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Social Media - Is it real?

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT

Don't believe the hype. If you fall into the mistake that simply "owning" technology makes you marketable, you're bound for disappointment.

While I have come to believe that social media is the greatest evolution in web technology and web culture since the addition of pictures and video, it is just a tool. Nothing more. If you are willing to work and use the tool, you can create some great results.

Flea Market

Unless you let it devolve into a flea market.

What do I mean? Well, a flea market or swap meet is a giant collection of stuff thrown into one location with everyone screaming for attention. There's no real organization and a whole lot of junk. All this clutter makes it a pleasant distraction, but for finding something of value, you'd have better luck sweeping an empty field with a metal detector.

For 99% of people, YouTube is a flea market. If you find yourself distracted by things like Mafia Wars and Farmville on Facebook, you're not really that concerned about your social media productivity.

On the COW, we like to say "More Signal... Less Noise," and that rings true for business in general. Proper use of social media allows you to effectively communicate with personality and expertise - but it is still a tool. Adding social media to your existing network of clients and peers can strengthen and expand it, but you can't create a network from nothing. Just as having a phone won't make the clients call you, the same goes for social media.


WHY DOES SOCIAL MEDIA MATTER?

Besides the joy of catching up with your buddies from school and seeing family photos, social media really does matter to business. Whether you're self-employed, a producer, or a business owner -- you need to keep a network. People work with, and hire, professionals that they know, respect, and often, simply LIKE. Business is all about personal relationships, and so is social media. Social media interacts with all facets of business. In my own business, I regularly use social media in several ways, including:


BRANDING: The world is a pretty cluttered place. If you want to stay busy, you need to stand out from the crowd. Among the things I do to achieve that is to actively produce content, much of it at CreativeCow.net, that educates the greater community...which also raises awareness of my firm, and the kind of knowledge and experience I can bring to a project.


Too Much Mail
Standing out in the crowd.


By tying my social media efforts to my brand, we register as relevant in a crowded market. You'll get nearly 50,000 returns on a Google search for RHED Pixel.


STAFFING: Whether we're hiring for a full-time position or a contract, I advertise first to my social networks. These referrals are always better than the responses we see from Craigslist. If we are looking for crews in local markets I use my contacts on LinkedIn and Creative Cow to find the best team.


RETENTION: I keep in touch with my best clients so that they remember to reach out to us. For our last open house event, more than 50% of the RSVPs came from social media. In fact we created a Facebook event to help remind folks and raise awareness. Based on friends' recommendations, several new folks came to the event.

We've already gotten new work and have several meetings set up for future projects.


KEEP UP TO DATE: Being cutting edge means that you need to be able to spot trends and important technology before it hits the mass market. I can thank social media for helping me pick up on technologies like DSLR video, iPhone apps, and numerous plug-ins that make my life easier.

It's also a way to listen to what your customers are saying, both good and bad. Once you hear, you need to listen...and act. With a little practice, you can quickly detect trends and opportunities.


REFERRAL BUSINESS: I have found that just having a website or running ads doesn't work well for our type of business. There's a lot of competition, and there's always somebody ready to work for less. Through social media though, my contacts and clients hear about our activities, accomplishments, and recent projects. They in turn often repeat these to their networks. This does lead to new work, as referrals are where two-thirds of our new work comes from.

From there, social media can facilitate real conversations with prospective customers. By keeping a close eye on new connections or followers, you can spot leads. Looking closely at who's asking for help or leaving a comment, you might want to follow up. Encourage others to share or re-tweet your content, then look to see who's interested.



Comments

Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Chris Blair
While I agree with most of the article, it should be pointed out just how much of a time commitment there is to:

1. Learning how social media works & figuring it out technically.

2. Maintaining multiple accounts across Facebook, Twitter, linkedn etc.

That time commitment can be huge, especially doing all the things you mention in your article. Plus, if you're not technologically saavy, figuring out HOW to do all those things can be frustrating and a huge time-drain....and learning the tools that allow you to post to multiple accounts also takes time on the part of someone in an organization.

We work with clients helping them with Facebook and other social media marketing, and they simply do not understand that social media won't work for a business if the business doesn't make a commitment to it in the form of time and money. You mention producing stuff specifically for social media...that takes time and/or money. Many companies and individuals just don't understand this and when they don't see immediate returns (which is likely), they conclude it doesn't work.

In our experience, social media works just like real social connections work....it develops and grows over time. The better the content and more helpful and relevant to friends or followers, the better it works.

Rarely does a social media campaign have a huge immediate impact (unless you're Ford Motor Company and have $5 million to throw at it.)

But overall a great article...I just think most people don't realize how much time it takes to set-it up and do it and maintain it. If you're already blogging and contributing on a site like Creative Cow, it can be very difficult to add social media commitments to your calendar as well.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog
Re: Article: Social Media - Is it real?
by Alan Smith
With all the social media options available, it is important to identify the ones that are most valuable for your particular purpose.

Facebook tends to be a place to network with people you know. For a business it is a place to engage potential new customers or clients. I tend to view facebook as a place to doe B2C relationship building.

LinkedIn is a place to network with people in the business world. This is a great social network if you are looking to build B2B relationships. If you connect with your friends and colleagues, you are usually no more than two degrees away from most anyone you would like to connect with. This is a great place to garner new business contacts.

Twitter is a place to connect with people of similar interest who may or may not know you. I tend to view twitter as a place to share ideas, link to great content, and/or build awareness. It is limited because of the 140 character limitations, but it is a great place to do B2C and B2B networking.

Creative Cow is a social media network that we have all embraced because it allow us to leverage our expertise on a given topic. By engaging in a community where potential customers or clients are searching for answers or help, ones business builds equity as an expert in a given topic or area. Essential for quality B2C relationship building.

YouTube is a great social network to build niche authority. By building a library of quality videos, tutorials, how to's, etc on your own channel, a business can help establish themselves as an expert for future customers. YouTube is a good B2C network.

There are other social networks that can be advantageous to ones business. I have found that the important thing to remember is that they are simply a tool and they need to be deployed strategically. Just like all the other tools we use in our business, social media can help us grow significantly or cause us to wast valuable time. We have to implement strategically and have goals/metrics in place to know whether to keep going or turn it off.

Alan Smith
Media317
http://media317.net
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Jimmy James
You wrote in, Creative COW Magazine:Divergence Issue:Social Media-Is it real?, ..."With a little practice, you can quickly detect trends and opportunities...".

When does this use become infringement?

Thanks,
Jimmy
@Jimmy James
by Richard Harrington
Not following you Jimmy.

Ideas are not subject to copyright

Richard M. Harrington, PMP

Author: From Still to Motion, Video Made on a Mac, Photoshop for Video, Understanding Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Studio On the Spot and Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Stewardondi Clinton
great read Mr. Harrington, I feel social media helps...in addition to a website it allows your business to have an updated voice vs a static one on a website... but then again it all takes discipline...
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Larry S. Evans II
Thanks for the article. It really cuts through the hype for a lot of folks, and offers very valuable insights that some of us learned through trial, error, and the time that wastes. I'd like to share my perspective and tips as well, and hope it helps those getting started out.

I waited a few weeks after first hearing about myspace and facebook before I created pages, and took even longer to open up a twitter account.

My initial reasoning was not so much skepticism, since my "social media" chops go back to the Compuserve days. The fact is that I was already an active member of several dedicated forums and communities in my "target market". The additional time and energy to set up a presence in a "generic" forum, and make it "sticky" just because "everyone is doing it" doesn't seem justified at first glance.

Of course, the fact is that "everyone is doing it", and that means your competitors probably are. So you probably need to, at least to the extent necessary to overcome invisibility.

To further sharpen the point, facebook, twitter, and similar "social media" sites are relevant because they've found a way to monetize the eyes on the page. As they become successful companies their brand recognition will make them more relevant. Then people will engage with them because of that familiarity alone.

This is essentially the reason that years ago many of us paid to be listed in the "yellow" business sections of the telephone books. It was where people went to find businesses. Now people go to search engines, portals, and increasingly social media.

One must also consider the Search Engine Optimization value of social media. Part of Google's secret formula for ranking your website involves the number and quality of crosslinks between that site and others. Social media sites increase the chances that your website will get links propogated (from friend to friend, etc.)from multiple locations, increasing your placement. Other portals employ similar metrics, so selective involvement with social sites can be of value for this reason alone.

Selective is a significant point, and you should evaluate it like you would any other marketing buy or promotional plan.

I have facebook, myspace and twitter accounts. I have a personal page on facebook and twitter, and separate "fan" pages for the business, and even for individual business projects. I consolidate management using a tool called Hootsuite (currently a free service).

To me, this is analogous to the idea of buying commercial time on the "big three" TV networks. The majority of folks are on these, so I'm going to get the biggest bang for my buck concentrating on them.

I don't consider Youtube to be a social media site in the same sense (though it's clearly adopting the paradigm). I post my short videos to it, because it's ubiquitous, but since I started hosting them on my own site, it's less relevant to my overall marketing strategy.

These are for "public promotion". For business connections I have a Linked-in account, and I've recently started working with Meetup.

As for the rest (and in my research I discovered that there are far more than get any mention in the general pop culture) I have not found that their target market or methodology is worth the time needed to maintain a presence -at least not right now.

Watch, wait, and never say never.

I initially had put foursquare far down my list, because I couldn't imagine how sending restaurant reviews around town could benefit my marketing strategy.

However, as an independent film maker, using foursquare to provide positive promotion for businesses that assist with production might be an added benefit one could use in negotiating for free pizza for the crew.

We're starting a test with that this weekend. I will let you know how it turns out.

Larry S. Evans II
Executive Producer
Digital I Productions
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Nicole Brors
I am a web designer and video editor and I attribute almost all of my business to word of mouth and referrals. That being said, having a tool like Facebook that allows me to keep in constant contact with my network is crucial.

I've gotten huge clients by merely reaching out to friends of friends on Facebook. If you use your personal page to sell, you will be looked at as spam and fail. Your personal page is meant to expand your sphere by being engaging and creating relationships.

So that's where a business page steps in. I think using your business page to be engaging and provide valuable resources, content and knowledge about your area of expertise will attract people to your business who actually care what you do and those are the people who will eventually turn into leads for business. You hit the nail on the head when you said that it's not about the number of contacts, it's about the type of contacts.

Great article, you really get the idea. Merely having a presence or screaming your message to the masses is just not going to work, and sooner or later, all those people out there doing it incorrectly, will fail and those of us left using it correctly will be the ones who come out on top.

I spent a lot of time working on a social media training program and you seem like you really get it. Thanks for sharing your message here and helping people see through the hype.
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Jason Coleman
I've been using social media for a good while now and also recomend my clients take advantage of the extra exposure it brings. However, I have NOT seen a direct correlation to new sales or more sales just from being involved in social media.

It has been a tool for receiving reviews and making it easier for my clients' clients to give feedback and stay in touch.

I'd love to hear ways in which I can help my clients actually make money using social media rather than wasting time constantly updating with no results.

Jason Coleman
Owner/President
Extreme Measures Creative
http://www.extrememeasurescreative.com
+1
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Josh Sauder
Thanks for the article, Richard. It encourages me to give the social network side of marketing a more serious look than I have been. You referred to applications that manage different social networks. What are a few of these applications?

Thanks again.

Josh Sauder
Pinnacle Productions
http://www.pinnacleproductions.us
@Josh Sauder
by Richard Harrington
Apps.. here are a few

Seismic Desktop is one I use
Tweetie is another


As far as services to manage posting.. I like SocialOoomph

Richard M. Harrington, PMP

Author: From Still to Motion, Video Made on a Mac, Photoshop for Video, Understanding Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Studio On the Spot and Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Tom Vejvalka
Very well said.

I run a manufacturing shop that is definitely not cutting edge. ( http://www.canadacoaster.com ) But we leverage technology on the front end to attract new business.
I've been trying to find a way to really use social media to attract business but have been skeptical. There is a lot of hype and as you said, the bubble will burst. Then the 'tool' of social media will be used more efficiently rather than sharing lunch menus.
I haven't been able to frame the issue in my mind and your article did it perfectly. I think I can now build my framework for a social media strategy. Thanks for the clarity.

Tom
http://www.canadacoaster.com
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Bernd Schäffer
This is a very interesting article. For one of my last website jobs I had to implement a facebook button with a link to their facebook page. I'm very sceptical about social networks and their gimmiky style. After all, every new smartphone out there get advertised with Twitter and Facebook functionality.

So I was wondering if including social media for regular businisses seam to be more gimmiky and leave an unserious image of the company?

The way you explained the usefull sides of social media, makes me way more open to this technology.

Thank you very much! I will probably hand this article to firms who think about using social media presence.

Digital Film and Animation student @ SAE Vienna
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Richard Harrington
All valid points...

People are able to communicate in new ways.. this leads to new options.

Richard M. Harrington, PMP

Author: From Still to Motion, Video Made on a Mac, Photoshop for Video, Understanding Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Studio On the Spot and Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Bill Mills
Well written Richard. Good advice.

Bill Mills http://www.FLHD.tv
Re: Social Media - Is it real?
by Albert Stoter
Good article,

But can this social media has is influence on the things we make, for instance with Twitter much easier to connect it with photo's and video, a faster form of news and probably create a new format of "the moving communication" standing beside the old visual media, taking bit by bit more place from the old one? With good and bad things. Now everyone can deliver photo's and video all over the world, even if they have no idea about the skills you need to make a good product. Maybe less work for us or maybe an increase of bad content where we can show or professionalism? Tread or changes? Just an idea. At last, i think social media is not only networking but could be a way for a more open and social (not for nothing social media)society, a new or extra kind of contact between people. After the first phone revolution, the second with the mobile, now the third? Just like i say, some ideas.


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