Social Media 101

by francine Hardaway on February 11, 2007

I’ve written about social media so often that I’m sure some of you are sick of reading about it. And yet, I went to a dinner party last night where a very intelligent man (who has a teenage son that spends all day on the computer) asked me what a blog was. I often forget what a fortunate person I am to have gotten interested in technology and its advances. I may not know much, but I know enough to be useful to my friends and dangerous to the social media community.

So here it is, Social Media 101.

Whatever you do for a living, you need to know about this. It will influence the marketing, the customer service, and the human capital aspects of your business, and it probably also already influences your personal life — although you don’t know it. For a more thorough understanding of the business case for social media, come to the “Revolution in Marketing” conference on March 1st and listen to a couple of hours of expert testimony on how social media is used in business (yes, you Arizona real estate types, even your business).

The defining characteristic of social media is that it is user-driven. This means YOU can create it, share it, and interact with it. A few notable examples:

1) Photosharing. This is probably the most common use of social media. You go on a trip, and you post your photos on Flickr, or Shutterfly. You send an email to your friend, telling him he can go see your pictures on that site. He joins in order to see your photos, and then he posts his own (or not). It goes on from there. More can happen. You can “tag” your photos when you post them; let’s say you went to India, and you tag all your photos Taj Mahal. Someone else can then go to Flickr and search for the tag “Taj Mahal” and find your photos, and the photos of everyone else who went to the Taj Mahal. If you are student doing a research project, or a person contemplating a trip, seeing the photos can be very helpful even if you don’t know the photographer.

2) Blogging. Blogging gets all the publicity. There are about 55 million blogs out there, tracked by many blog search engines — the big ones being Technorati and Google Blog Search. Although many of them are journals or diaries, increasingly blogs are being used by businesses to dialogue and interact with customers. A glaring example is the blog at One Angry Customer. There’s a customer-driven blog for almost every major brand, which has driven many corporate executives (led by Microsoft, a brand that was hated until it began to talk to its customers in blogs) to blog in an attempt to get their “messages” out.

3) Wikis. Wikis operate mostly in the background of social media. They are web pages anyone can edit, in the hopes of improving them, and they are used by corporations to form collaborate product design teams, and by the most famous wiki of all, Wikipedia to build an encyclopedia considered more authoritative and more widely used than the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

4) Vlogs and Videosharing. While YouTube is thought to contain mostly amateurish videos of kids dancing, it also contains movie trailers, videos of Sony laptop batteries exploding in meetings (which forced a worldwide recall), product launches, and political candidates.

And then there are mashups, which are combinations of social media. And then there are social networks. And then, and then, and then… along came Jones (you have to be old to remember that). to learn more.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nishad February 18, 2007 at 7:01 am

Thanks Francine for quoting my blog.

Just wondering how you ended up at One Angry Customer. The blog has been suffering for lack of time.

Yes social media is still rocket science to most of the world. More so out here in India. We are struggling to get marketers see the usefulness of such tools. I work for an advertising agency, even though the blog has nothing to do with my work. Some of our clients have been warming up to the medium recently, but implementation is becoming difficult as the typical agency model is not geared up to deliver.

Brian Brookman February 20, 2007 at 2:45 pm

You know how there are some things out there that will produce a result that is greater than the sum of its parts. In teams of people, we call this- synergy. This is the element that is missing from social media- a benefit that is greater than the sum of its parts. It may be there in a light form, but it’s time to go BIG! I’m on my way to figuring it out now.

Francine Hardaway February 20, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Wow! I think social media causes major synergy. I’ve met new people through it, I’ve dialogued with customers, I’ve educated people, and now I’m using it to help with my non-profit foundation. What do you mean by synergy that would leave out what I’m seeing?

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