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The Social Media Impact

by Rebecca Friedman

Local experts explain the newest additions to the world of social media and why it’s not something you can ignore—unless you want to be left behind.

With 2013 well underway, it’s time that every good business looks into ways to creatively expand their company. Social media has been a key player in helping businesses grow these past few years and market their brands just a little bit further, and it looks like 2013 will be no exception.

The new faces in social media

“There are about 50 million new platforms coming out every day,” says Lynette Davis, the president and chief content producer of A&D Media, a social media and digital marketing firm based in South Jersey.

With so many new platforms coming out all the time, it can be hard for businesses to know what social media avenues to focus on. However, experts in the field recommend businesses look into these new digital tools:

The platform Gust is a great tool where entrepreneurs and investors can meet. According to its website, this tool “enables skilled entrepreneurs to collaborate with the smartest investors by virtually supporting all aspects of the investment relationship, from initial pitch to successful exit.” Stephen Kozachyn, director of outreach at the South Jersey Technology Park, Rohrer College of Business, Rowan University, describes it as a “supermarket for investors.” Gust is a valuable tool for those looking to start their own business; it’s where to find people who can help make that happen.

Vine is a mini-video phone app that is feeding the frenzy of miniblogging and on-the-go updates. The app is similar to Twitter, which is only appropriate considering the social media megahouse bought Vine from its three investors this past October. Like Twitter, which only allows posts within 140 characters, Vine has a limit too: six seconds, designed to inspire creativity. “The Vine allows you to take video of the environment around you,” says Davis. While currently only available for the iPhone, it’s a good addition to whatever social media tools businesses are already using, adding to the microblogging experience that more and more customers are responding to these days. Since re-launching in January, many national businesses have jumped on board, like MSNBC, proving not only that you can catch a consumer’s attention in six seconds, but also it can make a lasting impact.

Although this platform—similar to an electronic inspiration board—has been around for about two years, businesses are “finally getting to the point where they see something from it,” says Chris Lukach, the senior vice president of Anne Klein Communications Group, located in Mount Laurel. Pinterest acts as a visual tool, cutting out text and creating an easy way to find information for businesses, which can post videos and photos of their products to their account for public viewing, with each selection containing a hyperlink to a new site. From there, users click and “re-pin” photos that appeal to them, creating an easy networking experience drawing interest and inspiration.

This platform is currently one of the easiest ways for businesses to share their photos with the world. It’s a “visual expression of your business,” says Howard Yermish, the chief experience officer at Kokua Technologies, located in Marlton. Users snap a photo, then crop it to a square, add a desired filter, and place a small caption with desired user tags and hashtags to draw other users to “like” their particular image. Yermish explains that Instagram plugs into Twitter and Facebook easily, making it easier for businesses to share photos on multiple platforms with a click of a button. And as Yermish explains, people tend to be drawn more to pictures than to words at first.

Managing social media

Although keeping up with these latest platforms is important, it is also important to remember the basic platforms and for businesses “to know where the majority of their audiences are,” explains Lukach. Facebook is still at the core of Anne Klein Communications Group’s business model because that is where a big part of audiences (for any company) are. Lukach explains that in order to find out which platform the majority of your audience is using, “do a pilot test and find out what generates a response.”

So what can businesses expect for the future of social media? It seems as if “more and more social media is becoming more and more focused,” says Kozachyn. He believes future platforms will revolve around “very, very focused social media networking,” meaning specific disciplines will have their own social networks.

But no matter what the platform, the main aspect remains proper maintenance.

Yermish explains it is about finding the right balance between being invisible and being annoying. For instance, if you “post pictures five times a day, you are telling your audience to ignore you,” but that doesn’t mean you should set your business up on a platform and never update.

“It’s as important as any business strategy,” says Yermish.

He suggests creating a company approach to defining the business’ social media strategy. If you don’t set up a strategy, “it’s like you’re running like a chicken with its head cut off,” says Yermish.

Davis suggests businesses create an editorial calendar because it will help keep them on track with their social media and because they “need to figure out what topics are going to interest their readers.” She explains if businesses don’t have time to update their social media pages, then they shouldn’t be afraid to outsource social media activity. Companies can hire virtual assistants to help update their social media pages. Davis also suggests using a program like HootSuite, a social media management dashboard, which can automatically publish your social media content on a specified schedule.

Management is also the key to investing in an appropriate response time to a comment or a post that a person may have written on a business’ social media platform.

“You need to address negative comments on Facebook ASAP,” says Matthew Hayden, president of Lakeside Professional Consultants, located in Pitman. That means regular supervision, along with having a plan in place for when and how to react.

Also, remember that whether you’re posting new content or responding to a complaint, it’s important to remain “human.” Experts stress businesses need to be sure not to forget that all-important “social” aspect of social media. If customers get the impression you’re a robot, as Davis says, then they aren’t going to engage in a social media conversation.

“It is so important that social networks are seen as a dialogue and not a one-way channel,” says Lukach.

He adds it can be argued there are no set rules for managing your social media; it is mainly about the content you are putting out there. “It can’t just be about what the company’s doing; it has to be about their [the audience’s] interests,” says Lukach. “Keep it personal; keep it relatable; keep it human.” But that doesn’t mean you have to be constantly creating new content. Yermish explains that you can repurpose old content, making it new again and reigniting interest.

Not sure where to start with content? According to Lukach, “You want to generate content that has some call to action.” This content asks something of the user and tends to increase visibility rather than just inform the reader.

At the end of the day, not only should a business be producing content, but they should also be listening to the responding content.

No social media set up yet?

Some businesses may have their head in the sand, but it is time to set up social media accounts whether they like it or not. “I suspect more work is going to be used on social media than phone calls,” says Kozachyn. All the experts are in agreement; social media is a must for every business.

“You can’t turn off the Internet and think it won’t affect you,” says Yermish. “Customers will ignore you.” He likens it to ignoring a billion people who want to give you money. “You’ve got to own who you are. The Internet enforces that.”

If you find yourself unsure of what social media platform to start with, there are some suggestions rooted in the basics. “I would definitely say start with Facebook,” says Davis. “It’s ruler supreme of the social media world.”

Yermish suggests taking a broader approach to “get your real estate right.” This means claiming your company name on different platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp and your domain name. If you don’t claim your name, then some other company might beat you to it.

Another basic interaction not to be overlooked is email. “The place you need to start is a good email database,” says Hayden, using a restaurant as an example. A restaurant could have hundreds of people coming in during a week’s time, and if their email information isn’t collected, they could be losing out on future business. If they set up an email database, they can send out coupons and other emails alerting customers to current deals.

Hayden often draws a connection between social media and mobile marketing. The two should be considered together because more and more businesses are turning to mobile marketing as opposed to print media. “Mobile marketing is such an important aspect for businesses on the move,” he says.

Let social media help your business

Davis loves the fact that social media is the place “where the little guy gets to sing and shine.” It is the place where companies can tell their own story.

Hayden agrees with Davis, saying, “Small businesses and social media are a good match.”

One would be hard pressed to find a business that found utilizing social media tools detrimental to their business, as Yermish says, which he can only take to conclude that it’ll help a business propel forward in whichever direction they want to go.

“Social media is the most relevant and valuable communications tool which we ever have had. This type of engagement has never existed before,” says Lukach, adding social media is an “extremely valuable relationship building tool, no matter what the channel.”

The Technology Businesses Should Avoid

The world may love social media and technology, but sometimes it is just not worth the investment. Here are some that our experts feel should be avoided for the sake of your business.

PeerIndex Sites:
PeerIndex sites, such as Klout, are scoring mechanism sites that tell a company how influential their business is on social media. That being said, according to Yermish, these tools don’t really work. They are easily manipulated, so they are not very accurate. “You can obsess over this thing and not get any more customers.”

Package Deals:
“I am always suspect of package deals that guarantee results,” says Yermish. Guaranteed results are not necessarily a good reason for buying it. A packaged deal typically comes from a search engine optimization company that charges a business a monthly fee to “optimize” the company’s website and guarantees results from big name websites like Google.

The Next Big Thing:
There are new social media platforms coming out every day, but will it work for your company? “Don’t hop on a new cool platform if your audience isn’t there,” warns Davis. “Overall, you want to invest your energy in a platform where your people are.” Sometimes new platforms can be a little too noisy to help businesses boost their social media standing. “The audience isn’t in place yet, and you want to see the return on investment,” says Lukach.

At the end of the day, “If it’s up there and it has an audience, I wouldn’t be so quick to discount it,” says Lukach. Just make sure to do your research before you spend your time on a new platform.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 3 (March, 2013).
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