Social media may seem to many like an over-hyped mess of ceaseless and senseless chatter.
But understanding when and how its immediacy and intimacy can and should be part of an integrated marketing strategy will be key to many future business successes - like it or loathe it.
Natalie Sisson, founder of suitcaseentrepreneur.com, a sometimes Wellingtonian, but mostly global-based Kiwi traded in her corporate job a few years ago, and many adventures later has re-invented herself as a bit of a social media expert. Well, other people pay her for her opinion and knowledge - and in today's world that's as good a guide as anything.
Anyway, Sisson's clear that no matter what your skill, or technology, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are useful promotion tools; used the right way.
"It is all about pull, compared to other types of marketing push," she says. "The trick or art is to draw people back to you. You do that by being or showing a lot of value."
To this end, what is required is not so much selling says Sisson, as becoming an authority. Particularly from a business blog point of view, or discussing technology trends, "become the go to blog or website," she says.
"That's easier than directly trying to sell. If you provide useful, credible information, people come back to you and you also get word of mouth referrals."
Over the past four years, Sisson has gained an understanding (albeit in a rapidly changing and moving field) of the different strengths and audiences of the various social media.
Among her observations are that though Facebook is perceived by many as being the preserve of the younger generation, its biggest target-able users are women in the 45-50+ age group. For this segment, Facebook is an extension of how many women socially interact on a one to one basis.
Twitter is a favourite for those in the media and marketing worlds, as well as public figures. Businesses and brands can use it wisely, with its largest market being the 35+ age group.
LinkedIn has a 35+ age group profile as well, and particularly in North America, most of its users earn over US$80,000 a year.
Sisson gives two recommendations for those dipping their toes in the use of social media for their businesses.
The first is to download her free e-book, “The Entrepreneur’s Social Media Workout”. (From sticK’s POV, a very useful ‘how to’). It demonstrates a lot of best practice concepts, as well as how to integrate social media into a wider marketing strategy.
Sisson’s other recommendation is to pick a particular social media platform and test it.
“Start with one, see how it works, which parties are participating, attempt to master it and make sure you track your progress by measuring the free analytics,” she says.
“See whether it applies to you.”
Though generally people can’t go wrong using and interacting with social media (unless they’re an absolute dork), the “trick is to draw people back to you, because you represent value,” she says.
If you can help solve peoples’ problems, “so much the better.”
From coaching to consulting, as well as high value manufacturing, “look at who their clients are, look at where yours might be,” she says.
“Then become the authority.”