Social Media Uses and Usefulness

2008 has been the year of social media for me. Embracing Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, LinkedIn and other networks, I’ve finally gotten my personal social media usage down to less than a half an hour a day. I spend more time trying to haul my sleepy head out of bed in the morning than I do on social media, yet all my accounts remain updated and my followers know where I am and what I’m working on.

How I Use Social Media Tools

How do I use social media tools? Simple! I use the tools to integrate my online content and help keep my friends, readers and network up-to-date. My Twitter account feeds into my Facebook and LiveJournal accounts. I’m also currently looking into a plug-in that will update my Twitter account when I post here, on my blog. For Facebook and LiveJournal, I have email notifications set up for things that are important to me, so I know when someone is trying to get a hold of me. From all outside appearances it looks like I am extremely active in the “social media” space, spending hours upon hours on these networks.

I use social media to stay on top of trends, knowledge and people for my professional position during the day, and for promoting my writing at night. I do not use it for creating content or for wasting time. Yes, my tweets can get a bit random, but that’s also because it’s a great way to keep links you find in one place and share them instantly with other people.

What is Social Media?

While my story about how I use social media is not a very glamorous one — other people may have a different take on what social media is and how the tools apply to their lives. The key word here is “tool.” Although social media is about being social, it’s also about how different people interact with the tools. Make a social media tool that allows for better interaction with other people, and you’ll get more people using it. Which is one of the reasons why Facebook continues to do better than MySpace.

On Facebook, a user can more easily get involved with a niche community by helping others on a particular topic, and making e-friends organically – instead of simply spamming the entire Facebook universe. “Fan” pages have created a great way for businesses or products to setup a way for users to keep up-to-date on related events. All-in-all, Facebook is a much more usable TOOL, which has caused people to migrate.– Quote by Elliott Kosmicki, GoodPlum.com

As Elliott had pointed out, Facebook is more usable than MySpace, which is why people are flocking to the tool. I haven’t logged in to Facebook in weeks, yet because it acts as a content aggregator for me (i.e. Allowing me to add all my RSS feeds and other social media tools) it appears as if I’m on Facebook hours each day.

Just like author’s intent matters, whatever your intent is for using a tool matters because it’s your preferred method to connect with the world at large. It’s what “personalization” is all about.

Social Media Opinions Run Rampant

The drawback of this personalization, is that there are thousands of opinions out there about social media and what it may or may not be. Like this prediction Twitter will die in 2009. Put the idea of monetizing social media aside for a second, because that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. This writer has a few beliefs that I’d like to share with you, and my counter-points.

# Content – “If ‘content is king,’ as even entry-level marketers know, then Twitter’s limit of 140 characters doesn’t even get you started. It’s not possible to present an emotionally compelling story in just one or two sentences,” Garber notes.

    MLV: I have a hard time understanding how anyone would think Twitter would be used to create meaningful content, though writers have embraced Twitter as a new form of writing. Read How to Start a Twitter Novel to learn more.

    Remember that you can, however, push out that great content you are writing to your network and the world at large. With one Tweet, you can update all of your friends and readers on MySpace, LiveJournal and Facebook at the same time!

# Rapport – Twitter doesn’t facilitate the bonding that’s needed to stand out among all the buying options in today’s marketplace. “Rapport comes from getting to know someone on a more intimate level than ‘Who likes chicken?’ or ‘I am the Lord of cats,’ and all the other inane comments that make up the lion’s share of communication on Twitter,” Garber argues.

    MLV: Not sure I agree with this one, either. I’ve made several networking connections, made one-on-one connections with our customers via Twitter and have found that “rapport” has more to do with “intent.” I’ve heard this criticism before, usually spoken by someone who doesn’t use the tool and has just heard about it anecdotally.

# Trust – Effective marketing happens when rapport develops into relationships. “With skepticism at an all-time high, it’s critical to focus on credibility and believability,” says Garber. “This requires sharing meaningful information and having dialogue over time. The trivialities shared on Twitter do not build into anything else.”

    MLV: Twitter has been used to promote acts of giving like Tweetsgiving, contests from companies that have included Starbucks, ThinkGeek and HARO guru Peter Shankman, deal-of-the-day announcements from places like Amazon.com and in my case, exclusive coupons.

    I absolutely agree that trust is important for branding, but in my opinion trust is a luxury that many companies may not have right now because of the economy. Why is it Walmart and Amazon.com had their best retail holiday ever while dozens of other stores are feeling the pinch? (Hint: Perhaps it’s because Amazon.com offers both new and used products and Walmart is “known” for low, low prices?)

Is social media a tool to build trust in a company or a brand? Potentially, but it again depends upon what the tool is used for and when it is being used. Social media can be a very effective, timely tool but — like attracting visitors to your blog or website — it takes time to build a network and it doesn’t happen overnight. In our case, social media is one aspect that we are building for our overall marketing approach online. Creating great content is just as important as reaching out to people for us; social media allows us to share our content and interact with others.

In the end, social media is really all about you. What do you want to get out of it? How do you need to use it? It can be very powerful but — like attracting visitors to your blog or website — it takes time to build and it doesn’t happen overnight.

When it comes to social media, it is hard to get a clear and direct view regarding its future because (as I mentioned earlier) some of these tools are “free.” One of the reasons why MySpace ended up extremely ad-heavy is because MySpace needed to pay for what it was offering. As any developer will tell you, hosting, maintaining, developing, and promoting a social media platform isn’t cheap.

My prediction for 2009 is this: social media tools that are able to monetize their efforts wisely and can keep on top of web development trends without alienating users will be the social media tools that will come out on top.

Agree? Disagree? Love to hear your comments and ideas.




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