A little while back, I sent out a request via Twitter asking if anyone would be interested in being interviewed for a discussion on social media. With the medium meaning so many different things to so many people, as well as how it can be used, I was interested to hear the views of the people I connect with.
My original plan was to run a ?round table? style of blog post – raise the questions and then have a mix of views as the responses. However, the answers I received back were all excellent, and showed why social media is the mix of interesting people and views that it is. So, I decided individual posts would be far more effective in an on-going series of interviews.
Sharing his views today is David Leonhardt, President of The Happy Guy Marketing, offering multilingual SEO and online marketing services, as well as a variety of ghostwriting services. My sincere thanks to David for taking the time to reply and share his views. To connect with David, or find out more about him, please visit his SEO Marketing Express blog.
If someone was to ask you for your definition of social media, what would it be?
Social media is any communications technology that allows interaction between users. Currently, that includes Internet and hand-held wireless applications. However, television applications could easily be envisaged, as could refrigerator applications:
Hmmm?I wonder what Mom has in her fridge?let?s check. I see. Ooh, she has some good stuff. Let?s just send her a message here? ?Hi mom. Thinking of doing anything with that lasagna? I?m free to come over for dinner.? I suppose I should copy my brother on that one.
I expect that when fridges can do this, it will still be Web-based, perhaps through a FaceBook application or some other service not yet invented.
Although ?social media? and ?Web 2.0? have been used almost interchangeably, it is important to note that forums and newsgroups are examples of social media that have been around long before Web 2.0 was ?invented?.
What is your reason for using social media?
Tricky question, because it depends on the applications. I would say there are essentially three reasons for anybody using social media:
1. To say something (marketing, opinions)
2. To listen to something (learning)
3. To build relationships (marketing, social)
Across the board, my number 1 reason for using social media is for learning, specifically for keeping my ear to the ground. In the world of SEO and website marketing, so much changes so fast that is impossible to keep track of it all without some tools. I like to follow the discussions at Sphinn.com and HighRankings.com because it helps me keep track of what is happening.
I am definitely a late convert to Twitter, but it took me only a couple days to be a complete fan. Twitter is like a pair of binoculars for monitoring the changing landscape. The short 140-character snippets, one after the other from all those people I choose to follow, gives me the ability to monitor a much, much wider landscape without spending any more time. They come from multiple sources, including dannybrown.me (of course), problogger.net, mashable.com and topseoblogs.wordpress.com, to name just a few that I have found most helpful to follow closely.
My number 2 reason is to build/maintain relationships. Even fairly loose relationships can be useful for business, because if there is an opportunity or an idea to present someone else, there is already a door open.
From a personal perspective, I am a bit of a hermit, compounded by living away from any urban center, so social media gives me a little more social interaction. This is important for anyone working alone in their home. In the case of Twitter, I have already met some very nice people in the nearest urban centers, Ottawa and Montreal – and even down the highway in Toronto – whom I hope to meet in person before too long. In the case of Facebook, I use it to maintain relationships with people I have known over time.
My 3rd reason for using social media is for marketing, but not because I expect to find any clients on FaceBook or Sphinn or Twitter. These are simply wonderful venues to let people you know about things you are doing and nudge them to spread the word. Again, this is about networking and making use of existing relationships. I really have not yet used social media for this, but I know I will.
Do you feel that social media is being used to its maximum effect?
Social media, in the sense of Web applications, is really in its infancy. Its true effect will happen when political rallies take place online, or when people can log in to international economic summits and discuss with each other in real-time what is happening as ambassadors modify their positions based on public opinion, even as it is being formed. When we are able to join friends on impromptu holographic vacations in places we could never afford the time or money to visit in person? I feel that’s when social media will begin to get really interesting (sign me up for that hike in the Andes without having to fly for a day each way!).
I should also add that when I have to answer the question ?What?s a blog?? at least once a month, I know how far we have to go.
What social media tools or applications do you use? Why these ones in particular?
I already referred to some of my favorites, but I also use a number of other websites, including Digg.com and StumbleUpon.com and occasionally Mixx.com and Searchles.com . And of course, I use my own start-up social bookmarking website just for Canadians, Zoomit Canada (I can?t resist slipping in a plug for that). I massively underuse YouTube and Flickr and MySpace and many others because I just don?t have the time.
One specific tool I really like is TwitterBerry. I?ve never liked to waste a moment, and this allows me to better ?use? my time while my daughters are dancing (no WiFi there!) or even while waiting for the ladies to do their thing before stepping into a movie.
I also like the Facebook application for posting Tweets automatically to Facebook, which helps with certain time-management issues. I plan to add a similar function to Zoomit Canada sometime in the next few months.
I also like WordPress as a blogging platform. All my blogs and most of my clients? are in WordPress. It?s simple and SEO friendly, and is loaded with plugins.
I also have to mention the social bookmarking script my brother and I created, called TheBookMarketer, which I use on all my blogs to make them easy for people to social bookmark.
And let?s not forget Wikipedia and LinkedIn and MyBlogLog, as well as probably a couple dozen forums that I also massively underuse (still waiting for that 48-hour day!).
Where do you see the future of social media, both in general and for you?
The main obvious future of social media is that it will become more ubiquitous. For example, someone planning major renovations to their home in Chicago will expect the architect to place the plans where they can be easily seen and annotated by the in-laws in Davenport and the best friend who?s moved to Akron.
I also predict that Twitter in particular will reduce waiting times on hold listening to muzak and ?Your call is important to us, please wait another 562 hours for an agent? messages. That?s because while on hold, there is very little a person can do except to tweet about how long they have been on hold with the company. And all the followers tweet back in sympathy. Customer relations will be revolutionized in ways we have not yet dreamed of.
Because I see search engine algorithms increasingly following people?s actions, I expect social media to play an increasing role in SEO, so I see it becoming a bigger part of my work. I already have short term plans for specific clients, but it remains a steep, steep challenge to get them interested in social media when ?rankings? are so much easier to measure and there is so much more work (cost) involved in a proper social media campaign.
Longer term, I see a time when a plugin is not something you place in a WordPress directory, but rather something you place under your skin. No more hand-held devices, because we will be constantly connected, shifting our attention between communities and between individuals.
Are businesses effectively using social media? If not, what can they do to improve?
No. Most businesses are not monitoring their reputations, and wouldn?t know if they are being dissed until it?s a wildfire out of control. The ?Motrin Moms? episode is a prime example of this, but there are thousands of companies losing business because people are blogging and tweeting about their bad experiences. I said my main reason for using social media is to keep my ear to the ground. Social media is for communicating, and the biggest part of communication is to listen.
What do you feel are the best and worst features/uses of social media?
The people. They are the best when they share and when they connect. I find it charges me with energy. They are the worst when they just promote. I have no problem with promotion, but give me something useful with the pitch.
- You can find more ?Discussing Social Media with?? interviews here.
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