What is Social Media?

Posted: July 20th, 2009 in People


In the first in a series of blog posts, Iris’s very own Ben Hall gives his two-penneth on the Social Media phenomenon in general…

“What are Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Bebo, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Slideshare, Social Bookmarking, seeding, viral? And are they painful?

Wikipedia defines Social media as “… online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content.”

We’d be lying if we had all the answers, but here’s our take on social media at Iris. Social media just means you can talk to your cousin in Australia, send photographs to your family, share music with a group of other similar music enthusiasts, share the most important news story with the world, tell all your friends how you are feeling today, vote on your favourite video, research the latest trends, update the world about your country, share music, and protest about your government. All you have to do is pick the most appropriate website for your conversation.

That’s right, it’s just one big conversation. The simple truth is that it’s about communication in its broadest sense. Not marketing. And the whole world is getting involved. It’s also evolving on a daily basis. What’s the hot flavour of the month right now (e.g. Twitter) may well be next year’s discarded pizza box. There’s a constant stream of new web-sites, new ideas, new groups to join. The common thread is the ideology behind them all.

Another important thing to mention is that the best of these web sites are incredibly popular. In fact, Facebook was the second busiest website in the UK (after Google UK) on Sunday June Moneygram agent 14th, picking up 1 in every 19 UK Internet visits (5.17%) *. Roughly speaking there are around 21 million plus active daily internet users in the UK, and this means that there are over 1 million people every day just on Facebook, and that’s just one of the social media web-sites!

Traditionally, social media has been the preserve of a younger age-group. However, this is changing. At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious – the young don’t stay young for long! A leading online research company has posted an article about Facebook in the US, which shows there are now more 25-35 year olds than any other age group actively communicating. So in short, it’s no longer the domain of cool young things – it’s gone mainstream.

How can I get involved?

Well this isn’t an easy one, but lets just say that it’s highly likely that somewhere someone is having a chat about your brand (positive or negative) on one of these web-sites, and it’s probably quite important that you start to join in.

In its basic form it’s an increasingly useful adjunct to conventional marketing channels, and a great opportunity to engage customers and potential customers in a conversation. Join their groups, ask them what they think (and be prepared for an honest answer). Be up front about who you are and your intentions – but here’s the hard bit, if you make promises you have to keep them or it may backfire on you and any positive press will become negative press.

ALSO, you need to be careful. You know when you’re in the pub and some dodgy geezer tries to sell you a DVD? It’s annoying isn’t it! Trying to use conventional marketing tactics on people in the social environment of a site like Facebook is just the same thing. You are in a community group, not a marketing event.”

Next time Ben will be looking at LinkedIn… watch this space.