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Original post : Mar 21, 2012

Social media - again!

Social media sharingToday, to earn some useful CPD time to preserve my Chartered Marketer qualification, I attended a Chartered Institue of Marketing webinar about Facebook for Business. Regular readers will know that at The Purple Edge we consider ourselves healthy sceptics when it comes to social media and, as much as I like to stay in touch, I also find myself mildly irritated by the massive emphasis on these tools in the marketing community.

My scepticism was somewhat inflamed, as it happens, by having just read a Huffington Post article about the media obsession with social and viral. It's a brilliant article by the way, talking about the rapid changes in news stories as dictated by the ebb and flow of social media. And the obsession of businesses with 'going viral'. It suggests that little attention is paid these days to whether the news or content is actually worth the airtime: "nothing is too inconsequential to be made consequential." It's a sobering tale - but I digress. I recommend you read the article, but back to Facebook for Business.

The webinar didn't really cover any new ground, but reinforced some messages that I'm happy to share with you (and save you an hour listening for yourself).

Social media is big news

Well, we shouldn't be surprised, but a survey among marketers identified that 61% say they are aiming to increase their investment in this area in the coming year. More than in any other area and, for the first time, beating email. In a live poll on the webinar 38% of respondents identified Facebook as their most important social media platform, 27% Twitter, 26% LinkedIn and 9% YouTube. That suggests that a significant proportion of the attendees are focusing on consumer markets.

Acquire, participate, engage, share

This is the strategy recommended to develop your network relationships using Facebook. Facebook advertising was proposed as a key way to ACQUIRE new visitors to your page, this echoes other advice I have read (but is not free of course). You encourage PARTICIPATION by sharing great content, ENGAGEMENT means creating offers or seeking opinions, SHARING is what happens when friends of your fans see what they are up to on your site.

Something new I did learn was the way Facebook decides what to show in the newsfeeds these days. It used to be simply the most recent posts but now is a combination of factors: recency, edge weight and affinity score. It's all getting very complicated, but 'edge' refers to content and some types of content have more 'weight' than others. For example video is most 'weighty', photos less so, status updates less again and 'likes' least of all. How much your followers choose to interact with you (by commenting or liking for example) gives them an affinity score and Facebook will show them posts from people they have greater affinity with before others. Keeping up?

Old rules, new tools

I was most heartened to hear this message! Don't get so carried away with new tools and the technology that you forget that the message is more important that the platform. Be clear about who you're speaking to, what you have to say, why it is valuable, and how you say it.

The most successful brands on Facebook are those with a brand personality that lends itself to this new medium. Yo Sushi did part of the presentation and explained how they use Facebook to drive more business through their restaurants and to encourage loyalty (they made a lot of offers both national and local). Their brand personality was described as humorous, helpful, exciting, intelligent, playful and fun. All of which lets them push the boundaries on the content and interact in a lively way with their customers.

Business to business use of Facebook was acknowledged as more of a challenge than if you are targeting consumers. If you're targeting businesses and have to prioritise where you spend your time then spending a lot of it on Facebook may not be your best bet!

At the end of all that I have 1 hour towards the 35 hours that I need annually for my CPD, and a blog post. All in all time well spent!

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