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Social Media and the Internet: a Double-Edged Sword

January 5, 2015 Bradford Group Administrator

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Social media seems to run our lives. Hashtag this, news feed that… If you sit at a coffee shop today and listen to the people around you and the lingo they are using, you will notice how much social media has affected humans down to their core vocabulary. Just a decade ago, to “tag” someone was used in reference to the childhood game where kids run around and try to catch each other. A “wall” was simply that – a wall – not someone’s personal profile page on Facebook. “Media” meant the newspapers and television outlets where people find out what’s going on in the world. If you “unfriended” someone, that probably meant you got in a fight on the playground with a kid who stole your Pokemon card, so you couldn’t possibly be friends with them anymore. The words “hashtag” and “selfie” didn’t exist because there was no place for you to post a #selfie.

 

Today, if you start a company and don’t include social media as part of your marketing and communications strategy, you could face a major setback. Social media has become a mainstay, even a third limb for many, making it the primary way to reach some of your potential target audience.

 

People are getting their news from Twitter, online news websites or blogs these days, and that is increasingly taking the place of reading the newspaper at the breakfast table or watching the nightly 6 o’clock news. The Internet can be more visually stimulating, plus it is instantly gratifying. Posting content to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and blogs can be the best method for a company to reach its customers, especially when targeting a younger demographic.

 

Solid social media skills are even a basic requirement for many jobs – especially in public relations. But the next step is to translate that online media communication to real life. You may catch a prospective customer’s eye via a Twitter marketing campaign, but the key is to be just as impressive in person if you want to keep that customer interested.

 

My job is to pique the public’s interest in the great things my clients are doing. This is done through an overall marketing and public relations strategy that incorporates social media and blogs with a variety of PR tactics, such as events, media relations, community interaction, speaking engagements and more. These opportunities allow for face-to-face, verbal communication, and they help ensure the message won’t be lost or misinterpreted online.

 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using social media:

  • Tone doesn’t come through online. Make sure you read over verbiage before anything is posted to ensure it will come across to others the way you mean. Sometimes it’s good to write a series of posts, set them aside for a day and revisit them the next day with fresh eyes. It also may be good to ask for a second opinion for work-related social media postings.
  • Know your audience. Are you trying to reach baby boomers or millennials? The communication strategy should be adjusted based on your target audience. If you are looking to attract anyone over 50, it’s more likely that you will grab their attention through Facebook than Instagram.
  • Be a face in the community. It may be as simple as going to grab a coffee or a short phone call, but stay in touch with your community, clients and prospects through more personal ways than a social media campaign. Also, try to hold local events at least a couple times per year so your audience can see that your company is more than just what is posted on your social media sites.
  • Social media isn’t the end all, be all. There is a danger that excelling in online media could negatively affect our in-person communication. Although social media skills are beneficial, it’s good to remember to spend some time looking out at the world and experiencing life.

 

I have a challenge for everyone using social media personally and/or professionally – find the balance between the digital world and reality. If any business or person simply looks at life through the lens of a smartphone, they will miss out on all the great aspects of life that come with interpersonal communication. Try to live and truly work on cultivating personal relationships with your customers, audiences and friends. One little hello in person can go a long way.

 

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee via Flickr cc

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