Using Social Media Effectively: Gaining Visibility In a Crowded Marketplace

socialmedia

Social media is a big part of most people's lives, and has steadily increased in importance to businesses as well.  There are two main uses for professional social media use: to inform others through engaging with them, and to learn from others.  This will be the first of a two-part series on effectively using social media, and will focus on informing through engagement.  The second post will focus on learning from social media.

Using social media effectively, as part of your overall marketing strategy, can raise your visibility and make you stand out in a crowded online marketplace, and will inform others about you or your company and products.  For an individual, it can show that you are a thought leader, and increase your ability to find a good job, with higher pay.  For a company, it can lead to higher sales and bigger profits.   There are many social media tools to choose from, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  We'll focus mainly on Twitter, but many of the concepts explored can be applied to the other tools, and using more than one tool will increase your coverage and your overall visibility.

The main concept to understand in Twitter is the "tweet".  Tweets are short messages, just 140 characters long, you can use to share a thought, post a link, and get your point across.  Obviously, one short message is not going to go very far, and it's not very useful without people to see it.  You need a good message, along with people to hear it.

Your Twitter audience is made up of "followers" - people who voluntarily subscribe to your Twitter feed, so that they receive your Tweets.  Gaining and keeping followers is an important part of the Twitter experience.  While many articles, and even whole books, have been devoted to this topic, one simple way to get followers is simply to ask.  Advertising yourself by notifying your friends, families, business contacts, and even total strangers that you have a Twitter account, and asking them to follow you, is one way to gain followers.  Providing great content on a regular basis, that holds the interests of your followers, will help you to attract new followers, and keep existing ones.

To gain followers, you will need to define your overall message strategy.  What is important to you or your company?  Maybe you are a skilled technician, and you want to share content with your followers to show your knowledge.  Or, maybe you have a company and products you want to promote by sharing details about your offerings, or about the industry you are part of, to show that you have useful solutions to real-world problems.

Once you have your strategy in place and start sending out tweets, you'll want to analyze the effectiveness of your efforts, so you know if the content  is actually generating interest.  Three important concepts of Twitter metrics are reach, exposure, and impressions.  "Reach" is a count of the number of unique Twitter users have seen your message.  "Exposure" indicates the number of times our tweet was delivered; note that the same tweet can be delivered to a particular Twitter user multiple times, and thus, exposure is often higher than reach.  An "impression" indicates that your message was delivered to a user's Twitter stream.  All three of these metrics indicate the potential number of times your message could have been heard, and should be used as an overall gauge of your possible audience.

To see how many people actually read your message, you'll want to know the engagement metrics for your tweet, such as the number of follows, replies, retweets, clicks, and favorites.  If someone really likes what you have to say, they will follow you, and become part of your audience.  They may interact with you by replying to a tweet, giving you an opportunity to further interact with them.  They may "retweet", or share, your tweet, which indicates their interest, and can broaden your reach, exposure, and impressions, as the message is sent out to the retweeting user's follower list.  Similarly, a "favorite" indicates interest in your message, and can open the door to further dialogue.   Clicks measure all of these activities; the more clicks your tweet receives, the more effective it is.

There are many tools that can help you analyze your overall message effectiveness.  Many of these are free, like Twitter Analytics; some offer additional features for a fee, like Hootsuite.  Some, such as Buffer, provide analytics in addition to other useful functionality.  And some, including Klout, can give an overall score for your social media efforts. I discuss each of these in turn below.

One very useful tool is Twitter Analytics, a free tool provided by Twitter.  In addition to the metrics we've already covered, Twitter Analytics will tell you where your followers live, what languages they speak, age ranges, education levels, and important marketing metrics, such as household and personal income, spending habits, and how they tend to shop.

Hootsuite is another useful tool.  In addition to basic analytics, the free version of Hootsuite also includes a Tweet scheduling feature, which lets you keep your social media feed running 24 x 7.  Paid versions offer extended analytics and reporting tools, and can include coaching to help you improve your social media footprint.

Another content-scheduling tool that offers analytics is Buffer.  The free version will let you manage queues for Twitter messages, as well as Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.  Analytics include Retweets, Favorites, Mentions, Clicks, and potential impressions.  The paid version adds deeper analytical tools, including most and least popular Tweets.

Klout is a tool that provides an overall score of your social media efforts, from 1 to 100.  The higher the score, the more influential your marketing has been.  Klout also provides suggested content you may want to share with your followers, based on the interests of your followers, plus any specific topics you select.

Klout, Buffer, and Hootsuite have an additional benefit: link shortening.  The available real estate for a tweet is only 140 characters.  A long URL can take up a significant part of this real estate, leaving very little room for your message.  A shortener will reclaim space for you to use.

Paying attention to the metrics can help you to make Tweets that appeal to your audience and help it to grow.  Another tool you can use to grow your audience is the hashtag.  A hashtag is a way to tag the content of your message with a searchable term, so that it will pop up in various search engines.  Each hashtag starts with a pound sign, "#", and is followed by one or more words, with no spaces separating them.  You can create a unique hashtag to refer to your product, idea, or content, or you can use an existing one, to join your message to a dialogue already in play.  For instance, if your message is about big data, and you want others who are talking about big data to notice it, you might use #BigData to tag your content.  People who are reading about big data may see your message and start following you.

Hopefully, this will inform your use of social media, and help you to start gaining visibility.  We've barely scratched the surface, in terms of tools and techniques.  As you put what you've learned here into practice, continue to read about other ways to improve your success.

From my own experience, using these methods has allowed me to build a substantial online presence in a relatively short time.  I started, about 6 weeks ago, with 6 followers, and a Klout score of 11.  As of this morning, I had 856 followers, and my Klout score is now 60.

Stay tuned for part 2, focusing on learning through social media.

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Charles Hall

Senior Director at Cognitio Corp
Chuck is an innovative Information Technology Executive at Cognitio Corp with awards for solving problems, leading teams, managing projects, and providing clear vision and direction. His experience includes CTO and VP of IT positions with Wells Fargo and Marsh & McLennan, as well as Senior Director for Enterprise Technologies at Advisory Board. His industry experience includes finance, insurance, health care, manufacturing, software development, retail, logistics, and product delivery, creating a unique perspective within the IT world.
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About Charles Hall

Chuck is an innovative Information Technology Executive at Cognitio Corp with awards for solving problems, leading teams, managing projects, and providing clear vision and direction. His experience includes CTO and VP of IT positions with Wells Fargo and Marsh & McLennan, as well as Senior Director for Enterprise Technologies at Advisory Board. His industry experience includes finance, insurance, health care, manufacturing, software development, retail, logistics, and product delivery, creating a unique perspective within the IT world.

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