Follow this link or download the PDF at the bottom to see all of "The Beginners Guide to Social Media" by MOZ, an SEO consulting company.
Welcome to The Beginner's Guide to Social Media!
Welcome to The Beginner's Guide to Social Media! Whether you're new to social media or just looking to close a few knowledge gaps, we're glad you stopped by. By now, we've all heard how valuable—even essential—social media can be. Whether your current sentiment leans more toward enthusiasm or trepidation, there's no way around the fact that social media is a far more complex field than it first seems. Diving in without a sense for what it's like can be overwhelming, and building a network that provides real value takes both savvy and hard work, but fear not—we're here to help! We hope you'll find this to be one of the most comprehensive social media resources available, and that no matter what your skill level is, there's plenty in here to help you improve your social presence. What are we waiting for? Let's dive in!
What is social media?
"Social media" is a way for people to communicate and interact online. While it has been around since the dawn of the World Wide Web, in the last 10 years or so we've seen a surge in both the number and popularity of social media sites. It's called social media because users engage with (and around) it in a social context, which can include conversations, commentary, and other user-generated annotations and engagement interactions.
Publishing content has become exponentially simpler over the last several years, which has helped skyrocket the use of social media. Non-technical web users are now able to easily create content on a rapidly growing number of platforms, including those that are owned (hosted communities, blogs, etc.), rented (social networks or third-party communities), and occupied (commenting, contributing, etc.). Today's web has shifted from a "one-to-many" to a "many-to-many" method of engagement, and we're loving it.
For businesses, the shift in web consumerism and accompanying rise in social media brings both opportunity and responsibility. The sheer amount of data that customers make available through social media alone has web marketers jumping for joy. The real magic, however, lies in the opportunity to grow lasting and scalable relationships with your organization's customer base through social media. This is also where your online responsibility to your customers begins to take shape. Just as your customers' behavior has shifted, so have their expectations for yours. Whether your business is listening and engaging or not, customers are having conversations relevant to your operations. It's better to be part of the conversation, right? We sure think so!
Is social media just a fad?
Over the last several years, there has been an explosion of growth in popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and many others. It's safe to say that the era of social media is just getting started, and the need for social media in business will only become stronger over time. The whole world has seen the impact of the expansion and adoption of social media tactics, and the rising stats speak for themselves.
Looking for sources? Click on any of the stats above!
Why does my company need social media?
Whether you are running a small, local operation, or heading a global, enterprise-level effort, the statistics above make it clear: Your customers are online. They are interacting in social channels with their friends, colleagues, and other brands in search of information, recommendations, and entertainment. If your company is not around to answer, a competitor will be. In doing so, your competitor will quite likely take away the customer at hand, along with anyone else listening.
There are tons of opportunities to add value—even to delight!—and making that connection can help build a person's relationship with a company, brand, or representative. Those relationships create the foundation for what can eventually become one of your greatest marketing assets: customer advocacy.
Because so much of the customer experience now lives on the web, social media enables brands to take part in a customer's online experience outside of the typical channels.
If you ever find yourself in a bind, your advocates will help remind the rest of the world who they're rooting for. Advocacy is not something that you can stumble upon or buy. Advocacy is earned over time through continuous and positive engagement with your customer base. It is earned through experiences that delight, and through the delivery of the highest class of customer service.
Advocacy is the nirvana of social media, and it is through advocacy that your efforts start to truly scale and grow. It shows that your brand is doing such an amazing job that your customers shout about your brand from rooftops, sharing their opinions and experiences with their networks. That sharing is the best marketing a brand can ask for.
Identifying potential advocates is a good first step. You can use social tools (many of which are outlined in the rest of this guide), site data, customer data, and even your own observations to help you pick out which customers are likely to go to bat for your brand. You'll want to figure out what is most important to those potential advocates. What are they looking for? Are they fishing for recognition? Are they excited by exclusive access to news and/or content? Figure out what type of advocates your brand attracts and find ways to recognize them for their advocacy. It is important to note, though, that most of your greatest community relationships will be built organically. While your research and brand knowledge encourages people and helps you put the right foot forward, relationships take time.
The transition from a passive web to an interactive web has brought with it many changes affecting how individuals connect with one another and also how businesses operate. At this stage in the game, it's fair to say that a web presence is critical to the success of a business. You can't get ahead if you're ignoring your customer's online conversations or opting to look the other way. Use this opportunity to get closer to your audience than ever before—reach more people in a genuine and authentic manner, drive more qualified site traffic, increase the authority of your brand, engage the people who influence your customers' behavior, and gain the data necessary for insights-based business decisions.
Maybe a better question is, why wouldn't your company use social media?
How can social be a springboard for success in other marketing channels?
Keep in mind that neither your customers' experience nor your brand starts with Twitter, Facebook, or your blog. Social media should take your existing brand and solidify it, galvanize it, and bolster it. Your efforts in social media should be an extension of everything else you do in all departments of your company. Capturing your company's voice and sharing it with the world through social media will open up unique opportunities in all other channels of inbound marketing, including SEO, branding, public relations, sales, and more.
To get the most out of social media, make the relationships you build with it your end goal. That might sound a bit utopian for anyone who is grounded in more traditional and tangible business measurement and metrics, but take a step back from the bottom-line, ROI-seeking aspect to look at the big picture for a minute. The relationships built with customers are the foundations upon which other aspects of your business can and will flourish.
Relationships flourish when you cultivate them, and no other area offers you the opportunity to do this as well as social media. Social channels have broken down the walls between individuals at an unprecedented rate. In 2011, Facebook released data showing that its users were, on average, 3.74 degrees of separation away from one another, making them nearly as connected to each other as Kevin Bacon is to the rest of Hollywood. In the years since that study, the network has only continued to grow. That's pretty amazing, and social media can take credit for making it happen.
Some of the most successful SEOs and public relations professionals earn their notoriety, at least in part, from the relationships they are able to build. They're also good at what they do, of course, but great relationships bolster their already solid effort. The relationships you build with your customers lead to advocacy and loyalty, traits that can support your brand during both the good and the bad times, representing an investment that will remain strong on nearly any platform and under nearly any circumstances.
Information can be shared through social media at an amazingly fast pace, and users are increasingly turning to social channels to share information in real-time. This information often takes the form of opinions, so if you're listening for the right cues from your audience, social media can become an invaluable source of insights and feedback. Incorporating social listening into product development work can act as an early warning system, save on customer service costs, provide valuable development feedback, and even help identify ideal beta testers without much expense.
Social media is not something you can simply "tack on" to the rest of your marketing, branding, PR, and advertising efforts; it needs to be a fully integrated part of the mix. In doing so, you can create a cohesive and scalable experience for your customers. Think of it as a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Also, it's not as hard as it sounds.
Be sure to integrate social media into your marketing efforts as early as possible to help amplify and solidify your work rather than waiting until the end of a planning cycle to explore social options. If a social presence is clear from the start, your branding will benefit from additional customer touchpoints, PR will see a lift in impressions and reach, and customer service can proactively listen and activate where necessary.
As you can see, a social presence can have far-reaching impact for your organization when it is executed in an authentic and thoughtful manner. By making social engagement a core part of your operations rather than an afterthought, you have a better shot at fully leveraging its power.
How much of this guide do I need to read?
As you can probably already tell, there's more to social media than often meets the eye. While this guide is designed to be helpful no matter how much you read, we really recommend going cover to cover. Although every section might not apply to your social campaigns now, you'll gain a deep understanding of the moving parts you might want to implement later, and you will be well-poised to create the most effective strategy you can.
If you'd rather print it out and take it with you, we have a handy-dandy PDF of the entire guide available for you to download.
Written by Kristy Bolsinger and Moz Staff