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Actually, what is social media?

By E. Mahony – spotlightideas.co.uk – 2010

If your boss, client or job interviewer asked you to explain social media in a nutshell, how would you explain it?

Social media in a nutshell – 4 key points

- Cheaper
- Word-of-mouth
- Listening
- Conversations

Online social media channels (i.e. blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and so on) allow people involved in branding, PR, customer service, and so on, to carry out their work in ways that are, relatively cheaper (in particular for start-ups and small businesses) than traditional media channels.
They are also, typically, easier to implement.
And social media is varied in what you can do with it. A blog platform (such as WordPress with lots of plugins), for example, can do / carry out various functions: articles, online video, integratration with other social media platforms such as Twitter. And it’s not just that there are so many options within a particular social media platform, but that there are so many different types of social media platforms/technologies to use – again, with a variety of different functions.

Word-of-mouth is about creating great products (and / services / brands /online content) that are relevant to audiences. The ‘great’ and ‘relevant’ leads to free word-of-mouth (where the products etc .. market themselves).
Social media can play an important role in products that are able to market themselves. You can use social media to, for example:
- listen to what people are saying in general about a type of product, the product’s marketplace, the product’s competition and so on.
- to get ideas for online content
- to invite consumers to get, directly, involved in the development of products and online content, for example.
- social media platforms/technologies provide you with an environment in which you are able to be creative in how you present content (could be in the ‘environment’ of an interactive website, multimedia website, software app. and so on).

As briefly discussed, listening is a key part of word-of-mouth. It deserves its own area of focus.
Listening is about absorbing ideas, impressions, facts, and figures, that go into the creation of products, services, brands and online content.
‘Absorbing’ can be done by:
- turning to the blogs and tweets, for example of people you follow regularly and read what they are saying.
- turning to sites that publish aggregated content or to sites that recommend other sites in general (articles, blog posts, news, and so on).
- doing a search for various words or phrases on social media sites.
- using analytics tools to find out which part of your online content is attracting the best attention.
And more.

Social media allows you have two-way, instant communication (i.e. through tweets) with your customers, as well as through less instant communication (i.e. conversation on blog comments, forums and so on). Conversations can help win the confidence of your audience. They can make you appear more open; and your brand, more authentic. Conversations can make you more human. All of this can lead to increased brand loyalty with existing customers, and increased brand awareness as customers recommend you to others.

What do you think?

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  1. Great summary points :)
    It is cheaper, but a lot of people think it is ‘free’ as they forget about the human capital cost – you still need to pay someone to manage the conversation, but obviously in relation to other mediums it is much cheaper.

  2. Katie
    Good point, in particular, about ‘human capital cost’ – and if you have good people, this could be a lot! But, certainly, – sure you would agree – that for start-ups and small businesses (and bigger ones) it can be very affordable (i.e. to do something that really makes a difference on a limited budget).

  3. Great article we have started implementing some of these techniques but most of what we have read is overwhelming and filled with alot of technical jargon. You have summed it up clearly and made it so easy for anyone to fully understand. I look forward to reading more of your articles. Thanks!!


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