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What is Social Media? 10 Definitions

When your main method of marketing communication involves interacting with other people, you can call it social. But is that social media? The answer is yes, and no. The term social media is refers to a very specific type of social marketing. It doesn’t necessarily have to take place on a social networking site, such as Facebook or Twitter, but it does have to engage people to interact with your brand through technology (e.g. phone, laptop, billboard). Let’s explore 10 definitions that will help identify when media is social and answer the question, “What is social media?”

1. Interactive

Customers must be able to interact with a brand. They need a place to voice their opinions, questions and concerns. Their voices must be heard, and they must be acknowledged. This may seem obvious, but it’s a point that many brands miss. If you create a Facebook page and do nothing more than schedule updates, is that social? Hardly. On the other hand, if you’re using your Facebook page as a place to have real conversations with customers, you’re doing it right.

2. Ever Evolving

Much like your business, your social pages should always be in motion. Initial strategy is awesome, but if it doesn’t work, or of you have ideas that you think may work better, it’s time for change. It’s important not to be impulsive about your updates and responses, but don’t be afraid to shake things up every now and again.

3. A Representation of Yourself or Your Brand

Even if you are using social media to network personally, remember that you are creating an impression with every update. Like it or not, this is your online reputation. That’s why it’s a good idea to strategize up front. It’s not necessary to obsess over every word, but you’ll want to think about the types of posts that you’ll create – and more importantly – the ones you won’t. For example, you may want to avoid hot-button issues unless your brand is meant to spark controversy. Or if you have a very edgy brand, you may want to avoid being overly sensitive to every point of view.

4. Fun!

You didn’t expect this one, did you? Yes, marketing can be fun. And if you’re doing social media right, it will be. Here’s the bottom line. If you want to entice customers to interact with your brand, you have to give them a reason. Do you ever go to a party and set out to talk with the most boring, stodgy person there? Of course not. Your customers feel the same way about their time.

5. Personal

When you have a storefront, your associates are there to assist customers and represent your brand. Online, you don’t have exactly the same luxury. Fortunately, social media has stepped in to fill that void. Through social media, you or your associates can interact with customers on a personal level. This doesn’t necessarily mean swapping family recipes, but at the very least, your customers should know that there are real live people on the other end of the computer. Not robots. No robots allowed on social media.

6. Helpful

As with every medium, social media should add some value to the end user. Remember that value doesn’t have to be a tangible thing. A good belly laugh has a lot of value for someone who is having a rough day. Learning something new is also a valuable thing. If your customers aren’t getting anything out of it, they’ll quickly leave. And since talking to an empty room isn’t exactly social, you’ll want to try and be helpful.

7. Community-Oriented

Not only do you want customers to interact with you, but you also want to create an environment where they can interact with each other. This is part of the fun, and it shows current and prospective customers that you encourage an open exchange (i.e. you have nothing to hide). A well-formed community can foster good will for your company and products. It can also create a feeling of exclusivity, like every customer is part of something bigger.

8. A Sounding Board

Not every customer is going to want to sing your praises. Unfortunately, it’s true that you can’t please everyone all of the time. If you’re around long enough, you are bound to see some negativity on your social media pages. It may be a customer who is dissatisfied with your product or service, or maybe someone saw an update they don’t like. It’s okay. If it is within your power to rectify the situation, do so. If it isn’t, simply draft a polite response. Don’t ignore it and never be rude – no matter how snarky the customer’s comment was. Remember that other people are reading this, and they will judge your company on its response.

9. A Testing Platform

The great thing about social media is that it’s immediate. You don’t have to wait for anything to be printed, mailed or developed. It’s easy enough to post that anyone can do it, so if you want to run an offer on the fly, you can easily do so.

10. Soft-Selling Paradise

Social media isn’t the place for garish sales messages. Remember the definitions above before you create an offer of any type. This can be a challenge and it requires some creativity, but when you master the art of the “soft sell,” you will truly harness the power of social media for business.

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TopTenSocialMedia.com Editorial Staff.