Did you notice that the « Web 2.0 » term was outdated? One can say that after months (years?) of overselling the « 2.0” » stuff, it begins to fade. Now, modern marketers talks about « Social Media« . Because with always newer services, always more sophisticated concepts, copycat, mashups of mashups… it really begins to be confusing. This is why it was important to divide this big « ratatouille 2.0 » into smaller meta-concepts to ease the understanding (Enterprise 2.0, Social Shopping, Social Medias…).
But have we taken the time to define what social media is? This is my point: to provide you with a definition and give an overview of what it relates to.
Let’s publish, share and sociabilize!
In « Social Media » there is « Media« , which means that social media are digital places for publication.
In « Social Media » there is « Social« , which implies sharing (files, tastes, opinions…) but also social interactions (individuals gathering into groups, individual acquiring notoriety and influence…).
Yes, you get the point: social media are places, tools, services allowing individuals to express themselves (and so to exist) in order to meet, share…
Infinity of tools and services
The main characteristic of social media is audience fragmentation: sources (hundreds of millions of blogs, wikis, forums…) as well as tools.
Those tools can take various forms (more or less sophisticated) and fulfill various needs, previously existing or not (yes, I’m talking about Twitter). The following chart illustrates the richness and diversity of social media:
As you can see, those different tools and services can be grouped into categories:
- Publication tools with blogs (Typepad, Blogger…), wikis (Wikipedia, Wikia, Wetpaint…) and citizen journalism portals (Digg, Newsvine…)
- Sharing tools for videos (YouTube…), pictures (FlickR…), links (del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia…), music (Last.fm, iLike…), slideshows (Slideshare), products reviews (Crowdstorm, Stylehive…) or products feedbacks (Feedback 2.0, GetSatisfaction…)
- Discussions tools like forums (PHPbb, vBulletin, Phorum…), video forums (Seesmic), instant messaging (Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Meebo…) and VoIP (Skype, Google Talk…)
- Social networks (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Orkut…), niche social networks (LinkedIn, Boompa…) and tools for creating social networks (Ning)
- Micropublication tools (Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Plurk, Adocu…) and alike (twitxr, tweetpeek)
- Social aggregation tools like lifestream (FriendFeed, Socializr, Socialthing!, lifestrea.ms, Profilactic…)
- Platforms for livecast hosting (Justin.tv, BlogTV, Yahoo! Live, UStream…) and there mobile equivalent (Qik, Flixwagon, Kyte, LiveCastr…)
- Virtual worlds (Second Life, Entropia Universe, There…), 3D chats (Habbo, IMVU…) and teens dedicated virtual universes (Stardoll, Club Penguin…)
- Social gaming platforms (ImInLikeWithYou, Doof…), casual gaming portals (Pogo, Cafe, Kongregate…) and social networks enabeled games (Three Rings, SGN)
- MMO (Neopets, Gaia Online, Kart Rider, Drift City, Maple Story) and MMORPG (World of Warcraft, Age of Conan…)
Wow, that’s a lot of services to try! Now that the frame is set, it is time to analyze this phenomenon and to try to envision what will comes next.
There was a life before Facebook and there will be one after
Online communities didn’t wait for Facebook to gather and sociabilize within online forums. Bear in mind that a tool in itself is not able to create a community, only members can. Or to be more precise: the capacity of members to find new subjects and interaction modes.
So yes, Facebook is (still) hype, but history has shown us that audience can easily move from one service to another (remember Friendster?).
There is no tool to rule them all
Even if audience metrics show supremacy from large platform like MySpace, Facebook or even Cyworld in South Korea, global services which embrace multiple meta-functions (publishing, sharing, social networking…) are exposing their members to information overflow.
So even if audience is dominated by big players, niche players are growing fast.
You cannot hide anymore
Whether you want it or not, conversations occur with or without you. What you have to understand is that it is highly illusionary to think you can control your brand by restricting blog usage from your employee or by avoiding social networks.
Your brand does not belong to you anymore, it only exist in customers’ mind, which are massively present in blogs, forums, wikis, social networks… So you have to choose between suffering and benefiting from online conversations. That is why it is important to name a social media champion within your organization (just choose the right job title: Community planner, Social media manager, Community architect, Social analytics expert…).
Getting closer from your customers / prospects is a nice objective, but you first have to figure out which customers / prospects you want to be closer to. So you will quickly be in need to evaluate the real potential of those various nanomedia. This evaluation has to rely on dedicate metrics which are tailored to the constraints and specificity of social media.
Furthermore, if you wish to touch opinion leaders (influencers), you will have to qualify them in order to identify those with the more potential. This is where social metrics are relevant.
Such social metrics already exist and are used on various social platforms:
- For blogs (age, audience, popularity, RSS feed subscribers, RSS subscribers / visitors, comments per post…)
- For microblog (total tweets number, average tweets per day, followings / followers…)
- For social networks (profile richness, age, friends number, friends of friends number…)
And if you wish to go faster and « invest » in social leaders, there are also various KPIs based on influence: pay-per-post, pay-per-tweet, pay-per-acquisition…
This is a long journey (but you still can achieve it)
Do not panic, we are only beginning to observe the rise of social media (and there conquest by marketers). There is stile a lot of territories to conquer for the most audacious of you. Bear in mind that social media consumers are indulgent with creative initiatives.
So let me sum this up:
- Test and experiment the richness of social media (remember: Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg)
- Try to understand social mechanisms (motivations, fears…)
- Name a social media champion in your organization (his first job: set up an observatory to assess your brand ‘s presence in social media)
- Define a social translation of your brand’s strategy (positioning, targets, value proposition, differentiation points…)
- Identify relevant media (social platform) and the right ambassadors (micro or nanocommunity)
- Jump in the water!
This is it. Let me remind you once again that you do not engage too much responsibility by experimenting new social campaigns (except for bugs attack). Bear in mind that social media is all about conversations and guess what: you can / should / have to be part of them.