Avalanche PR logo

Mendip Business Women talk on 02.09.09

Social Media

The evening’s focus on social media was an anecdotal and research-driven look at how businesses can use it to boost awareness – a PR tool.  What started off as a relative fad and used in the main by people already tech savvy has now proved itself as a worthwhile marketing tool.

My talk focused on the application, rather than the practicals of using social media (these are relatively straight forward once you get started!)

These notes are quite lengthy, so I’ve divided them up under the following sub-headings, which you can use to jump to specific parts:

What is Social Media
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn overview
Reasons why the business world hates social media
Why should we take social media seriously for our business?
My experiences and results
10 Golden Rules of Social Media
Things to remember when using Social Media
Social Media links
Further reading and research resources

What is Social Media?
– there are many definitions, but I think these help to define it:

Wikipedia – ‘social media is content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies’

Yahoo Answers – ‘I’m often asked what is Web 2.0 and the explanation I find easiest to give is that Web 2.0 refers to Web-based platforms that have been developed to make sharing information, communicating and working together easier’

Ben Parr, technology journalist – ‘the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings in more efficient ways’

– Given that social media constitutes people, everyone defines it differently!

First a brief overview of some of the more commonly used online social sites – to give you an idea of how many people are already using it….

Facebook:  founded in February 2004, Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.  Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.   Millions of people use it everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

Some stats (these are pretty mind boggling!):
– More than 250 million active users
– More than 120 million users log on to Facebook at least once each day
– More than two-thirds of Facebook users are outside of college
– The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older

User Engagement
– Average user has 120 friends on the site
– More than 5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
– More than 30 million users update their statuses at least once each day
– More than 8 million users become fans of Pages each day

(and if you’re interested, some more…)

– More than 1 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
– More than 10 million videos uploaded each month
– More than 1 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) shared each week
– More than 2.5 million events created each month
– More than 45 million active user groups exist on the site

International Growth
– More than 50 translations available on the site, with more than 40 in development
– About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States

– There are more than 30 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
– People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are almost 50% more active on Facebook than non-mobile users.

Twitter: started as a side project in March of 2006 and has grown into a real-time short messaging service, or micro-blogging site that works over multiple networks and devices.  In countries all around the world, people follow the sources most relevant to them and access information via Twitter as it happens—from breaking world news to updates from friends. See what people are doing right now.

Simplicity has played an important role in Twitter’s success.  People are eager to connect with other people and Twitter makes that simple. Twitter asks one question, “What are you doing?”   Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web. By accepting messages from sms, web, mobile web, instant message, or from third party API projects, Twitter makes it easy for folks to stay connected.   An average of 3 million tweets are posted each day

LinkedIn (think Facebook for professional networking!): has over 45 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world.  A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of its members are outside the U.S.

Its raison d’être:
Your professional network of trusted contacts gives you an advantage in your career, and is one of your most valuable assets.  LinkedIn exists to help you make better use of your professional network and help the people you trust in return.  Its mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.  In a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.

LinkedIn is an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries.  You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals.

When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise and accomplishments.  You can then form enduring connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you.  Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to a vast number of qualified professionals and experts.

Through your network you can:

– Manage the information that’s publicly available about you as professional
– Find and be introduced to potential clients, service providers, and subject experts who come recommended
– Create and collaborate on projects, gather data, share files and solve problems
– Be found for business opportunities and find potential partners
– Gain new insights from discussions with likeminded professionals in private group settings
– Discover inside connections that can help you land jobs and close deals
– Post and distribute job listings to find the best talent for your company

Ok, that’s how each of these social media sites explain and define themselves and I’ve deliberately referenced these specifically as well established, easy to use and arguably the most talked about – both online and offline!  For instance, how many times have you been told something or a bit of news from somebody who read it on Facebook?!

There are many more social networking sites available.

Great.  But why should we use these sites for anything other than personal interest?

– the flip side of corporate social media perception – the negative, and the rationale behind these arguments.  Many of these were reflected in last night’s discussion.

(extracted from http://visionarymarketing.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/7-reasons-why-the-business-world-hates-social-media/)

#1.  All these online conversations could be dangerous, we’ll be losing control”:

– It’s true that social media is about employees, clients, partners and members of all kinds of eco systems talking to one another.
– There is often that perception that these conversations might lead to the disparagement of the brand.  A brand is what your clients “say about you when you’re not in the room”.  Such discussions, good or bad, are bound to happen anyway, for social media (aka web 2.0) has made free expression available to all Internet users.
– Use social media to harness all these discussions rather than pretending you can prevent them.  There are more opportunities than risks associated with it when you think about it.  As Intel’s Ken Kaplan once declared at a 2008 Blogwell conference in San Jose: “social media is not something to fear but to embrace”


#2. “Social media is a legal minefield”:

– Many are afraid of the potential risks associated with freeform comments and trackbacks (back links to your site from external blogs/social media sites).
– Common solution is to have blogs and community sites placed under a separate legal entity, so responsibility is shifted.
– Comments and TrackBack moderation is also a good idea which should not be overseen.
– The issue in this instance is about prevention, not irrational fears.
– Don’t forget that it’s a lot harder to address criticisms in traditional media.  Comments made via social media can be moderated, unauthorised or – even better – give you an opportunity to respond.
– If in doubt obtain legal advice.

#3.  ”All that Internet stuff is not serious/businesslike, it’s just for techies”:

– Whereas in the 1990s, people believed that the Internet was made for train-spotters, it is a sure bet nowadays that most web and social media users will be representative of the overall population.
– From a marketing point of view, each social media site has its target audiences.  Social media is therefore a tool for doing business, as long as you are choosing the right platform for the right geography, population and/or business sector.
– For instance, facebook is pervasive in the UK but not in France where only top users and IT experts are logged in.  LinkedIn is big in the UK but in German-speaking countries, only Xing is used, don’t even bother to invite someone on LinkedIn there, it is virtually never used.  In France, Viadeo is by far the leading social network, but most IT pundits will want to be seen in LinkedIn and will snub Viadeo users.  So this is complex and more segmented than it seems, and I haven’t even talked about LinkedIn groups which make it possible for you to target micro populations. – – – – Social media definitely is a business tool and a place to start networking and building partnerships.

#4. “All that social networking stuff is a waste of (my) time”:

Social networking is often getting media attention but what’s in it for business.  Should business people allocate time to improve their networking skills on LinkedIn and the likes or should they consider spending more time doing proper business?
– The fact is that networking is the essence of business.  It can take a few years to build networks on LinkedIn – i.e. of targeted connections to increase the number of opportunities for your business.
– Social media is not a waste of time unless you let yourself be driven by the tool (time-consuming tools like facebook or Twitter must be managed properly if you don’t want them to take up too much of your time).  In essence, it’s not very different from what we went through at the beginning of the introduction of e-mail in the workplace.
– When it first appeared, managers often opposed e-mail because they thought it time-wasting.

#5. “There is no ROI in Social media and corporate blogging in particular”:

– As is often the case with innovations, sharp criticisms as well as very apt critical analysis of blogging are voiced.  People often think they should give up i.e. when the hype dies away,
– However there appears real opportunities to work on one’s ROI and reap the true benefits of the innovation in question.
– Firstly the cost of investing in social media is really negligible.
– Secondly, the effort related to the production of the content within the framework of a blog initiative, for instance, is minimal too.
– Thirdly, think about the benefits:  reaching out to new contacts, developing relations with existing contacts and customers, better brand visibility, more efficient communications, direct debate between experts.  The list is endless.  What other initiative is available for you to write about your vision, your product, your industry at the push of a button?

A return to the positive! Why should we take social media seriously for our business?

– 3 out of 4 Americans use social technology
– 2/3 of the global internet population visit social networks
– Visiting social sites is now the 4th most popular online activity – ahead of personal email
– Time spend on social networks is growing at 3x the overall internet rate, accounting for ~10% of all internet time
– Research shows that more companies continue to invest on social media


So, why do people use online social networking websites for business? (research findings and personal reasons):

– researching resources that would benefit clients
– interacting with people from around the world for cross-continental and cross-cultural conversations
– an experimental project
– to create brand awareness by linking to relavant industry-related articles and blogs
– to use as a marketing tool to promote own blog
– helped a friend find a job
– to land guest speaker slots with journalists
– to help with website optimisation
– to build contacts and connect with people
– getting people to pilot a new project or website
– sharing expertise
– gaining expertise
– raising money
– monitor what people are saying about your business or brand, or about specific topics

The opportunity is there to:

– have a dialogue with customers – not just one-way marketing
– understand more about what people think about your product/company/service
– develop credence and trust
– try cost effective marketing
– have a voice
– generate interest and awareness
– achieve recognition beyond the twitter/facebook/linkedIn realm
– more closely monitor your competitors
– to leverage your brand
– gain exposure to new audiences
– increase website optimisation
– generate business leads


My experiences and the results I’ve achieved from using social media:
– Bartering of professional services!
– Research

– (May 09) PR people don’t often make it into the press (their clients do!), but I achieved national exposure, accidentally, for my twitter alias @snowballthrower.  This should explain http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/news/article6234420.ece (despite the typo made, i still attracted several more followers that day!)
– received business enquiries
– used for research

– passing on an enquiry to a contact, which generated an order worth over £1k
– staying in touch with contacts made at networking events
– joining professional groups to share and gain industry experience
– contact from a professional group member to discuss partnership on a new project


I’m pro online social networking as it helps to support as a PR tool.  It’s important to consider that it’s more effective as a support tool, than perhaps working on its own.

It’s important to treat online social networking as you would any other form of marketing.  Consistency of communications and considering your audiences is critical.  Are your messages/tweets relevant to your desired audience?

It really does make a difference.  Communicating with others within your interest group starts a dialogue and gives a reason for them to want to know more about you.

The key to using it successfully lies in good time management and a clear strategy before starting.

It also provides a great way to keep an eye on what your competitors are saying and doing – how they are using online media to communicate?

One of its great attractions is its accessibility – social media provides a level playing field on which anyone can play.

Social media offers so many new capabilities that it is worth making the effort to launch an initiative for your enterprise.  Yes there are pitfalls, as there any kind of tool, but there are ways to avoid these problems and reap more benefits from this new way of communicating.  If you avoid misusing it and remained focussed on your business objectives, social media can provide a powerful support to your marketing strategy.

10 Golden Rules of Social Media (thanks to http://webworkerdaily.com/2009/05/26/10-golden-rules-of-social-media/)

Published on 26th May by Aliza Sherman – who has been online since 1987, consulting clients on the Internet since 1992, on the web since 1994, immersed in working on and speaking about the web since the mid-1990s.

1. Respect the Spirit of the ‘Net – not meant for marketing and selling but for communication and connection to people and information. Understanding this, even today, can flip your marketing and selling strategy on its head, but you’ll have far more success respecting the spirit of the ‘Net, rather than throwing money at hard-sell tactics.

2. Listen. In the ’90s, the Golden Rule of posting to a Usenet Newsgroup or other online community was to listen first before speaking. Listening thoughtfully gives you a better sense of not only what people are saying but also how they are feeling. In virtual spaces where there are no visual cues, good listening skills become a powerful asset. Listening also helps you map out your current social media footprint and measure your marketing campaigns over time. The key to successful social media marketing is listening.

3. Add Value. Enter any online conversation with the aim of adding value. Before posting a message as a new participant in a forum, ask yourself: How is this providing value to the conversation?  In some circles, talking about your product or service can be considered valuable, but in most, it is unwelcome and intrusive.

4. Respond. The importance of timely responses to any feedback or queries generated from those sites. A quick response is more important than ever, and thanks to search tools, alert apps and other services, it is possible to achieve. Don’t be a dam in a conversation flow.

5. Do Good Things. Helping others can really help you to succeed in social media, too. Just do a Google search for Social Media for Social Good to see the power of this movement. This goes beyond adding value online. It means fundamentally changing your business model from a single bottom line — profit — to a triple bottom line — people, planet, profit — and then perpetuating this social responsibility to all you do in business, including online marketing and selling.

6. Share the Wealth. Not just money – but time, information and knowledge. In social media, sharing is the fuel of the conversation engine.

7. Give Kudos. Social media works when you are generous. There is nothing wrong with self-promotion, but things really take off when you give others praise or a moment in the spotlight. The rise of retweeting — real retweeting, not spammy retweeting — shows how far giving credit to others can go in social spaces.

8. Don’t Spam. There is also an ugly surge of spamming in social media, today’s equivalent of unscrupulous email marketers who inundated our email boxes with garbage and left a bad taste in our mouths for email marketing.   On Twitter, I’m finding it a daily chore to delete people I’m following who send out spam messages, but I just don’t have the time, interest or bandwidth to tolerate the “Get Lots of Followers on Autopilot” spam.

9. Be Real. Authenticity is the secret ingredient behind any good and valuable social media marketing campaign.  If you know your audience, locate them online, listen, add value, respond, refrain from spamming and just be yourself, you’ll have far better and more long-lasting positive results than if you try to be someone, or something you’re not.

10. Collaborate. Before you dive into social media for marketing and selling, take a look at who is out there and who is doing it well. How can you work with them, instead of trying to muscle your way into the space with all of your dollars?  Those will often be dollars wasted because people can feel that push and recoil from the hard sell, blog about your misstep, sign petitions to boycott your company, you name it.  If you put your money in places where it can do good while generating goodwill for your brand, you’ll be much more likely to get a positive result from social media.

Key points to remember

  1. What are your business goals?  What are you trying to achieve?
  2. Who are you trying to reach?
  3. Where are the conversations happening around your company or brand?  How can you appropriately join the conversation?
  4. Results won’t necessarily happen over night
  5. It’s about giving and not about telling all about you – being of service to others 90% of the time and tooting your own horn about 10% of the time – being social instead of hard-selling (a nice little phrase I’ve borrowed which I think sums it up.)
  6. Two-way dialogue:  you really need to be social and interact with others.  A monologue is just not as valuable
  7. Be yourself, don’t fake it.  But, if you’re providing a professional service, remember the need to represent this.
  8. Don’t spam – repeat links to your own material several times.  Your followers will notice and switch off or unfollow.
  9. Social media tools are only that — tools.  The real energy, spirit and power of social media is people.  We are social media.
  10. As per some of the above points, TRUST is key.


Links… if you might like to try this social media thing!
For those not already registered but would like to, visit:





There is no charge to use this social media software, but I would recommend that you pay attention to the security settings on each.  If you do register and decide you’d prefer to remove your profile from any of these sites, it’s easy to do so.

Once you’re using:

Twitter folk you might like to follow:  twitter.com/mendipbizwomen http://twitter.com/snowballthrower

If you enjoy using Twitter, you might find it easier to download this software which helps you more easily keep track of who’s saying what (it’s free too):  http://tweetdeck.com/beta/

Mendip Business Women groups online:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=102513315909&ref=ts

LinkedIn -http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2086329&trk=anetsrch_name&goback=.gdr_1251980123947_1

Blog – http://mendipbusinesswomen.wordpress.com/

Further reading on Social Media (there’s masses out there, but here are a few links which have helped with my research)

Research on Business Social Media/Networking Successes?

Five steps to a successful corporate Twitter presence

PR & TWITTER: Should We Give A Tweet?

Is Social Media Really That Risky?

Is Twitter a massive waste of time or a valuable tool?

Measuring the impact of social media

7 Reasons why the business world hates social media

10 Golden Rules of Social Media

16 Twitter Tips for Small Business Owners

7 Tools to Boost your Twitter Following

LinkedIn Drives More Direct Blog Traffic Than Facebook, twitter or Google

Is Facebook Really Better Than Twitter For Your Business?

Twitter for business: Four breakthrough insights

Facebook Exodus

Return to the top or to visit other sections again:
What is Social Media
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn overview
Reasons why the business world hates social media
Why should we take social media seriously for our business?
My experiences and results
10 Golden Rules of Social Media
Things to remember when using Social Media
Social Media links
Further reading and research resources