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Disappear not on social media

Ben Rossi, sub-editor at CNME

Remember what life was like without social media? I joined Facebook when I went to university around four years ago. Just four years – and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it now.

When I decided in the summer after my first year of university to go and work at a children’s summer camp in the USA, I had to go without internet for three months. It was strangely liberating not having to keep up with the site, but when I returned home it became more relevant than ever. I found it astounding that before Facebook I would have gone home and probably never again spoken to all these people from another country that I’d become close with. Social media meant that didn’t have to happen.

After graduating from university I embarked on a year-long trip to travel the world. I wrote a weekly blog documenting my adventures and social media also allowed me to keep in touch with my friends and family. If I had taken the trip just ten years back, I would have been almost completely out of contact.

This presence is the key element of social media. After moving to Dubai three weeks ago, I was so busy settling into a new country and a new job that my Facebook activity dramatically reduced. Suddenly, I was getting comments from people, who knew I’d moved to Dubai, saying things along the lines of, “Where are you?!”, “Are you alive?!” and “Have you disappeared off the side of the Earth?”

The last one is interesting. I obviously hadn’t disappeared off the side of the Earth, I’d just disappeared off social media – but in this day and age, is that the same thing?

In business – and this may sound crazy to some people – it most definitely is the same thing. In just three weeks of working for a business technology magazine I’ve already met enough people, attended enough events and written enough content, to be well informed that in this modern-age a business must have a presence on social media (and not just one of them) to be successful. Or else they may as well… disappear off the side of the Earth?

Frequency is just as important as presence. In the same way that when I don’t update my social media people wonder where I’ve gone, if a business doesn’t update its social media people wonder where it’s gone – and that’s a lot more damaging for a business than it is for me. If you are not on social media at all? Well, you may as well be invisible. And an invisible business is not going to survive.

I was at yesterday’s ‘Search & Social’ presentation for DIC’s Excellence Series, which involved the latest ‘social media expert’ preaching on how vital it is for businesses to integrate social media.

Lee Mancini of Sekari, an agency dealing with social media, gave the audience an interesting figure. About 80% of MENA internet users spend one whole hour per day updating their social networks. So that begs the question – if all these people can invest this amount of time everyday in social media, just for their own personal interest, is it really difficult for enterprises to invest the same or more into something that can directly benefit their business?

Actually, I think it is. Because after talking about Facebook, Mancini spoke about Twitter, and then LinkedIn and Google+. Then he spoke about search engine optimisation on your website, and then key word optimisation on your website. And then he spoke about how companies should not only be regularly active on all these social networks, they should also be incorporating search engine optimisation and key work optimisation into those as well – Twitter feed optimisation, LinkedIn profile optimisation, Facebook optimisation.

I was struggling to keep up just watching. It suddenly struck me, social media is just one aspect of a business – one area of marketing, or perhaps market research, where a company is working to try and improve their business. If I can’t even spend a few minutes every day keeping up with my own personal Facebook to let my friends know I’m still alive, how on earth can a business keep up with ALL of these things, to not only let their customers know that they’re alive but also appear very active, on top of every other aspect of their business?

Well, if you do it in a phased approach it won’t seem so overwhelming. Perhaps start off on one platform, like a Facebook page. Post content about your business, photos, videos. Personalise your business to your customers, interact with them, build up a relationship with them. Test out new ideas – you’ll be amazed what instant feedback you can get from them.

Then you can move into Twitter, you’ll see this offers you different opportunities than Facebook, as does LinkedIn, and eventually you can incorporate Google+ too. You’ll figure out what each platform offers you and your business and how to manage each one effectively. You’ll be surprised at how fast you get the hang of it, and what benefits it will reap.

It is true that it does involve a fair bit of invested time to manage your social media platforms, so you have options. You can hire a social media pro to specifically manage your accounts. Or perhaps train up a tech/media-savvy member of staff to take on these responsibilities. Or you can turn to an agency, like Sekari, to completely run your social media – they’ll give you all the optimisation too.

Whatever option you go with, social media is something you need to do. When done right, social media won’t be as daunting as first seems, and will provide brand new opportunities and rewards for your company.

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