On Wednesday we railed against ad agencies capitalising on the riots through social media. Today local resident and communications expert Karen Wisdom outlines genuine local social networks and dispels myths
Over recent months, social media has come of age as an effective way to bring people and communities together, particularly in the face of the recent rioting and looting in our neighbouring communities. Social media has been widely used to break news ahead of the national media and link communities together and support each other.
But while some of us are active across these social media platforms, others have still to appreciate this fast-evolving means of communication, or haven’t a clue where to start with it all.
Taking Twitter as an example, among the BR7 businesses and organisations who have been most active to date are: The Bull’s Head (Twitter name: @BullChislehurst) and Heading Up the Aisle (@HUTAWeddings). Chislehurst Rocks, the September music festival, has its own Twitter site (@ChisRocks). There’s also the charity Chislehurst Society @ChislehurstSocy. And not forgetting our very own ChislehurstNews (@chislehurstnews).
So what are they all getting from social media that others aren’t?
Dispelling some myths
Isn’t it mainly for celebrities and young people?
Whilst the early adopters of social media were predominantly the young the fastest growing group signing up to Facebook is 55-64 year olds and the oldest age profile is to be found on LinkedIn (average user age of 44; the age range of users is much wider).
I don’t know anyone on social media…
You will be surprised who is on social media these days, and locally to you. You can use your email database or search facilities to find and to engage with people you know (e.g. friends, friends of friends, professional colleagues etc), or organisations, groups and individuals that you might find it useful to engage with. A good place to start with finding local connections is by typing your home town name into the search box on Facebook or Twitter.
Won’t it take up too much of my time?
It can take up as little or as much time as you choose. Yes, it can be a little addictive, but only in the same way that surfing the web can lead you to yet another site to explore. Setting sensible time limits for your social media activity will help to limit it.
If you are a business, you can also enlist help to manage your social media activity, in a similar way to outsourcing your marketing.
Won’t everyone know my private business if I sign up to social media?
On social media, people out there will only know what you choose to tell them. As a general rule, private individuals should avoid posting too much personal information, for security purposes (e.g. your birth year; a birth day/date alone is sufficient) or information about when you are on holiday or out of the house (you can post retrospectively about where you’ve been). You can choose not to complete certain information about yourself, and your privacy settings on the social media platforms you will be using should always be checked at the set up stage.
How to use social media, and which platforms to use
The main UK platforms currently are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
People use Twitterto ‘Tweet’ information, in less than 140 characters, about what they are doing, where they have been/recommend, what they are seeking or looking forward to. It is used to find out what’s on (globally, nationally and locally), to keep updated on news, reviews, travel information and causes and to share links to blogs, websites and promotions.
Businesses have been slower to use Twitter but are starting to use it much more to publicise their business offers, promotions and trading times. It is currently quite easy to make a big impact on Twitter as a local business.
Individuals use Facebook to connect with friends, past and present, locally and across the globe and to share information, photos and videos.
Businesses can use Facebook to showcase their products and services to engage with customers and to build a following of people who have an affinity with their business. Did you know that for Facebook advertising purposes, there are currently almost 10,000 people on Facebook within a 10-mile radius of Chislehurst?
For businesses, an additional benefit of social media comes through integrating different platforms with each other, for example using Twitter to drive followers to their Facebook page or website, and to use website ‘plug-ins’ to encourage Twitter followers and Facebook likes.
For professionals, businesses, or anyone with career interests at heart, LinkedIn is the most powerful platform for connecting, networking and job seeking; increasing numbers of people are being headhunted using this mechanism, which also has numerous professional interest and local business networking groups.
Originally for sharing music and film videos, this is also a fast growing platform for business use. Individuals use it to share music & film videos (both new and old), demonstrations and tips e.g. for cookery, DIY etc, business training information etc. Business can use it to great effect to show, demonstrate and promote their products and services.
It is clear that social media is here to stay
Don’t be left behind. If you are not already on social media, there’s never been a better time to get involved with it (Facebook and Twitter are good places to start), or to expand your existing portfolio of platforms (check out Google + and Foursquare).
The most important aspect is that it’s all about connecting with people and having conversations, not just talking at people… the real beauty of social media is about actively engaging with others in conversations, especially those in your locality or with a shared interest. Whatever your interests, hobbies, business or profession, you can be sure to find others out there with a similar passion.
Now what’s happening in BR7 this autumn…?
Karen is a social media, branding and communications expert. You can contact Karen through a variety of social networks: Twitter (@karenwisdom), Facebook (Wisdom Research & Marketing), LinkedIn (Karen Wisdom) or through her website.