What is Social Media?
“Social media” refers to online, mobile, and digital tools and networks that facilitate and encourage interactions between people. Some of the most common activities that take place using social media include:
- Social networking and online conversations.
- Content sharing, including text, images, and video.
- Collaboration and co-creation.
Early on in the development of what would become social media, blogs were developed, turning static websites into more interactive forums with the addition of the comments feature. Blog publishing tools made it easy for anyone to publish online and that’s still true today.
The development of social networks followed. Social networks provided the ability for people to create their own online profiles, connect and interact with others, publish multimedia content and share content they found online. These social media activities continue today at an unprecedented rate.
The power of social networks is a person's ability to link to other people through a process referred to as “friending.” The word “friend” in social media doesn’t necessarily refer to a person who you actually know. Not every social network uses the term “Friends.” On Facebook, you can have Friends or Followers on your personal profile but Likes on your company Page. On LinkedIn, you have Connections on your personal profile and Followers on your business Page. On Twitter and Pinterest, you have Followers but on Twitter, if someone follows you back, they become a Friend. On YouTube, you have Subscribers. On still other networks, you might have Fans or simply Contacts.
With the advent of smartphones and tablets, social media now includes mobile versions of web-based social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and applications — or mobile apps such as Instagram, Foursquare, and Snapchat. Social media apps tap into the GPS feature on smartphones to create interactive features based on a person’s location and what — and who — is nearby.
What does the popularity of social media mean for business owners? Social media can help you reach an exponentially larger audience than you’d reach by simply publishing an article on a static website. Social media enhances word-of-mouth marketing by potentially exposing your company to your friends, fans, and followers but also other users of social networks through boosted posts and advertising.
Social media provides you with tools to better connect to, and communicate with, your customers and prospects. You can benefit from social media by listening to — or monitoring — what others are saying about you, your company, your products, services and related topics.
When you communicate with your networks of friends, fans, and followers, you aren’t only reaching your direct connections, but you have the potential to reach beyond them. On Facebook, for example, the average number of Facebook friends anyone using Facebook has is 338. With the right ad strategy, a post to your Facebook Page with a targeted boost can reach not only fans of your Page but their friends as well.
Social media marketing is the marketing discipline that leverages social and mobile to reach and influence others. Social media marketing gives you the ability to build an interconnected, cross-platform presence and publish and share content more directly than traditional forms of marketing.
One challenge of social media marketing is that individuals now have more control over the content they follow, consume and share. Understanding how to properly craft your messages and engage with others in ongoing online conversations takes time, care, and a healthy dose of mutual trust and respect. Understanding how to develop a social media advertising strategy to amplify your messages and expand your reach takes finesse and a healthy marketing budget.