Planning for the future of social media

In 2010, social media played more of a key role in the marketing, advertising, and public relations industry than ever before. More companies, large and small, used social media to increase interaction with their consumers, promote company news, events, and sales, and much more. As the use of these platforms increases, it is important to take note and understand the constant changes occurring in the world of social media in order to plan for using it most effectively.

This past November alone showed many examples of how companies were expanding the use of social media. Platforms like Twitter, Foursquare and Groupon were heavily used for promoting Black Friday sales. Even entities like malls joined the craze. The Mall of America used Twitter to provide their followers reserved parking spots during the holiday season. Facebook also saw an increase in use. In 2010, the site surpassed Google as the most visited website, ranking in 8.9 percent of all U.S. web visits between January and November.

There is no doubt that 2010 was a big year for social media, but we predict 2011 will be even bigger. Now that companies better understand the value of social media, measuring ROI and ROP (return on participation), and how to use it in creative ways, there’s no limit to its use. However, it is important to note a few things about social media before rolling out the next campaign:

1. Social media is not for everyone. There must be a strategy for carefully choosing which platforms you use.

The fact that some companies have had success using social media does not mean you must invest time and money into having a presence on the most popular platforms. Companies that have very niche markets may not benefit from social media the way companies with bigger markets do. There may not be enough information about a specialty product to tweet about it everyday. However, there may be a benefit to having a Facebook page that can act as a supplement to your website. Selection of appropriate platforms to use cannot be made in seconds, and should be thoroughly thought out.

2. Social media is constantly changing and it is difficult to keep up with these changes.

New social media platforms are constantly being introduced, which effects more than the decision of which platform to use—it affects the strategy companies must develop for using social media. As consumers are given more choices of ways to share information and participate in conversations, there is more pressure to launch a campaign that will stand out. Finding the “big idea” is nothing new when it comes to advertising. The same basic principles applied to the development of great traditional campaigns will be key when developing a social media campaign. However, there is one twist: don’t just talk to your audience, talk with them.

3. The opportunity for interaction is endless; meaning monitoring what people say is also endless.

As more consumers share information over more of a variety of sites, it is becoming tougher to monitor what is being said about your brand. Finding the best monitoring tools is essential for understanding the full scope of information available about a certain brand. There isn’t one special tool that does everything. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you and offer our findings on helpful monitoring tools in a previous article we’ve published.

4. Your employees are your best promoters of your brand’s social media presence.

These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t on at least one type of social media platform. Therefore, it is extremely important that all employees, not just the public relations and marketing directors, are trained on the benefits of social media. Social-media-trained employees can be the first ones to engage with your brand online and help spread its information to their personal followers, creating digital word-of-mouth buzz.

We don’t foresee social media going away anytime soon. In fact, we’re big promoters of using it, when appropriate, to help promote a brand. The amount of information about social media can be overwhelming and keeping up with the vast amount of new sites being created can be difficult. Below are a few new social media sites and tools we’ve discovered that might interest you.

  • offers real time keyword search results of Twitter and Facebook posts.
  • tracks your brand’s social media activity and delivers a summary to your email inbox on your schedule.
  • is a search engine that finds the best pages of the web, recommended to each unique user using peer-sourcing and social networking.
  • is a social bookmarking allowing users to locate and save websites that match their own interests.
  • is a fully integrated communication tool. It’s a website that combines email, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, and the broader social web all in one.

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