These days, it’s apparent that nearly all of us have accepted and embraced the idea of social media, whether we call it social media or not. The technology is there… it’s just another way to communicate, right? “I’ll tweet John.” or “I’ll post this on Sarah’s Facebook wall.” or “I’ll share this video on YouTube and see what my subscribers have to say about it.” or “I’ll upload this photo to Flickr to see if my contacts like it.”…
But is social media changing the way we think?… affecting our attention spans, altering the way we think about ourselves how we perceive what is valuable?
This is an important question when it comes to considering how to utilize social media as a marketing tool and determining how to communicate in the language of the end user.
Think back a bit on the evolution of email. When email first came around, wasn’t it just a intended to be an electronic letter (Oh that’s right, that “e” stood for something.)? A faster way to convey the same amount of information that would have otherwise been transmitted via “snail?” Well, yes.
But then something happened. Email became a tool for marketers, to transmit ads… and for a while, people paid attention… and then we all got sick of looking at our inboxes. Enter CAN-SPAM regulation which led to marketers jumping hurdles of deliverability in the midst of internet and webmail service providers changing their rules about SPAM messages (I’ll delve into email best practices another time.).
At the same time, those marketers struggled (and still do!) with trying to figure out what works to get their prospective customer’s attention (also, another time).
So what does this have to do with social media and the way we think? Well, once established, popular communication platforms develop somewhat of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. The platform yields the format, which in turn forces the user to think within specific boundaries.
So, if Twitter only allows 140 characters, language has to be adapted for effective communication, and users have to seriously pare down a message to the bare essentials.
Same goes for Facebook. While there isn’t so much a character limit ruling how much can be said at once (although Facebook does truncate lengthy posts), users can quickly see which types of messages get more attention and begin self-editing to post status updates, comments, and rich content posts that are witty and more likely to get a response.
In addition, users of these platforms have inadvertently become self-marketerers, marketing their own brand. They are savvy, they are familiar with what’s catchy and popular, and they want to have their voices heard.
As marketers, how do we step into this new way of thinking without falling on our faces? Here’s the good news: hopefully we already have an edge with quick quips.
Appropriate initial steps would be:
- Choosing a platform that matches where our target demographics spend the majority of their social web time. (Last I checked, platform demographic info could be found easily by poking around the web.)
- Improving upon and abbreviating stiff marketing copy to become more transparent, more approachable, with a voice that is interesting, humorous, AND useful to our fans/followers. One that cuts through the static of all the other updates that flow through their social media feeds.
- Responding thoughtfully to comments, posts, and even negative feedback as we start to grow our fan/follower exposure.
- Studying what gains response among our target demographics and tailoring our messages to those groups.
Easy enough, right? In another post, I’ll elaborate with tips on developing and improving your social media “voice,” as well as types of things to look for when evaluating response.
Looking for help with your social media program?
Do you have thoughts about social media’s impact on the way we think? Your comments are welcome.
Lessons learned from my favorite Social Media service, Instagram – a social photo app for iPhone.
Obviously, there isn’t an all-knowing source for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to Social Media, but through observation and the use of several services, I have gleaned a better understanding of the Social pulse and what drives users to get so involved.
My favorite example of a Social community explosion is Instagram. Not only do I love and use the Instagram service, but I can honestly say that my experience with this app has made quite a difference in my approach to working with Social Media on a professional level as well.
A few of the lessons I’ve learned from Instagram:
Be in the moment. – It’s not about perfection, it’s not about being cool… It’s about being real and right there in the moment, and it’s about expressing a notion, an idea, or a personal style. Some of my favorite Instagramers, or IGers as regular users say, share a moment here and there throughout their day, even if it’s something that is as common as a view of the sky, gazing down at blades of grass, or what they’ve made for dinner.
The power of making even common moments magical is where Instagram really shines. Using the app’s filters and effects, a very personalized approach to everyday moments is possible. Plus, if you’re an app nerd like myself (I’ll share my favorite photo editing apps in another post.), you can edit a photo with a wide assortment of filter/editing apps and post it to reflect any given mood or artistic whim.
Get involved. – One aspect of Instagram I’ve enjoyed from the moment I began using the iPhone app (late 2010) is participating in “forums” or “challenges.” Some IGers such as @joshjohnson, @jaywintermeyer, and @kewiki – to name just a few – often post challenges to get their followers engaged in the IG community. These challenges can be based upon anything from a color theme to editing a specific photo using any combination of photo editing apps.
@joshjohnson is an Atlanta, GA based photographer who has probably been the most prolific Instagram challenge maker/influencer as he posts daily AND weekly forums/challenges, plus “Instatips” – daily photography tips on everything from capturing the perfect light with your iPhone to SLR gear. If you’re an Instagram user, I highly recommend checking him (and the other two users mentioned above) out!
I was even inspired to create my own challenge about a month ago – check Instagram’s #WOTDProject hashtag for my Word of the Day project feed. Basically, this consists of a group of a few folks posting shots based around Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day.
It’s less ME than it is EVERYONE. – The sooner you stop soap-boxing, or in this case, focusing on only receiving feedback on your own photographs, and stop for a moment to HEAR – and SEE – what others are doing, the faster you will improve your Social Media skills.
I really dislike artificial ploys to grow your ‘follower’ or ‘friends’ lists when it comes to any Social Media service as they seem counterintuitive. So, what to do? Look at what others are posting, give honest and thoughtful feedback, follow people you are genuinely interested in… and pretty soon, you will develop real connections. You will find yourself part of a conversation.
And, like Twitter, Instagram has given way to in-person Instameetups – In fact, there’s a Worldwide Instameet happening this Saturday May 7th. I’m attending one locally here in Charleston, SC. Is there one in your town? Click here to find out.
As with a lot of what was considered “web 2.0” (Wow, that sounds antiquated.), I had to come around to Social Media in my own time… and find something that appealed to me before I could wholeheartedly say I loved it. Instagram really pushed the needle, which is something that Facebook and Twitter just couldn’t quite do for me. I can now say, “I LOVE IT!”
I’m pleased that the takeaway from a passionate personal experience with a service such as Instagram has been a greater appreciation and understanding of the fundamentals of Social Media as a channel for connecting to an audience, sharing common interests, and building relationships.
Any other Instagram users our there? I’d love your comments.
As somewhat of a (long overdue) followup to my previous post on social media as a marketing channel, I’d like to highlight a business who has the right idea on how to use Twitter to engage loyal and potential customers.
Liquid Highway, a specialty coffee company with locations across South Carolina, has been part of the Twitter community since early 2009. In that time, they have found a way to translate their Twitter presence into that of a fun-loving friend who is a delight to be around, who you look forward to hearing from… the kind of friend you’d like to introduce to others. Why? They’ve chosen to add fun tidbits such as games to their tweets, with the prize being discounts in their stores. And from their tweetstream, you can see that they are as passionate about pleasing their customers as they are about coffee.
The games come in all sorts, all of which encourage followers to visit a Liquid Highway store: everything from a “Happy Mooonday!” invitation to make an animal sound to receive a free shot of espresso, “Twitter Tuesday” where a tweet about Liquid Highway gets you a free small coffee, to “Truth OR Dare Thursday!” where brave souls can receive 50% off their drinks for participation. What’s great about this? These are DAILY games… meaning followers look forward to seeing a new day’s challenge and are more likely stop by multiple times in a week. Plus, followers have many, many options for sharing deals with friends. A win-win… win. 🙂
Social media is on the rise as a marketing channel, but is that what consumers want to hear?
I can now ‘Become a Fan’ of, follow the tweets of, and subscribe to any number of rss feeds from the companies/brands I enjoy. Does having a Twitter account with a river of tweets about products make me more likely to purchase from a company? No. It’s hard enough to keep up with what friends are tweeting about, much less take in advertisements. So, what angle should a company take to get attention in this blossoming channel? How about share something interesting with those who opt to hear from you.
When friends opt to see status updates from each other, they expect to see something personable… something to keep them in the know about each other. Companies should keep this in mind when attempting to harness the various social media outlets. Instead of a push of impersonal ads, how about something that relates to the company/brand’s story? Could you share bits of historical interest? Photos? Provide some interactivity such as a game or contest? Special offer and sale notifications are acceptable as well, in moderation. If you’re interesting, in a real sort of way, you’re less likely to land an ‘un-follow.’ Just something to think about.