Social media is a catch-all phrase that encompasses all websites that offer interactive functionality and user-generated content. Social media ranges from social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn) to video sharing sites (YouTube, Vimeo), social news sites (Digg, Reddit), social bookmarking (Delicious, StumbleUpon) and everything else that claims the tag ‘social’.
Social media is often hyped as a means of generating a lot of buzz for little money. And part of the hype is certainly founded in truth. Every company of respectable size needs to have a profile or group on social networks, and if you do anything with video at all you’ll need to upload it to YouTube at the very least.
But social media is not a replacement for a good website. On the contrary, your presence on social media sites should stimulate visits to your website, not replace them. If your website isn’t as good as it can be, you should invest your time and money into making it better first before you start experimenting with online projects. The core foundation of all your online activities should be your own website.
A social media project isn’t something you should just jump in either. A successful entry into social media requires a solid grasp of what social media is and what it isn’t, and realistic expectations of what you can achieve with it. Generally speaking, social media doesn’t lend itself very well to commercial exploitation, as the very nature of the phenomenon is non-commercial. Don’t expect users to come flocking to your social media presence unless you’re willing to throw some serious incentives at it.
A recent blogpost from B.L. Ochman about social media myths delivers some much-needed realism – read it and consider if you’re willing and able to step into social media just yet. If you’re in doubt, it’s probably better to spend your efforts on improving your website and gaining traffic the old-fashioned way: SEO, SEM and good content.