The web has always been primarily a social place. Email, chat rooms, discussion boards and other sharing spaces are what the Internet is all about: people meeting and connecting at various interest points, sharing information and data, and having conversations about it.
Facebook became a cultural staple in 2009, and though they continue to grow now, some day another platform may replace it. Already there are numerous sites to network on, and many places across the web where people meet, talk and share. Finding your place in this constantly shifting matrix requires a responsive, flexible strategy that nonetheless has a long term outlook. You don’t want to be dancing to the tune of every trend.
Something very minimalist will probably work for many brands. Maybe you’re a local business wanting to cast a wider net, for example a specialty boutique in a small town that wants to attract travelers, but isn’t interested in e-commerce. A simple website with a great design and fabulous copy are probably all that’s in order. An image-rich weekly blog can be published on it. A good SEO strategy should be implemented as soon the site is launched to make sure you can be found online, and periodic optimization should keep you in good shape. An owner wanting to go a bit further can also do an e-letter.
A Facebook page might not be even desirable at this point. This kind of business doesn’t need to allocate resources to managing a social media account. A poorly managed account is actually worse than none at all, and you’d be better off driving traffic to a blog where comments can be made. An exception to this might be a cash-strapped business wanting to use these medias instead of investing immediately in a website.
Only consider putting up a Facebook Page or starting a Twitter account if you want to actively cultivate a community. For example, let’s say the same boutique has an abundant source of some popular item and they want to sell it online. Now they may want to consider delving into social media. Social media is best used for branding within niche communities and Facebook and Twitter are necessary for any company that wants to have a voice in the global market.
Companies that need new ways to grow have to look to the social web. Since there is no real growth in the economy, businesses have to find new ways to use their resources and exercise their strengths. Social media can build loyal niche markets and provide a space for fanatical brand supporters to connect.
Hyper-local businesses with a strong community on the ground can leverage their clout to become thought leaders in their field. The openings for growth are limited only by the creativity and energy you put into finding them. If you can anticipate social trends and design products to them, you’ll can own the online space.
Some things to consider when beginning to test the social waters:
Be intentional Know exactly what you want to get out of social media. Do you want to reach more people, build a niche community, or become a leader in you industry? These different objectives require very different strategies.
Allocate resource—An effective web presence should be budget accountable. Period. Make firm commitments.
Social means people—Make sure whoever is managing your accounts is a social person.
Don’t neglect the real world—nothing is worse than a company that cultivates good will in social media but blows it when a customer walks in the door and gets a frosty reception.
It’s about your target audience—Don’t confuse your own preferences and tastes with your customer’s. They may happily coincide, or they may not. Use their language and design to them. Simple things like a narrator’s voice can be a huge turn off to people.
Find a voice and then build around it – Voice is the essence of your presence. Begin there and design your website or profile to showcase it. Your voice is partly visual: it should be image rich.