Effective Use of Social Media

For the uninitiated, social media can seem like an impenetrable cloud of mystery. Everything sounds so easy in principle: get on Twitter, have a Facebook fan page, write a blog. But sometimes you do that and no one seems to be interested, you’re pumping out everything you can think of, telling people what you had for breakfast today, and no one’s following you.

There is much written on the internet about the two main focuses of using social media for business. The guiding principles of effective social media use are establishing you or your brand as an authority within your niche, and building a relationship and trust with your customers/audience/clients. These should certainly be the aims of your social media use.

What can make it hard to effectively do these things, and to jump into using social media effectively is the sheer volume of information out there. If you start looking at the internet wanting to learn how to use Facebook and Twitter to promote your brand, you will be bombarded with information that can be difficult to relate to if you don’t live and breathe web design and the internet. There are underlying principles at work that most people seem to miss as they obsess over which Twitter app is the best for scheduling tweets and which Facebook poll has the highest click-rate.

The use of social media is no big secret. It’s the same as living in the ‘real world’.

It’s Good to Talk

People like to tell other people about great deals, cool things and interesting titbits that they’ve come across. They try out a new pizza place and really enjoy it, later, down the pub, they say “hey, I went to this new pizza place, it was amazing”. The next time their friends want pizza, they think “hey, remember that pizza place that Jack/Jill said was amazing the other day? Let’s go there.” And when they get home and sit in front of the laptop, they might go “hey, check out this amazing web design” (if they’re a geek).

That’s how social media works. It is not advertising. Advertising is advertising. The key to social media is understanding that it is social. It’s about encouraging people to talk about your brand.

The difference between people talking about your brand down the pub and online is that they must be aware of your online presence. This is where traditional advertising comes in. When developing your website, make sure that there are clear ‘find me on Twitter and Facebook’ buttons. Do the same with any mail-outs (either snail or electronic) you do, put it on flyers, whatever you’ve got. Too many companies set up Twitter and Facebook accounts without telling anyone and wondering why no one is following them. Social media works on a feedback loop principle, if 1 person is following you, they will perhaps tell 5 people about it of which 1 may also start following you and so on. If no one knows you’re there, the feedback loop can’t start.

Just to reiterate: it is absolutely essential to incorporate social media into your web design.

Making Friends and Influencing People

Aside from word-of-mouth, the other social aspect of social media is in making friends. Yes, you want people to trust you and your brand so that your product becomes the ‘go-to’ product within your niche (what I like to think of as the ‘Dyson Effect’). But you’d be a fool to ignore the weight people give to the produce of people they like. People support the endeavours of people they broadly support or like.


A great example of this is the use of social media to promote grassroots mobilisation. The classic case being Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Obama used social media to allow people ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak by regularly updating Twitter and Facebook, by posting regular blogs and videos. He made people feel like they were part of something.

Jamie Oliver has learnt a considerable lesson from this. The main thrust of his social media presence is his Food Revolution campaign. Although an admirable campaign in itself, it also provides a focus for people to gather around, and by supporting Jamie Oliver in this campaign, they are then more likely to support him in his television and publishing endeavours. In short: they will watch his program and buy his books because they support him as a person. And yes, this is incorporated in his web design.

It can work on a much smaller scale though. Compare the last time you went to see your friend’s band with the last time you went to a live music night with a line-up you’d never heard of, even though you actually don’t like your friend’s music. That’s where the value in engaging with your followers on Facebook/Twitter comes from.

It may be a tautology, but the main point to be learnt from this is that social media is social. That is often forgotten. As a corollary, it must be remembered that people need to know you’re there. If you’re at a party and hide in the corner, no one’s going to talk to you. That’s why it’s important to incorporate social media into your web design so that existing customers or supporters will be able to find you.

One Comment on "Effective Use of Social Media"

  1. Daniel Pintilie says:

    Superb article! I totally agree with you…get in touch with you!

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