Social media. Two words when put together bring a whole new meaning to communication. With social media tools and skills, companies, businesses, and organizations are not the only ones benefiting from this form of communicating and networking. Individuals are also able to connect with other individuals to share ideas, share information, or to even market themselves. These tools, for instance Facebook and Twitter, have changed the way we communicate with each other and the world. Through these tools, our doors are open far past our local community making the global community our local community. A single tweet can be read instantaneously from anywhere around the world. A powerful tool for sharing information is now in the palm of our hands.
This week we focused on social media and what it means for communication professionals. With the right amount of training, communication professionals can move past the potential “nightmare” to effectively market themselves and their companies. With social media, businesses are able to connect directly with their consumers. This allows them to communicate their products and services through more than just advertisements and television commercials. Because of the social aspect of these tools, many leaders are fearful of using social media because of potential mistakes, being overwhelmed by information, and the possibility of losing control (Nisen, 2013). However, businesses need to equip their leaders with the skills and knowledge of these tools. Having individuals who are literate in social media can prevent businesses from missing out on important information being shared about their business, and most importantly, from missing out on the communication opportunities these tools provide.
The first thing businesses need to do is create a social media mission or strategy. When creating a social media mission, businesses need to evaluate which direction they want to take with their social media marketing. In his article “Steal these 3 social marketing tricks from top brands,” Todd Wasserman states there are three strategies to follow: passion brands, personal brands, and transparent brands. What do each of these mean?
Passion Brands: Connect with individuals via their passions and/or interests.
Personal Brands: Entertain individuals with their engaging personality.
Transparent Brands: Provide individuals with interesting or important information.
Business can choose one to follow or move through each of them. However, the most important thing for a business to remember is to stay true to itself by identifying what it’s best at and what it can offer its consumers. Following one of these three strategies can only help businesses clarify their social media strategy. Another thing for businesses to consider is how they are using the technology to form connections with consumers. No matter the approach, businesses need to define clear objectives and policies for measuring and utilizing these social technologies.
As for individuals, social media is opening up new doors for networking and information sharing. In Clay Shirky’s TED Talk “How social media can make history,” he noted that one of the great things about social media is that it is turning consumers into producers. We, as consumers, have the ability not only to read content that is created for us, but we can also be the ones to create it. When news events happen, citizens can now become reporters, or what he calls “citizen reports” and report on what is happening in real time even before news outlets catch the story. This was also highlighted in Erik Hersman’s TED Talk “Reporting crisis via texting.” With a mobile phone, anyone can send information and reports of what is happening around their environment.
Twitter has become one of the more dynamic social media sites. In just 140 characters, anyone can tweet short informative messages or connect with like-minded people for networking or fun. For me, one of the more creative uses of this online social media tool is for professional development and here’s why. I currently work in the field of library and information science. When Twitter debuted in 2006, librarians quickly flocked to this new tool to learn more about the platform and what exactly the site offered its users. Since then, librarians from all over the world have used Twitter to engage with each other and leverage it as a professional development tool. One of the main ways is by utilizing hashtags. Tweeting about library conferences has been a major draw to using Twitter. Once a hashtag is created, attendees (and even non-attendees) are encouraged to tweet about the conference. Not only are participants archiving events from the conference, but also providing a way for those unable to attend to get an overview of what happened during the conference. Search the hashtag “#alaac14” to see some of the conversations generated about the upcoming American Library Association Conference. Another popular use of Twitter by librarians has been Twitter chats. Every Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. CT anyone can participate in “#libchat.” A librarian moderates this chat and poses a number of questions to participants. Any participant who wishes to respond lists the question they are responding to along with the hashtag (ex. Q1. [person’s response] #libchat). This chat has become wildly popular in the library field, so much so that the chat celebrated its third birthday this past March! For those of us that can’t afford to attend a lot of professional development sessions, Twitter helps to bridge that gap and provide professional development opportunities straight to the palm of your hands.
As for other uses of social media, one of the questions we addressed during class this week pertained to social media in the classroom. Facebook has become a great tool for reconnecting with family and old friends, but what about in the classroom? I recall a few years ago a friend of mine telling me he and his classmates created a Facebook group dedicated to one of their classes—one of the hardest ones in their program. They used the group as an online study group to ask each other questions, clarify assignments, share notes, or arrange tutoring sessions within the group. Once the teacher heard about the group, they joined the group, too. This group allowed the students in the class an informal forum for asking questions they may have been afraid to ask during class or had forgotten while in class. What do you think about bringing Facebook into the classroom?
Social media has definitely changed the way we communicate and the way we learn. There are so many opportunities offered through these resources, but how do we know which one is the proper channel to use. As future communication strategists, it will be our job to help our current or future employers determine which platform to choose and which strategy will be the best to follow to help the business achieve their social marketing goals. These tools will continue to change the way we look at information, and I am looking forward to what the future holds.
Hersman, E. (2009 February). Reporting crisis via texting. TED. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/erik_hersman_on_reporting_crisis_via_texting.
Nisen, M. (2013, February 5). Social media has changed what it means to be a leader. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-leaders-can-understand-social-media-2013-2.
NV Binder. (2013, August 23). You’re invited to #libchat. Retrieved from http://nvbinder.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/youre-invited-to-libchat/.
Shirky, C. (2009, June). How social media can make history. TED. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.
Wasserman, T. (2013, February 22). Steal three social marketing tricks from top brands. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2013/02/22/social-media-marketing-strategy/.
Wilson, H.J., Guinan, PJ, Parise, S., & Weinberg, B.D. (2011, July-August). “What’s your social media strategy?” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/centers/cwf/rt/pdf/SocialMediaHBRJuly2011.pdf.