Social media introduction

Friday morning @socialmelb gathering

A belated update with the final post from the StartupSmart email short course. The content serves as a brief introduction to the social space for entrepreneurs who may or may not be familiar with the online world. So, it’s not really intended for the guru expert child prodigies. And although written only a few months ago, it’s remarkable to see how some of the content, especially when referring to tech platforms, dates.

Social media

If there’s one area of the web that gets more attention than the latest celebrity socialite, it’s social media. Now blossoming from an awkward teen into a fully-fledged adult, social media is an increasingly powerful tool for start-up businesses.

The media ecosystem has evolved to include elements of real-time updates, co-created content and interactive dialogue.

According to Hitwise, Australia has one of the highest uptakes of social media in the world on a per capita basis. You’ve probably also heard the references to social media being about transparency and authenticity, but what about more tangible tools that can boost your website’s presence?

Social networking

If you’re considering dipping your toe into the waters of social media, Facebook is the network of choice. Setting up a page is useful for sharing information and connecting with your audience, no matter how niche.

It’s also great for search optimisation and driving website conversions. If you’re B2B or wanting to create industry-level conversation, LinkedIn works wonders. When operating in the global market, don’t forget to research what countries use what – Orkut, for example, is huge in Brazil and practically unheard of here.

Micro-sharing

The world is divided into two – those who get Twitter and those who wonder what’s the point. You might find it’s the third driver of traffic to your website or that you only get a handful of organic followers a month. Nevertheless, experiment. Yammer is popular within larger organisations as an international communication tool. If you have remote staff, take a look.

Blogging

Along with your website, blogs often act as the home of your social media strategy. With many platforms to choose from such as Blogger, WordPress, Posterous and Tumblr, getting something up and running can be relatively easy. It also gives a human, engaging face to your online activities.

Location-based services

One of the emerging areas of social media has been in geolocation. These services tag or track a user’s physical location via their mobile device. Foursquare and Facebook Places are some of the better known ones, with Gowalla and Google Latitude not too far behind. [Now with.me too]

Photography and video

There’s been an explosion in photo mobile applications of late and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Instagram, Path and the heavily-investor-backed Color all make use of a device’s camera and geolocator.

Brands are now starting to explore ways to engage with users in this format. The mainstay Flickr is also widely used as one of the “big four” (along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) to cast a visual to consumers. Don’t neglect video. YouTube and Vimeo are incredibly important social elements and livestreaming sites like Justin.tv, Ustream and Livestream are changing the way we communicate.

Events

Social media doesn’t just involve online engagement. The real connection and exchange comes through offline action. If you can inspire people to meet up face-to-face and attend self-organised events, you’ve built a serious community. Try Meetup, Eventbrite, Facebook Events, Amiando, Eventarc or Plancast to spread the word.

Virtual worlds and forums

A few years ago, when people thought of social networking they pictured games like Second Life or World of Warcraft as well as online forums. Both still have a massive role in the social media landscape. Check out PBWorks and Google Groups for discussion tool and make sure you keep an eye on what’s said about you on Wikipedia.

Measurement

Tools that evaluate the ROI of social media activities are constantly entering the market. For lean-yet-substantial awareness of how you’re tracking, use things like Google Analytics, conversation reply rates, platform keyword searches, subscriber numbers, Google Alerts, Facebook Insights, URL shorteners with counters, influencer scorers like Klout and so forth. If you’re looking to invest more into your monitoring, review what the plethora of paid services have on offer. Radian6, BuzzNumbers and BuzzMetrics are popular among web-savvy businesses.