Social media refers to all channels where people and customers are able to interact with each other via digital media, on forums which are public or accessible to multiple people. There are a number of social media companies each of which has created its own model on how to get people to communicate with each other. However, all these models can be broken up into certain key elements of social media which are described below:
- Blogs: These are websites created by individuals, groups, or companies to express their opinion, information, or creativity on any topic of their choice. The most popular blogs are on topics which are of interest to a large community, have something interesting, useful, or creative to share, and are written in an engaging style. Blogs may contain images or videos, in addition to text. In most cases, they are also open to comments from readers. These comments are generally directed to the author. However, sometimes readers start discussing a blog post amongst them which turns this feature into a discussion forum. From a company’s perspective, a blog is an excellent means of updating their customers and prospective customers of happenings related to the company or the company’s products. Frequent updates also keep a website’s content fresh which helps it rank higher in search engines.
- Discussion forums: These are websites used for discussing issues related to a specific topic. Participants in such forums may be asked to register themselves. They are free to ask each other questions, answer questions and share information. Many forums allow participants to rate each other’s contributions which enables contributors to build their reputation over time. Contributions from reputed contributors are generally considered more trustworthy as compared to new members. If reputed contributors mention a company’s product or provide a link to its website, then the product website may witness a significant improvement in search ranks on search engines and increased visitors to the website. Companies can also participate in such forums actively to engage with participants and build a positive identity for themselves and their products.
- Professional updates sharing: This relates to people, groups, or companies sharing professional updates generally related to an organization, a company, a product, or a profession. The objective is generally to promote the above entities or to start a discussion around these entities. Companies share such professional updates for various purposes, like sharing product launch information, communicating offers and discounts, announce changes in policies, and sharing media coverage, amongst others. Relevant and engaging updates can help companies build and retain a loyal base of customers and Updates by companies which are in the business of distributing news on various topics also come under the purview of this element.
- Personal updates sharing: This relates to people or groups sharing personal updates about themselves or about a topic. These updates are generally shared with their friends, relatives or acquaintances but the option to share with the general public is also there. A company needs to create content or share updates which are relevant or interesting enough for people to share it in their personal network, and which should also align with the marketing objectives for a product. People generally share content which they feel is useful or interesting for others in their social circles. Hence, the focus for a company should ideally not be on marketing or promotion but on being a source of useful and interesting information on subjects related to their product. Also, companies which have a high level of brand loyalty and where customers relate to the brand strongly may find customers voluntarily creating content or experiences related to the brand or sharing the brand’s professional updates. For example, there are a number of clubs of customers who are biking enthusiasts who ride a particular brand of motorcycles and who organize events and create content related to the motorcycle brand.
- Audio-visual sharing: This relates to sharing videos, audio, or images with other people. Such content can be shared with any person or groups. In most social media channels which are focused on sharing such content, people can vote on or rank such content or add their comments. Thus these channels integrate the discussion forum element into audio-visual sharing. For example, in Youtube, which is a social media channel used for sharing videos, users can like or dislike a video, comment on the video, and reply to each other’s’ comments.
Companies can use such channels very effectively as videos, images, and sounds can have a much larger impact on the target market compared to text updates. Many companies invest in creating engaging and interesting videos about their products which sometimes become extremely popular and drastically increases brand visibility. Some also create melodious songs around their product which also might become popular as songs in their own right or as ringtones for mobiles.
- Others: There are other social media elements as well which are quite popular. However, their usage across different social media channels is limited and they are mostly used as stand-alone elements. We will cover two such elements here: collaborative websites and content discovery sites.
Collaborative websites are created by a group of people working together to create a website on a particular topic. Some might provide the raw content, some might review it, and some might format the content. Examples of collaborative websites are wikis where people collaborate on specific topics of interest to them, and once a page on a particular topic is created, they keep reviewing it to make it better over time. The most popular example of a wiki is Wikipedia. As the most popular wikis are continuously peer reviewed and trusted by a large audience, a company’s mention on such pages can bring a large amount of online traffic to its website.
Content discovery sites are those where people share content which they found interesting or useful, so that others can also access the same content. As the focus is on content discovery, the homepages of such websites generally contain content shared by others. Users who subscribe to or register on such sites can customize the type of content which appears on their homepage. Companies which create interesting, engaging, and useful content, stand a good chance of their content being shared on such sites, which in turn drives additional traffic to their website.