There’s a lot being said about “social media”. There’s experts, gurus, PR people, marketing people, digital gossip people. It’s like a whole new phenomena has appeared from nowhere…

Social media is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around forever. Online it’s existed since before the world wide web. Bulletin boards, newsgroups, mailing lists (amongst others) all preceded the WWW. Even the humble email CC has been, and still is, a great way to be sociable and most people have been emailing for years.

Offline, my gran has been doing social media for as long as I can remember. She’d have a cup of tea with a few friends, share news, ideas (and of course gossip), and then one of those friends has a cup of tea with another group and ideas start to spread. There will always be members of the group with more relevance (to a specific topic), more respect and  greater influence. Just like there is online now.

So why is it so important online?

It’s fundamentally quite simple; Information is everywhere – and it’s all in real-time.

People and business’s are moving their conversations, products, media, stories and essentially their day to day lives into the digital domain with an open attitude to privacy. Most of this data is now accessible to anybody that has a use for it and these uses are increasing at an interesting rate. It’s like being able to listen in to everybody’s gran all at once and filter out just the bits that are useful to us.

My Facebook’s bigger than your Twitter

Social media isn’t about Facebook, Twitter or the next all singing and dancing social network. It’s about having access to information and doing something useful with it. These social websites are just vehicles for information. This information has been stored in isolation until recently and has now become easy to access, harvest and do useful “stuff” with.

Some useful “stuff” that we use social media data for:

  • Online audits
  • Customer service
  • Topic generation
  • Human resources
  • Crisis management
  • Buzz & brand tracking
  • SEO
  • Campaign tracking
  • Influencer discovery

We can determine the buzz surrounding a product at any given time or find frustrated customers and help them before they complain.

We can find a trending topic and create content around it so that we appear to be ahead of the game and search engines love us for it.

Analysing our competitors and what they are doing through their customer’s reactions, enables us to recognise our own strengths and weaknesses and make coherent decisions.

We can create evangelists for our business, product or brand; by identifying the most likely candidates (the influencers) and getting them involved.

There are so many ways that we can utilise the availability of this data for our businesses that it seems a shame to just pigeon hole it as “social media”. People have been communicating, gossiping, promoting themselves (and things); forever.

Claude Hopkins got this ball rolling over 100 years ago with his book “Scientific Advertising” (and inventing the coupon!). Let’s see what we can achieve with the  great new tools that let us get meaningful information in real time with very little effort.

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