Social Media for Managers

by Theresa Truscott

What is social media?

There are many ways to define social media because it is a generic term that is used to describe diverse methods of communication. The best definition appears on Wikipedia (a collaborative encyclopaedia that is also included in the term social media).

Social media

Software tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content (examples are YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and so on).

Most people think of social media as software existing on the worldwide web (or internet). The most well-known social media platforms are, at the time I write this...

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Second Life
  • Wikipedia
  • MSN
  • Google chat
  • Google+

This is only part of the picture. Many companies have their own internal software tools for sharing ideas, information and informal communication. These include

  • Chat facilities
  • Wikis (software allowing free-form discussions and exchange of ideas)
  • Simulation games
  • Internal blogs
  • Forums
  • Micro-blogs (the equivalent of Twitter).

This free-flowing exchange of ideas, opinions and information creates a dynamic and informal knowledge pool. It can be used as a rapid form of communication as well as a way to capture relevant searchable knowledge that is not formally documented elsewhere. Some organisations have found this a good way of breaking down internal barriers as it fosters a collaborative approach.

People use the various platforms for different reasons and the emphasis is often on the ‘social’ aspect of their usage. Due to the ‘word-of-mouth’ nature of the medium, it has become a popular marketing tool. If someone is searching for a good product or service they tend to ask their online contacts for recommendations rather than using a directory. This gives a qualitative answer as people will talk about their experience of using the product or service instead of just stating where to buy it.

An individual who becomes a trusted source of information on a certain topic is known as a key influencer or thought leader in that field. As this is such a key aspect of social media usage, the suppliers of products and services often want to know what is being said about them on the internet. This has given rise to a wide variety of monitoring tools to do the job (such as Social Mention, Klout and Google Alerts).