The A to Z of Social Media

If there is one thing that is becoming increasingly clear to people working in all channels of marketing from SEO through to print advertising and TV, it is that Social Media is becoming more and more important in every aspect of our work.  Whether you look at the impact of social cues on SEO activity, or the instant feedback that a product can get online, getting closer to the audience via social channels is allowing companies to refine their marketing strategies, and providing far better data about customers and their viewpoints than ever before.


The most important part of any social media strategy is the audience.  If you don’t know your audience, you don’t know where to find them.  A lazy campaign will start and end with Facebook, but that’s no good if your audience and message don’t fit there.


Your blog is your voice on the web.  Whether you publish it in the form of video shorts at YouTube, a feed of status updates on Twitter, or as a traditional blog like this one, the ultimate goal is the same – to communicate in your own voice.

Check Ins

Check ins tell me where you are and what you’re doing.  A bit creepy? A stalkers charter? An invitation to burglars?  No a natural extension of the status update that actually just simplifies what people were tweeting anyway, and in the case of Foursquare or Gowalla, turns it into a game.


The grand-daddy of social sharing websites, and still a massive source of traffic.  Digg may have lost a bit of its shine, and seen its influence eroded, but with hard work and great content, it can make a huge difference to any website’s popularity.


Not the royal engagement, but the idea of doing more than just talking at your customers.  Engagement strategies are all about building a relationship and understanding what the audience wants from the relationship with you.


With more than half a billion users, if Facebook was a country, it would be 10 times the size of England, or about 2 USAs.  It’s the number one website in the world, and it’s the centre of people’s online lives.  Here’s a thought, towards the end of 2010, around 25% of all page views originated from within Facebook!


People have given up trying to predict when the next Google killer will come along, because it ain’t going to happen soon.  How is Google social?  personalised search, social signals being used to target specific demographics, and the idea of your social graph being used as a recommendation engine.  By the end of the year, you’ll find that savvy SEO people are talking about connections rather than links.


When you’re limited to the number of characters you can write, you need convention and convenience.  The #hashtag is one of the great inventions of the social age, a simple way of saying more by saying less.


Every person who listens to you or reads what you write is part of your sphere of influence.  The more they trust you, the more they will recommend you to their friends.  Influence can be wasted, but it must be earned.  A million followers are no good if none of them care about you.

Joining In

Social Media success relies on participation.  If you don’t get involved in a conversation, no-one will know what you have to say.


The way people behave on line is fragmenting.  As we become more comfortable with our digital lives, our behaviour is changing irrevocably.  Search behaviour is just one aspect.  People are less confined to specific norms of interaction any more, and are increasingly divergent in how they describe things.  Tribal keyword structures make a big difference to search campaigns, and lead to advertisers becoming more tailored in their approach.


There’s sociable networking, and then there’s good old fashioned networking.  If Facebook is a big party, LinkedIn is the biggest careers fair on earth.  It’s also the biggest opportunity for B2B marketers in most industries as a great source of leads.


Monitoring or listening is everything.  It provides you with insight into how people are talking about you, and gives you the chance to respond.  Tracking hundreds of trigger phrases across blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other channels is complex without technology like Radian6, Ubervu, or one of the other similar products.


Being in the news is important, but what is more important is being in the news for the right reasons, and to the right people.  There is little point in having great coverage about new products or launches in publications that do not share your demographic.  You should be building the promotion of news coverage into your social strategy to help your users find out the things that they might not have known otherwise.

On Line PR

There are two very different types of PR in the on line world.  Press Releases for sharing information, and public relations for controlling perception.  Both are important, and both are related.  Every business needs a strong news strategy to help them communicate with as wide an audience as possible outside their direct sphere of social influence, and every business needs to understand the perception that the wider market of potential customers has of them.  Public relations is all about understanding why people perceive things in a particular way through measuring and monitoring, and then responding to cases as required.


I blogged recently about how I believe that it is worth surrendering some degree of personal privacy online in order to take advantage of a better user experience.  It’s easy to overlook the amount of personal information that we inadvertently share on line, but in many cases, we provide a lot more without knowing during our day to day life – the difference?  When you share something on line, it is generally released in line with a specific privacy policy.  The same is rarely the case off line.


Very much the poster boy of Social in 2011, Quora is a Q&A service that tries to go one step further by using actual experts to provide you with actual answers, rather than self proclaimed experts to provide you with drivel.  It works.


Reputation is hard to earn, and harder to maintain.  If you consistently deliver great service / good advice / a fantastic product, you will earn respect, if you fail at anything, people will let you know, and let you know hard!

Status Updates

Clever comments, jokes, profound declarations of love, the status update takes many forms, but is ultimately a snapshot of where you are and what you are thinking.


Is 140 characters enough to tell people what is going on in your life, or share something that you’ve found? For more than 190 million users it is

A few years ago, the most that you could tell about your on line customers was whether they had come to your website or not.  Now, sophisticated analytics allow you to build a comprehensive picture of the demographics of your customer base, and create unique marketing campaigns that are tailored to each of them.


The badge of social success.  The easiest way to know if you’re doing it right.


Regardless of inaccuracies or inconsistencies over notability or tone, Wikipedia has become the de facto source of all knowledge.  Written, edited, and then edited again by volunteers, Wikipedia has more than two million articles in its English version alone.

X – Rated

These are the things that you didn’t want to share: reviews of the restaurant with a picture of the dirty kitchen, or the hotel where the guests in the room next door were cockroaches; how about the pictures of you that were taken on that weekend away.  Brand protection extends to the individual on line, and keeping your reputation safe can be a full time job.


More than 24 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day.  Over the next couple of years, you can be pretty certain that pretty much all of the TV content that you consume will be delivered on demand via a service like YouTube – the only thing that is holding it back is agreement over rights and royalties.

Who would have thought 5 years ago that one of the most successful gaming companies in the world would be ignoring the horsepower of consoles to produce compelling social games like Farmville?

Don’t agree?  This is why I don’t expect you to…

Compiling an A to Z of social media is not simple because there are so many different ways the term can be interpreted.  If I compiled this list tomorrow, a lot of the items would change.  If you compiled this list, it would probably be 90% different to mine – your viewpoint would be different.  The only item in the list that should be the same for everyone is A.  Audience.  The person who should always be put first.

And this is the crux of the matter.  There is no one size fits all approach to Social Media Marketing, just as there is no one size fits all approach to display advertising, SEO, billboards, or news papers.  The challenge for marketers is to recognise where their audience is, and how best to use the different channels available to them in order to communicate a message most effectively.

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