We hear the term ‘social media’ often, but what exactly does it mean and what makes it different from traditional media?
Think of regular media like newspapers, television and radio as a one-way street where you can receive information from these sources, but your ability to give feedback or interact with them is very limited.
Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street where you can comment on and rate what you read or watch, start conversations and publish your own content.
What are social media sites?
Using the same metaphor, social media sites are web sites that don’t just give you information (one-way street), but also allow you to interact (two-way street) with the content provided on the web site.
Some of the most popular types of social media websites are:
• Social Bookmarking. (Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon) Interact by tagging websites and searching through websites bookmarked by other people.
• Social News. (Digg, Reddit) Interact by voting for articles and commenting on them.
• Social Networking. (Facebook, Twitter) Interact by adding friends or following people or organisations, commenting on posts, joining groups and having discussions.
• Social Photo and Video Sharing. (YouTube, Flickr) Interact by sharing photos or videos and commenting on user submissions.
• Wikis. (Wikipedia, Wikia) Interact by adding articles and editing existing articles.
These websites are not the only social media websites. Any website that invites you to interact with the site and with other visitors falls into the definition of social media.
Why should small businesses care about social media?
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have over 700 million members, who spent an average of 9 hours every month interacting with other members on these sites.
Not only do users of social media interact with each other, they also use social media site for searching information on relevant topics. Did you know that Youtube is now the second largest search engine in the world after Google and 2 billion videos are viewed on Youtube every day?
If you thought of social media as a quickly passing fad with little relevance to small business, think again. The numbers speak for themselves. Your customers are on social media and if your business is not using social media to engage with them, the chances are they might be interacting with your competitors instead.