Social Media: What Are They & Should You Get Involved?

By: Stéphane Bergeron

As the first article on Webfocus Design’s new blog, I decided to tackle a subject that I know is on many people’s minds. What is social media and should your organization participate? This is the first in a series of articles where I will give you tips and ideas on how to use and benefit from social media.

What is social media?

Social media at its most basic is a way for people to connect, interact and share online. While these activities are not new on the Internet, what has changed is how people connect and interact as well as the increasing number of tools with which they can do it.

The first type of social media sites you will find are dedicated ones like Facebook and Twitter where people interact on a daily basis and share the details of their daily life or anything else that interests them. This is where organizations can get involved and have the most impact. On the other hand, social media features are now appearing on an increasing number of other sites and are giving people tools to get their opinions heard and interact with other users as well as the companies and organizations they do business with. These features range from ways to “like” or “dislike” a product, an article or a news item (like on for example) to ways to comment on a product or service and have other people “rate” that comment (like on Amazon, Yelp or Yahoo Local).

This means that people are now more informed and empowered than ever. They are having conversations about the products, services and brands they use every day and share their experience (good and bad) with their friends and family who in turn share it with others. Information and spread out quicker and wider than ever and that information is searchable and available for anyone to see. This is a profound change from the past and it affects how organizations of all kinds interact with their audience or customers.

Should you get involved in social media?

The answer to that question will depend on your particular circumstances and especially, the resources you have to devote to this endeavour. Getting good results from your participation in social media will require some planning and effort, but it does not need to take up a lot of time and the returns can be significant. At this point, the real question is, can you afford not to get involved?

As I have said before, you have to understand that people are already having conversations online about the brands and products they use all the time. This most probably includes yours or, at the very least, the type of product or service you provide. It can also make you aware of issues and needs consumers have with products and services similar to yours and you can connect with these people to offer your expertise.

Social media gives you the opportunity to take an active role in this conversation and raise awareness about your brand. With the increasing popularity of social media sites and tools, consumers’ expectations are increasing as well and the one-way push of your brand information through advertising and similar means is no longer enough. In many cases, people now expect to be able to communicate and exchange with the organizations they choose to do business with and those organizations who do this and do it well stand out.

Here is a quick list of advantages that participation in social media can bring to your organization:

  1. Helps you find out what people are saying about you
  2. Helps you control your online reputation by actively participating in the conversation
  3. Makes Interaction with your customers easier and more immediate
  4. Helps personalize and humanize your organization’s image
    • Customers want to know whom they are buying from or who provides them with services
  5. Provides branding opportunities and increases your online visibility
    • For example, it is important to own all the domain names that relate to your brand and protect them as using URLs like, or in addition to your primary Web site URL gives you better control of the first page of search results. They will also help people find your company if they are searching for your brand online
  6. Builds link popularity in search engines as it increases the number of natural (as opposed to paid) incoming links to your primary Web site
  7. Attracts traffic to your primary Web site
    • Posting videos or pictures of your organization’s events on YouTube or Flickr can drive traffic to your primary Web site as people may want to find out more about you. This is particularly interesting for community based organizations and non-profits who have activities and events in their communities they need to promote or might want to report about after the fact.
    • For companies, posting short product description videos or instructional videos on how to use your products or services or about your industry’s best practices can also increase traffic to your main site and increase your brand’s recognition
  8. Provides networking opportunities
    • Connecting with potential or existing customers has obvious benefits but connecting with others in your industry can also be very valuable. You can join groups within specific areas of interest and interact with like-minded people and “talk shop”. This way you may find suppliers or become one for other companies. You can also promote events to these groups and find out about events you would like to participate in.

As you can see, your participation to social media can be beneficial to both your customers and your organization. In a future article, I will give you pointers on how to get started and how you should handle your social media participation. For now, I will leave you with a short list of social media sites you can explore to get an idea of how things work.

Short list of social media sites

  • Your company blog : Yes, this one may be obvious but if you have a company blog and you have comments enabled, you are already engaged in a conversation with your site visitors and/or customers. Keep it up!
  • Twitter : ( One of the best known social media sites and arguably the most popular. Twitter is all about conversation, sharing ideas and experience… in 140 characters or less
  • Facebook : ( The other social media giant. Facebook is more complex to use and master than Twitter but it also provides you with a lot more tools.
  • LinkedIn : ( This one is completely business oriented and is a great tool to connect with other professionals.
  • Listing sites with social media features: These are sites where people search for businesses or services like restaurants in their neighbourhood. Then, they can comment on or rate their experience with them and other users can often reply to these comments or rate them . These sites have varying levels of social media tools integration.

I hope this introduction to social media was useful to you and got you fired up and thinking about the opportunities it can bring you. If you have any questions regarding this article, do not hesitate to contact me via email or post a comment here. Look forward to the next article in this series where I will give you tips on the “how” of social media.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article!

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