Social media and social networking are hot buzzwords in the world of online marketing, but what do they mean in practical terms? Is social media marketing just a passing fad, or could it be a worthwhile strategy for your organization?
In a survey done by Collactive of
close to 200 organizations, those with a successful social media
strategy performed 27% better in achieving their business goals than
those with poor social media strategy.
Most nonprofits are barely scratching the surface when it comes to
social media marketing. Most organizations haven't even taken a step
towards the social media waters and those that have don't seem to
manage to attract audience to their messages.
In upcoming posts, we'll talk more about taking those first steps, building a social media strategy, and finding your audience; but for now let's tackle the fundamental question:
What is this thing called "social media" and why should your organization get into it?
In a nutshell, social networking can be defined as any activity by which people connect with each other online, to
collaborate, create or share information, to participate in
conversations, and to build communities of common interest. Social media
refers to the growing range of technological tools that make social networking possible -- blogs, forums, RSS, wikis, podcasting, video, photo-sharing
sites, and the list goes endlessly on.
It's fair to say that social media is at the very heart of Web 2.0 -- the democratization of the Internet -- from which there can be no turning back now.
Businesses and nonprofits alike are inventing new and purposeful uses for Web 2.0 tools that were at first seen as no more than a chattering toy, a distraction from the serious work of the day. (The chat-style micro-blogging site, Twitter, is a recent example.) Meanwhile, marketing gurus have been telling us that social networking offers a rare and cost-effective opportunity for word-of-mouth advertising, the most trusted channel there is by which to spread your message.
In fact, a Coremetrics survey last year reported that senior marketing professionals put a very high value on Web 2.0 and social media marketing tools as an important part of a complete online marketing program, but very few were given the budget allocations to support those activities:
78% of respondents see social media marketing as a way to gain competitive edge, but only 7.75% of total online marketing spend is devoted to it.
This compares with an average of 33% of spend going to online advertising and 28% to online promotion design and implementation
These days, stakeholders and shareholders alike are more deeply interested than ever before in knowing where their money goes -- in accountability, wise stewardship of limited resources, and seeing a high return on investment. It is tough to "sell" the budget-makers on a marketing strategy where the return on investment (ROI) is difficult to measure, and a look at the Social Network ROI Calculator gives a clear idea of how complex it can be to measure the ROI for social media activities!
But there is one thing we do know about social networking: For trust-building, information-gathering, or sheer power of persuasion, no conventional top-down advertising campaign can compare to a firsthand dialogue with the people you're trying to reach.
"Printing 1000 leaflets doesn't mean 1000 leaflets get read," consultant Tim Davies points out, and a leaflet can't report back to you. With the help of basic site analytics and a comments section, a blog post can.
And a blog post might only be reporting 150 readers, and 2 comments.
But then, did two people write in to respond to the leaflet?