More segmented communications in social networks can extend the reach of organizations in going to a wider audience and building upon their existing base.
The impetus for social media activity is often business goals. Those who use it do so for a variety of business reasons though they may not necessarily know how to more fully leverage the tool or what goals to consider.
Companies may want to get or retain more customers, writers may be seeking more story sources, or advocacy organizations may be trying to get their own story out after what they consider unfavourable press coverage.
Uncertainty of how to expand social networking methods
Some aspects of social media can be unfamiliar or misunderstood, said Thomas Smith, founder and chief technology officer of TSE, a digital consulting agency that develops social, mobile, and web tools for various audiences and to connect communities.
Social media fits into the whole communications media landscape, he told a workshop on social strategies at the National Press Club in Washington. His company works with small and large businesses, the self-employed, advocacy groups, and non-profits.
Traditionally in paid media ads could be purchased whereas earned media has involved public relations or pitching stories to journalists, Sanchez pointed out. But others had to syndicate your message to their subscribers or readers.
Owned media usually has entailed mailing and telephone lists which were part of a one-on-one communication. “But those weren’t scalable really. For every post card you sent out you had to pay … so there was a cost attached,” he said.
Now owned media is on equal footing and can work in conjunction with paid and earned media. Owned media is a website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and ongoing contacts. “It’s anything that you own, you get to control the content that’s in there, but you have your own people that you’re syndicating the message to.”
However, these users of social media have to go a step beyond and persuade the people they are reaching to act on their message, Sanchez stressed.
Posting content is what most people do on social or owned media, which can include videos posted on YouTube that are sent to Facebook followers as well. Other activities can be responding to something read on social media or going to Google’s key word tool and seeing what people are searching for and responding to, he added.
New tools for monitoring trends and sharing material
Besides Google Analytics, other tools for monitoring trends are Hootsuite and Topsy to see what’s being discussed online.
On Twitter too, someone can set up lists or filters or other tools to monitor what conversations are taking place.
More recently Pinterest has emerged as a content sharing service that enables members to share images, videos, or specific interests on their pinboard.
Another social platform called change.org can be used to create petitions. Change.org is a for-profit company that will promote signed petitions and share them on social media.
Key to this whole process is becoming increasingly engaged on a continual basis. Social media users tend to be interested in what they already are involved in.
Social Driver advises clients on how to bring people together to whom they already are connected. A message can be taken beyond those you’re connected with by creating content and getting people already on your network to share that content.
Many political candidates use social media to try and reach a larger audience. In addition, news stories can be broadcast on Twitter. The Washington Post, for example, has an active Twitter account for just that purpose.
Social media activity within organizations includes creating content, blogging, writing an article, making a video, or sending out a press release.
Changing existing social media strategies
Adam Gerber, a project manager at Social Driver who also spoke at the Press Club program, referenced the company’s ongoing work with Change the Equation. It is a non-profit organization convened by the Obama administration to bring together business leaders from major U.S. technological corporations seeking women and minorities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematical fields.
Change the Equation previously used Twitter to expand its audience through republishing a blog. “But that strategy wasn’t really reflecting the needs of the organization,” Gerber said.
In trying to effectively reach a D.C. audience of policy leaders, journalists, think tanks, and elected officials, Twitter provides the chance to follow those people you want to, and from that create a target list of who are among the most influential individuals, he emphasized.
On Twitter, someone can write a tweet that is simply a message going out to their followers. But at the same time they can mention somebody else in a tweet and notify that person, and also send a direct private message to that individual.
The sub-audience is the real target audience, Gerber added. With a mass unconnected audience who are already online, social network users can build relationships with industry leaders who might become a future resource, be quoted in news stories, or sought out for authoritative opinions.
Organizations can highlight activities for corporate partners, share news and blog posts, follow thought leaders, re-tweet popular or compelling posts, and monitor trends and changes.
“If you take everybody who’s interested in your topic,” you take that universe of people, map them out, and find the inner circle which may care more about a particular organization and raising funds than a topic, Sanchez said.
Don’t restrict discussions to only advocacy organizations
The same method can be employed to reach others may not be familiar with or even especially interested in a certain organization but care more about an issue or subject area.
Groups can segment their communications through adding people to their social network and nurturing those whom they already have through inviting them to events or friending them on Facebook, and thereby drawing a closer link to the message at hand.
As one method, Eventbrite can be used as a tool for sharing registered events for those who may also be interested. This requires having e-mail addresses.
Companies can build lists on Twitter that work similarly to e-mail. But to get e-mail addresses, Sanchez advised, don’t buy large lists because that’s outside of having permission to use someone’s e-mail address for marketing, and contrary to new avenues social networking is trying to pursue.