The Rise Of Social Media

I was watching the first televised election debate (in itself a testament to the power of the digital age) and happened to be on the BBC website at the same time. I got onto their live coverage and was drawn to a post (at 20:18) saying that the frequency of tweets that related specifically to the debate had now reached an astonishing 22.55 per second. I quickly switched from the BBC to twitter and the ‘chatter’ was incredible – Brown, Cameron and Clegg had nowhere to hide. Whilst in the past slip-ups and gaffes might have been laughed about by people the next day and lampooned in the written media, they are now being recorded for posterity almost as soon as they happened and shared with thousands! What’s more, those tasked with guaging public opinion on the three party leaders now had real-time information at their fingertips.

For the past few years the concept of using social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube et al – as an effective internet marketing tool has been gathering momentum. 2010 has finally seen the arrival of Social Media Optimisation as a “must-have” component of your online-marketing mix, to complement your more established organic and paid listing strategies. It is not only companies with sophisticated web-based propositions that can benefit, or even companies alone for that matter – individuals and the grocer down the road have endless opportunies. I remember when you had to have a school/university email address to use Facebook – now they have 400 million users worldwide!

So what impact does that have on you as a business owner?

Unless you are a global brand, when was the last time you were able to say that you could connect to one million people, let alone 400 million? I read some interesting research the other day that had found “People who are Facebook fans and Twitter followers of a brand are more likely to buy the brand’s product or recommend it to a friend.” Before social media, to stay above your competitors it was about price, added extras or personal service. Now there is a new element in the mix – how you engage people through social networks.

Social Media Optimisation, as with a lot of other aspects of the internet, is not an exact science. However, it is free to try, to adjust and experiment with – to succeed. The expense is time, and this is something you have to be prepared to put in to really see gains. However, how many other marketing forms give you the ability to communicate directly to your target audience and give you the choice of hundreds of millions to connect with? None?

So what are you waiting for? Get your own Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and blog (among many, many others), find a way of engaging those you want to and type away. Take your brand into your market-place, don’t wait for them to come to you. Whilst a year ago sceptics would say that Social Media Optimisation was a passing phase, you will struggle to find anyone these days who does not believe it is here to stay. “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”