I believe that social media is a necessary part of any business but is not the magic silver bullet.
Let me explain.
I believe that social media is a very power tool but it cannot stand on its own. You must have a plan (albeit one that is flexible enough to change at a moment’s notice) and it must be part of the overall marketing plan for your business.
Social media is not a standalone but, even though it is not a “silver bullet,” it can make a huge different for your business.
Your customers (current and prospective) are online, learning and talking about you and your competition. You should be part of the conversation, ensuring they’re learning from you (and your biggest fans), engaging them to provide feedback, apologizing for bad service and mistakes and fixing them, and showing that you care. You have no control of your brand if you’re not where they are.
My introduction to social media came in 1997, via AOL 3.0 on a 28.8k modem connection built into my Gateway PC that had 1.98GB of storage. I have 16 times more memory on my iPhone now than I had 16 years ago.
The Seventeen Magazine’s chat room was my favorite. I talked to girls my age about brands and products that we loved. It was public and I hope Seventeen Magazine was taking notes. They would have been stupid not to.
Then came the personal websites.
I built my very first website in 1997 when there were less than a thousand personal websites in existence. That number grew into the millions the following year.
At first, I used the templates provided by Angefire and quickly learned basic HTML to build websites for friends and family. I figured out ways to increase traffic to the sites by listing them in directories and placing counters on each page to track the number of hits and the ROI on the time investment put into building these sites. Google and its spiders did not exist at the time.
I built several websites, including a fan fiction site where I published several novellas and short stories. This is when I discovered my love for writing and learned the power of online communities.
In 2001, I started my first blog on LiveJournal. It was an online journal and I treated it as such. It was personal and it evolved as I grew up, along with the community that LiveJournal built with its’ writers.
I went from writing for myself to writing for an audience. Reaching and growing my audience was important and so was engaging and learning from them.
Blogging also opened up many doors to learn new skills (i.e. photoshop) and lead to the discovery of new talents (i.e. making custom music mixes for friends and events – thanks, Napster!).
My love for design and knowledge of HTML came in handy when MySpace entered the scene. It was the coolest thing since sliced bread.
And then, in February of 2005, the mothership landed at UNC Charlotte. The mothership went by the name of The Facebook. I loved everything about The Facebook because it was clean, straight forward, and easy to use. The best part about it was the exclusivity and the explosive adoption by my peers.
Facebook took what MySpace was doing and made it better. It changed the way we (the millennials) communicated and kept in touch. And then it spread to all people around the world and here we are now, one billion strong and counting.
The rest is a beautiful blur of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Foursquare, Wordpress, Yelp, Foodspotting, Google+, LinkedIn, Flikr, and the list goes on.
It’s safe to say that I have 16 years of social media experience in multitudes of disciplines and platforms. I was part of the first wave as an early adopter and the many social media revolutions since.
I am connected every moment of my day, from the time the alarm clock goes off to when my eyelids are so heavy at night that it hurts. Rinse and repeat, everyday. I am constantly learning by watching and doing. I read blogs and e-books. I connect with thought leaders in the industry to keep up to date. I teach people about different aspects of social media for both personal and business applications. It makes me giddy when I know that I helped a non-profit reach their goals or a business educate a lead and convert them into a customer and a raving fan.
There’s not a moment that passes by when I look at a business and wonder how social media, as a tool, can increase their sales. It also amazes me how some business have no plan and give up on the tool so easily without giving it the thought and commitment that it requires.
Planning, patience, execution and commitment.
Oh, and a healthy dose of passion goes a long way too.