes might redirect to the recipe.