Getting Started in Social Networking and Social Media: From RunMarketing.co.uk
1………………………………….What is Social Networking?
2………………………………….Different Types of Social Network
3………………………………….Getting Started in Social Networking
4………………………………….Which Social Networks are for Me?
5………………………………….Measure and Monitor
9…………………………………Creating Your Own Social Network
10………………………………..Forming a Social Media Policy
11………………………………..Tips and Resources
1: What is Social Networking?
Marketing has moved on from the monologue days when a company would push its
messages to its target audiences and hope they would swallow it. Thanks to the Internet,
marketing is now a conversation. People are blogging, tweeting, commenting on forums and
Facebooking about brands, talking about their experiences. It is estimated that one in every
five tweets - posts on social network Twitter - contains a brand name. If you're that brand, you
want to know what people are saying and establish how to make sure as much of that 'buzz'
as possible is positive.
You will have had to have been living on Mars for the last few years not to have heard of
Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter. These are all online social networks and according to
industry watcher eMarketer by 2013 50 per cent of UK Internet users will be accessing them
at least once a month. For small businesses and start-ups, social networks offer an incredible
opportunity to reach a global audience and be incredibly creative for relatively little outlay.
They also enable you to engage with your customers in real time and monitor feedback on
your brand, product or service.
On the flipside, they potentially represent a serious threat to your reputation if handled
irresponsibly and, without strict policies on staff, use of social networks could result in the
compromising of client or business-sensitive information.
Like it or not, social networks are here to stay and will impact your business. It's up to you to
make sure that this impact is positive. In this paper we aim to demonstrate the many different
types of social networks, help you decide whether they're right for your business to engage
with, and also cover off how to blog, microblog and form policies on social network use within
your workplace. We'll even show you how to create your own online community!
2: Different Types of Social Network
Social Networks: The following are easily the most used – and most famous – social
networks. Facebook started as a US university project several years ago and passed 200
million users worldwide in the spring of 2009. It enables people to share photos and
messages, provide updates, and arrange events as well as form groups and fan clubs. Bebo
is another powerful social network, although its demographic tends to be younger than
Facebook. These are truly global networks, although some in-country communities in non-
English speaking countries are more prevalent within their own geography, such as Hyves in
the Netherlands and Tuenti in Spain. People tend to use their social network accounts for
personal use and interests rather than for work purposes.
Business Networking: LinkedIn is the most famous example of a social network designed
specifically with business in mind. Originally an online contact book, LinkedIn has become a
truly interactive platform for business people to share information, get involved in debates,
and sign up for groups with others in their industry. In mainland Europe, Xing and Plaxo are
also major networks.
Blogging: A shortened form of “weblog”, the blog has become a standard industry practice. So
much so that the lack of a company blog can be perceived as a conspicuous absence. A blog
is essentially an opinion or diary piece outlining an issue of your choice. It could be a
response to another blog you've seen, it could be about what your company is up to (in short
form), it could be a mini-announcement. Whatever you blog about, it's great from a thought
leadership perspective and it's also really good for your web ranking, as the more content you
put online the more chance you have of being found by search engines.
Microblogging: The altogether shorter form of blogging is called microblogging, and it's
dominated by one site – Twitter. Twitter enables users to provide 140-character updates in
real time on whatever they're doing, thinking or feeling. You can build up “followers” and
“follow” other twitterers to build up a virtual, real time communications network. Twitter does
have a high drop-out rate, despite its incredible growth, but it's worth persevering with to fully
interact with your industry, customer and potential customer base. It's also a fantastic way to
research what people are saying about your company, product or service – and your rivals', of
course! Twitter has become almost a real-time search engine for news, products and
services. Whereas, due to the way search engines work, the front page of Google may
display pages that are several year old, on Twitter you get updates as they happen. So if
someone's looking for a product or service that you provide, you can connect with that
potential customer right there and then.
Video sharing: Developments in bandwidth and the proliferation of affordable, high-quality
video cameras have led to an incredible rise in the sharing of video content online. The likes
of YouTube and TubeMogul have enabled people to upload video files they themselves have
filmed on equipment that is readily available at low cost. YouTube also provides HTML code –
the code Internet sites are built on – to enable you to 'embed' video into your website. From a
content and customer interaction perspective this is a massive plus.
Audio: Have you considered podcasting for your business? Podcasts are simple and cost-
effective to create and, with the proliferation of the Web and iTunes around the world, enable
you to speak to a global audience. Have a listen to some podcasts from across a variety of
fields to see what style you feel suits you and your company best. To create a podcast, all you
need is a good microphone, some editing software and a podcasting host, such as Podbean
or Libsyn. These sites will allow a certain amount of hosting for free and provide you with an
HTML code to embed a podcast 'player' onto your site or blog and also what's known as an
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed which will enable you to load your podcast onto the
iTunes Store. It's crucial to apply relevant 'tags' so that your content can be easily found. Tags
are keywords that people will use to find your product or service, which we cover later.
Visual: Photography really brings content to life. While it's not great from a search perspective
– search engines can't read images or text within images – there are outlets for you to
showcase your company using photography, especially if your business is image-dependent,
for example if you’re a wedding photographer or a design agency. Sites like Flickr are
incredibly useful as they allow you to upload your images and share them with the world. If
you don't want too much imagery on your site due to hosting or bandwidth restrictions, then
uploading images to a Flickr gallery you've created is a great idea. You can simply provide a
link on your site or you can share this link on your blog or Twitter. So now you can see how
social media is all interwoven.
Slideshare is another visual platform which you can use to promote your company. As the
name suggests, Slideshare allows you to share slides. Simply generate a PowerPoint
presentation that outlines your company's proposition and upload it to Slideshare, where
thousands of potential customers could be looking for your product or service. Slideshare is
more relevant for business-to-business (B2B) offerings as the site doesn't tend to attract
3: Getting Started in Social Media Networking
Before engaging in a social media programme it's important to know firstly:
• What do you want to get out of the programme
• How will you measure the impact of the social media programme
• How often will you assess it?
Without a clear strategy early on you'll be stumbling blindly into a social media programme.
I've seen it being done, where some agencies say 'you must get on Facebook, you must get
on Twitter', but if you don't know WHY you're on those networks and have a clear idea of what
you're going to do once you get there then you need an urgent rethink. You could save
yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run by having a clear timeline, objectives and
metrics in place before you start.
• Which social networks are best for you?
• How are you going to brand your various properties? What would your Twitter name be?
How will you name your blog?
• Who's going to assume responsibility for social media internally? Who will be updating
your Twitter status, for example, and respond to other Twitter users when they tweet you?
Who will be commenting on other people's blogs? This person needs to be a senior
person who is clear on messaging and can be trusted to keep updates over social media
Social networks are usually free to get involved with, unless you're planning to build one
yourself, which we cover off in a later section. The core investment when it comes to social
media is time; time to plan, design, create content, search for blog comment opportunities,
analyse statistics and interact with other commentators.
4: Which Social Networks Are For Me?
Think about which platform most of your customers or target demographics will be on to
derive maximum impact from your social media campaign. This is crucial as you could end up
barking up the wrong tree.
For example, LinkedIn and its European equivalent, Xing, are business networks. They’ve
moved on from being simply online contacts books and have become places where
individuals can join discussions and groups, arrange meetings and even collaborate on work
over the Web. They are very much aimed at the business-to-business (B2B) space, so if
you’re selling business services, such as accounting or Web design, getting involved with
business networks and associated groups will give you visibility amongst the very people you
want to talk to. You can then use this as a platform with which to network, share ideas and
links, build contacts and attend events.
If your product is more consumer-based, then think about the sort of networks your target
audience will be active on. It’s here that demographics are important. Bebo, for example, is
popular amongst teens and people in their early twenties, while Facebook tends to attract an
older crowd. Twitter, likewise, tends to attract a professional, middle-aged audience, so if
you’re after a youth market you probably won’t find it on Twitter.
Setting up a ‘fan group’ on Facebook is a great way to generate a following by word-of-mouth
(WoM) marketing. On this page you can contain information on your company and product,
link to your blog and interact with others. When someone joins a fan group, all their friends
can see it in their notifications. If that group appeals to their friends then they might join and in
turn their friends can gain visibility of the group, and so it goes on, accumulating ‘fans’ as it
goes. Groups are only successful however, if you make them worth joining, so good, regular
content is important.
Think outside of the ‘usual suspects’ and target specialist networks in your field. For example,
for cyclists in the UK enthusiasts set up CycleSocial, which boasts 1,200 members. Although
the membership is small, it is a dedicated audience which you know is interested in cycling. If
you’re a provider of cycling products or holidays this could be a really valuable audience. You
could also think ‘vertically’ and look to target more generic outdoor pursuit communities, such
as RealBuzz, to post your bloglinks and interact with your potential customers.
Play around with social networks from your personal account first before taking the plunge
with your business as they all operate differently. Remember that people don’t want to be sold
to when on a social network. Marketers derive more value from social networks when they
use them to ‘draw the horse to water’ – put the content up there and offer people the
opportunity to click through and let them decide from there whether they want to take it any
further. Social networking is all about the ‘long game’.
5: Measure and Monitor
Without some idea of what constitutes ‘success’ straight from the outset it’s impossible to
know whether or not your social media programme is producing the results you want. The
issue of just how to measure the impact of social media programmes has created a huge
amount of debate in the last few years and there is no one cut-and-dried system that satisfies
Marketing people usually demand numbers and metrics to be able to justify budgets and
impact. With social media this is possible, for example, monitoring Web traffic growth. Good
web hosts will provide measurement tools which will enable you to analyse where your
inbound traffic is coming from – e.g. search engines (via keywords), direct name entries, other
sites linking in etc.
There are various schools of thought on measurement. One popular theory is the qualitative
and quantitative measurement approach. The quantitative route includes traffic monitoring,
page rank, search engine optimisation (SEO) ranking and general sales conversions, which
will probably please most marketers. Think about using free online tools such as Google
Analytics, Xinu and Alexa to rate your site’s effectiveness, as well using your host’s own traffic
analysis tools, which should come with your Web hosting package. If you’ve set up a social
network or Facebook group page, for example, look at your user numbers and take-up rate.
The qualitative approach does not include hard metrics but is important to factor in as it
concerns your business’ overall involvement in social media. You need to ask yourself:
• How is your company performing compared to your competitors when it comes to online
buzz (i.e. what people are talking about you online)?
• Are you getting involved in the online discussions about your product or industry
• Use Google Alerts and Addictomatic to monitor the buzz about your product and industry
Decide your timeframes for measuring – monthly, quarterly, half-yearly etc – and then think
about how you can answer the following questions:
• How often did you get involved in conversations, especially those you’ve not been
engaged with previously?
• Have you improved relationships with your target audiences and demographics
• What are people saying about your company, product or service online?
There are firms out there who offer tools and services to monitor online buzz
Ultimately, the most important metric is conversion to sales, whatever your business, but
monitoring your social media to make it as effective as possible is an ongoing process.
There are numerous advantages to blogging. Posting blogs helps your SEO, allows you to
interact with your industry and audience, portrays you as a thought leader and helps generate
backlinks to your site which are essential to increasing your website’s authority.
There are no set rules on how to blog, but important factors to consider include:
• What am I going to blog about?
• How should I brand the blog?
• How long should my blog be?
• What content should I include?
• How can I filter comments made on my posts?
• What platform is best for hosting my blog?
• How am I going to interact with other bloggers?
• How can I optimise my content?
Getting the branding of the blog right in the first place is critical to its long-term popularity. If
using a hosted service pick a name or URL for the blog which involves a keyword, where
possible. Make sure the blog portrays your company’s personality.
A lot of companies I speak to say “but what will we blog about?” and my answer is always the
same – “how long’s a piece of string?” You know your market and the concerns your
customers have, brainstorm what you think they’ll like to learn about. Think about a calendar,
too, especially if your product is seasonal. The more quirky and confident the blog is, the
more people will be likely to bookmark you or return on a regular basis. Lists are particularly
good at generating debate, as are top tips. The key thing here is to remember to be neutral
and non-salesy – people have come to your blog for advice, not to be sold to. If they like what
they hear they’ll progress to the sales stage in their own time.
Choosing the right platform to publish your blogs on is important. You can set them up on your
own site, but other programmes are available, such as the popular Wordpress.org and
Blogger.com, but you need to consider the loss of control over design and features that you’ll
get with hosted programmes. For a professional organisation, it’s generally accepted that
hosting a blog on your own website is more professional. For a start, this draws traffic straight
to your site rather than simply providing an extra click-through to redirect to your site.
Make sure you have complete editorial control and set filters for incoming comments so you
can monitor them before they go on you site. You are completely responsible for the content
on your site, so to best ensure you’re not containing defamatory comments or sensitive
information. You need to proof all comments before approving them.
Your content should be engaging, thought-provoking and informative. You should allow
comments, but monitor before publishing, as above. Blogs should be long enough for users to
leave having learned something, well-written (hire a copywriter if you’re not confident in your
in-house blogging resources), but not too long. Remember, it’s harder to read off a screen
than on paper, plus people reading online usually have a small time window with which you
have their attention, so 350-500 words is ideal. Use hyperlinks on relevant words where
possible and use the blog as a kind of summary leading the reader to more in-depth content
on your site or elsewhere which they can read at their leisure.
To make your content even more compelling, why not generate podcasts and videocasts and
use the blog to promote those and draw people further into your content?
As with all things Web 2.0 – the term for the interactive Internet which allows user generated
content (UGC) - it’s critical to optimise your blog content to increase the chances of your blog
being found by potential customers and to generate comments and links. Here are a few tips
to optimise your blogs:
• Download the SEO Blogger tool from Wordtracker to help you choose keywords when
drafting blogs. It works with several blogging platforms
• Remember to tag your blogs with at least 10 relevant keywords
• Register your site on Technorati and Feedburner, these help you expand your reach and
monitor feedback and following
• Insert follow and bookmark options, such as RSS feeds or del.icio.us, and upload links to
social media news sites, such as Digg and Reddit, which will enable people to promote
your blog to others who might be interested
• Use your Twitter feed to promote the blog. Your following will be made up of people in your
industry so many will be interested to hear your views
• Provide links to other blogs in your industry in your blogroll and ask them to link back. This
‘cross-blogging’ is important for your own blog’s authority
Bloggers can be hugely influential, so it’s critical to engage with the leading bloggers in your
field. Computer manufacturer Dell was faced with the full force of a disgruntled blogger in the
form of Jeff Jarvis, which prompted a complete about-face in the company’s policy on blogger
– and customer – engagement.
There are a few protocols to follow when reaching out to bloggers:
• Use tools like Technorati and Alexa to check on a blog’s ‘authority’ – so you can focus
your efforts on engaging the bloggers with the biggest and most relevant audience
• Don’t treat bloggers as journalists, they’re not paid to read press releases and are
under no pressure to post, so there has to be something in it for them
• Don’t try and bribe the blogger with product, it could easily backfire
• If you can, meet them personally. This goes a long way to building a lasting
• Check the regular contributors on blog sites, they may be – or become – influential
See the Tips and Resources section for a link to some examples of good blogs
Microblogging, as the name suggests, shortens blogging to a limited number of characters,
much like text messaging in an open online forum. The market leader here is Twitter.
Twitter is a service embraced by companies, individuals and celebrities which allows users to
enter 140 characters of text with which to communicate, share information, and chat publicly
and privately. The idea is to build up a following among users that interest you. For companies
of all sizes, Twitter presents the opportunity to interact with existing and potential customers
from across the globe. However, Twitter presents challenges to small businesses as well as
opportunities, and it’s worth noting if you’re planning to use Twitter, it’s best to do it properly or
not at all. The site does have a big fall-out rate; around 40 per cent of new Twitter users
abandon it in the first month, so it takes some getting used to. You can use it over various
platforms, including Web browser or other platforms such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is great if you’re managing multiple Twitter accounts.
Firstly, the good news – Twitter enables you to see who in the world is talking about your
product, industry or company and interact with them. You can build up a network of potential
customers and promote your news, products, services and offers. For the small business, you
can really think big with Twitter.
But now the less positive news; for the return on investment compared to the time you could
spend on it, Twitter is potentially a very high maintenance way to promote your brand. You
also need to be ready for potentially negative comments that could be made about you, and
your certainly don’t want to get into any public spats!
You need policies in place to avoid your staff going off message if they’re on Twitter. Your staff
should not be tweeting about who you’re meeting for new business, for example - here are
some quick tips on the dos and don’ts of Twitter:
• Never tweet in anger. It may be tempting if you see something infuriating that you want to
respond to, but remember that whatever you type will be available online forever, even if
you delete your comment, some traces can remain
• Never set an auto-follow thank you message. This is an option available to you to say
‘thanks for following’ and add your message, but this is seen as impersonal and defeats
the object of Twitter as an open dialogue
• Always use an image. Leaving the default brown Twitter image is, again, impersonal and
won’t encourage a follow back. It’s also best to use a photo of a person as opposed to a
• Make sure that only an official spokesperson can tweet on behalf of your business and
never go off-message
• Never outsource Twitter to a third party, such as a PR firm. It’s impractical to ‘ghost tweet’
• Follow people at around 100 people at a time to get going. Twitterers who have a really
high following to follower ratio can look like spammers and won’t encourage so many to
• Log on in spates during the day. It can become both addictive and a frustrating distraction
as you get sucked into conversations. Be disciplined.
• Use hashtags in front of a subject – e.g. #cricket – as this helps the subject to be found
more easily by people searching for, in this instance, cricket. It also helps you when you’re
searching for discussions on Twitter
Twitter can be very effective as part of your outreach to new audiences, so play around with it
before diving in as a business.
8: Audio/Visual Networks
There’s nothing better to make content really come alive than a bit of audio and visual. It’s
almost expected nowadays that a site will have something other than static content and it’s an
excellent way to demo your product or service, or offer advice to potential customers and
clients. Most of the following sites offer an opportunity for the audience to share the content
and make comments.
YouTube is the most famous and prominent of the video sites. Once you’ve made a video
(simple to do on both Mac and PC) you can upload it onto YouTube and monitor how many
views you get. You can also embed the HTML code into your website so the video can be
watched from your website. You can use TubeMogul to distribute and analyse the
effectiveness your videos.
Have you thought about podcasting? A simple microphone and editing suite is all you need to
start creating podcasts. You can then host them on the likes of Libsyn or Podbean which
provide you with an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to link into the popular iTunes
platform. You will then be able to offer your podcast content for free download from the iTunes
store, which has a global audience. If you have an iPod or iPhone, access the store from your
computer to listen to other businesses’ podcasts to give you some pointers on how to
structure a podcast.
If you offer business-to-business services, have you thought about putting your business
proposition as a slideshow on the likes of Slideshare? What about using Procasts to generate
a proposal to showcase on your own site?
9: Creating Your Own Social Network
If you want to interact with your customers beyond the basic free platforms, such as
Facebook groups, you can build your own social networks. Companies such as Ning and
KickApps provide you with the basic tools with which to white label your own social network.
They enable you to build forums, run polls, run membership schemes and issue rights to
users, such as running their own blogs on your site.
Benefits include access to a captive audience. You know your members are interested in your
product and are therefore potential customers. If you make the experience attractive they’ll tell
their friends and colleagues, plus you only need to build the network once, unlike blogging,
which needs to be done over and over again.
Social networks are popular – just look at Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. They’re not
necessarily making huge revenues themselves, but for your business you’re probably not
seeking to run your social network as a revenue generator but for the benefit of the following.
Bear in mind that many people are already members of many social networks and only a
small percentage of members are really active when they join, so it can be a challenge to get
people really involved. See social network building as a long-term strategy.
As ever – content is king. If the content is informative then you’ll attract people. I’m mindful of
the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams, where he’s told by voices ‘If you build it, they will
come…’ when it comes to social networks. For an initial time and cost investment, building a
social network could be hugely beneficial to your business.
10: Forming a Social Media Policy
In the Web 2.0 era it is incredibly difficult to ensure complete discretion. Staff can comment
about their jobs, employers and clients on blogs, social networks and Twitter. Unfortunately
many do not understand the consequences or reach of their comments, or are careless in
their posts revealing details unwittingly.
A high-profile case in the United Kingdom led to a young woman being sacked for comments
she made on Facebook about her boss, forgetting she’d added him as a friend and he could
see her status updates. To lose your job because of something you say online is known as
‘doocing’. This case is just one of a growing number and it highlights the need for employers
to put in place policies on the use of social networks. Some companies have banned social
media altogether, but this may be counter-productive in the long term and may undermine
Points to consider when forming a social media policy for staff:
• Communicate to your staff what your company is using social media for and focus on what
they can do and say rather than what they can’t
• Make sure your staff understand the consequences of what they write or post. They
should never post anything critical. Ensure they are trained on libel, defamation and
• Ensure that staff never discuss client or work business in a public forum
• Make sure staff set privacy settings so that only approved people that they know or have
had contact with can see their updates
As with most things, it’s all down to common sense.
11: Tips and Resources
Tagging: One of the most important disciplines in social media is tagging. Tags essentially
help you index your blogs, videos and podcasts, and they're critical as they help your potential
customers find your content. When tagging, it's important to consider the keywords that
people will use when searching for your product. It's essential to view these keywords
objectively and step away from any brand loyalty – how you would like to describe your
product is not necessarily how the consumer might. It's easy to forget to tag your content but
it's a vital component and will only take a couple of minutes.
Stephen Davies of online PR consultancy 3WPR discusses Blogging here
Jenni Lloyd of social agency NixonMcInnes talks about Social Media here
Good examples of blogs and social media guidelines