London-based PR and Marketing Consultant

What is social media?

What is social media?

What is social mediaI work in a bubble filled with the super talented folks who power the cogs behind the brands we all buy from. Put simply, it’s my job as a PR + Marketing Manager to get people talking about a brand (and ultimately buying) both online and off. When I first started in the industry, a large part of my job was spent convincing clients that social media was something that was here to stay and imperative that they invested in it early on and took it seriously. I’m now quietly sitting back laughing at those who thought I was completely quackers because social media is now a fundamental part of any business and is a necessity for raising brand awareness, creating a voice for your brand, keeping in touch with your end consumers and giving you a platform to communicate what you do with the wider world.

For many of us, social media has become part of our day-to-day. We live and breathe it. And for those of us that do live like that, we can sometimes forget that there are still a vast majority of people who just don’t “get it”. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with certain friends and family where I’ve had to explain exactly what it is I do with social media for the brands I work with. Algorithms, paid/sponsored posts, Insta-stories, Lives, hashtags, buying followers…all of these mean absolutely diddlysquat to your average Joe.

This post has two purposes: to explain social media to those of you who are still trying to wrap your heads around it and to remind my compatriots in the biz, that there is still a lot of education we need to do to help people understand exactly what we do and why!

What is social media?

What is social media? 

Think about flicking through a good old fashioned magazine (remember those things?! I do…):

  • Headlines of articles = Twitter
  • Body of articles = Blog posts
  • Tag lines = Facebook
  • Pictures = Instagram
  • Snippet of the next issue = Snapchat
  • Contacts page = LinkedIn
  • Gallery pages = Pinterest

Everything you see online has been done before, it’s just in a different format. I promise you it’s not scary.

Why should we bother? 

If I had a pound for every time someone from the “real” world asked me why they should bother signing up to a new social media channel simply to have to gaze at photos of people’s breakfast or to see an endless stream of filtered selfies, I’d be a very rich gal. Are there people putting consistently mundane content up there still? Yes. Will that ever change? No. But there is also a rich community of tastemakers, content creators and experts in their fields offering daily content that inspires, encourages, teaches and makes you feel not so alone in this big bad world.

Here’s a slightly convoluted (and very much fictional) example for you and I’ve tried to steer away from a retail-led example for you here:

Meet Bob. 

Bob is a science buff who is utterly hooked on all things to do with outer space. He has a ton of books on the subject, all of which he has read cover to cover…multiple times over. Bob doesn’t have social media and rarely gets online as he thinks it’s a nonsense. 

One day, NASA issue a statement. They’ve discovered a new planet, a planet that is liveable for humans, and they’re sending out a crew to visit it. NASA made this announcement via their Twitter and Facebook channels at 12pm with a link to the website where you can read all about it. Poor Bob is completely oblivious to this until he turns on the evening news many hours after it happens. He rushes out to buy all the papers the next day, but he’s reading opinion pieces about it almost 24 hours after the announcement was made. 

Now what if Bob had HAD social media channels? Bob’s phone would’ve dinged with a Twitter alert at 12pm to tell him that NASA has tweeted. Bob would’ve clicked on the link they shared to read all about it. Bob would’ve then shared the article across all his channels and his inevitable excitement would’ve been shared with hundreds, heck, potentially thousands of people who are as excited as he is. He’d even be directly interacting with those journalists and specialists who wrote opinion pieces about it the following day in the papers. Bob would’ve been buzzing with the “NOWNESS” of it all. 

Social media, amongst other things, enables you to dive deeper into your hobbies/interests and become part of communities, both online and offline, filled with folks that are as passionate as you are about a given subject.

There will always be people who overshare their lives on social media and yes, it will drive you up the wall. Right now, my entire Facebook feed is filled with people bragging about engagement rings, sharing every picture of their babies and am constantly flooded with photos of friends in locations far more exotic than the one I’m in right now (jealous? Me? Never!). But for every post that makes me scream, there’s another that provokes a more positive sentiment – an interesting article, a happy life update from a loved one, a trusted friend’s recommendation on a book to read, place to visit, restaurant to try etc…more often than not, my life is enriched (and bank account emptied) by the content I consume on there.

If you’re a brand or a business, you should have a website. If you have a website, you should have social media channels. Every industry, regardless of being B2B or B2C, can find a niche community to interact with on social media, which will ultimately help grow your business network. The first step will be to appoint someone within your business to take charge of this. If they haven’t had much experience outside of personal usage, they should sign up for some training as you do need to regard it a little differently. You need to determine who you’re targeting with the content you’re posting, follow the right people for your business, decide what content you already have and what you need to create, agree on a tone of voice and a basic social media policy that should be shared with anyone with access to the channels. The content you post will introduce your brand to new people, drive traffic to your website and keep you in touch with the people most relevant to your business.

Am I too old for social media? 

NO! The fastest growing age group of social media users is the over 60s. My 81 year old grandma is on Facebook and Twitter, though admittedly doesn’t fully understand what she’s doing with it. As with anything in life, I’m a firm believer that whatever age or circumstance, you need to always be trying new things to keep life on it’s toes.

Do I have to be on every channel? 

No. You join the channel that makes most sense for you. Love photography? Just sign up to Instagram. Like chatting? Twitter is the place to go. Want to keep up to date with your loved ones? Stick with Facebook. For brands or businesses, are you B2C or B2B? B2C generally wants to have a presence across channels, whereas B2B is more likely to just need LinkedIn and Twitter.

What is an influencer? 

I hate the term influencer but it’s the best way to describe someone who has acquired a large online audience with the content they create or conversation they command. Some solely use social media channels to get their word out, others will have another outlet like a blog, be an offline writer (magazines, newspapers etc) or just an expert in their field and use social media to further the conversation.

Brands have cottoned on to the fact that there is power in connecting with influencers. They are an authentic way to get your product/name in front of a relevant crowd (as long as the brand crucially select the right influencer for the product…but that’s a whole other topic to go in to). You will sometimes see hashtags such as #ad, #spon or #gifted alongside someone’s content. This simply means that they have been paid monetarily or in product to work with the brand they are promoting on their channel.

Can I make my channels private?

Yes. And you should regularly review your security settings to make sure you are happy with what’s being shared. For business pages, I recommend having these public and ensuring your content is tailored for a public audience. For personal channels, keep them private – you don’t need any Tom, Dick or Harry seeing photos of Aunt Phylis’ 90th birthday or the intoxicated photos from your night out out at the weekend.

What should I post?

Whatever you like! If you’re just starting out with a channel, I recommend holding off posting anything for a couple of weeks and instead spend that time finding people to follow and just listen to them. What are they posting that you like? Use that to decide what you’d like to post. Do you want polished, nicely framed, artistic-style photos? Are you ok with a rough and ready approach? Is there a theme to your content? Or do you just want to post whatever the hell you want, whenever you want? The best thing about social media is that you curate your channels to be anything you want.

How do I get started?

Download the apps to your phone or log on via a computer. Create your account (note that you are able to change your handles later on if you need to change them but it’s best to decide what this will be from the onset). Start following people and off you go. Simple.

I run social media 101 workshops for individuals and businesses who are looking to up their game across channels and also offer a 1 hour consultation to help you determine what your business or brand might need to get it to the next level. I also offer social media management to those who just don’t have the time to do it themselves or would like someone else to kick it off for them. Got more questions? Get in touch!