Having a social media page is not effective by itself, if you do not understand what you want to achieve and how your social networks interacts and what kind of information they exchange.
Social networks have existed since the beginning of mankind. People communicated via gestures, by verbal communication and via drawings in cave walls. As a child I interacted with similar aged children on our nearby playground. There we exchanged ideas, talked about the cartoons we saw on television and which toys we wanted to get. We sometimes grouped by age, gender or activities, like soccer, computer games or Lego building. Each group by itself was a social network.
A social network is nothing more than a structure based on dyadic (1-to-1) ties between identities (or nodes). A tie can be based on shared interests, family ties, geographic location etc. The strength of the tie can be quantified based on for example time (like duration), relevance, intensity or trust level.
In my Lego building social network there was one child, Marco, who had every kit and knew which new creation was about to hit the store. If we wanted to know anything about Lego we would go to him, if he had something cool we wanted it too. We trusted him; he was ‘the Lego Master’.
Social media is the technology on which social networks can communicate digitally. Well known social-network websites include Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. People on these websites seem to share or collaborate more than ever before. Online the reach to similar minded people is global and the possibility to create an identity or reputation is not hindered by history or physical characteristics but pure on the (collaborative) value added to the network.
From a company perspective: In the ‘old days’ it was television and local presence in the stores that were most prominent. There were not many posters or billboards in the streets to reach customers. The closest a company could get to involve new or existing customers is to have them experience the product in shops or summer camps or to have competitions that source new ideas from kids. In one competition I build an airplane and included a small motor to include a propeller. I didn’t win anything but I heard from the shop that the jury was well impressed by the combination. A few years later ‘Lego Technics’ was introduced. Should I have patented my idea or was it just a coincidence?
These days companies are able to use social media for image branding, to reach for new or to service existing customers. Customers may feel connected to the company and start investing time in order to share their ideas and promote your products. If treated correctly they become your ambassadors, your online billboard, your online salespeople, your free employees.
So if Lego wanted to sell me something in the 80s, the best way was to ask Marco to tell me about it. Is there a Marco in your network? Identify where he hangs around, try to reach him, and empower him to share.
Alexander Apostolovski is manager van Collaboration Services: een pallet aan producten die de communicatie, integratie én samenwerking tussen mens en machine mogelijk maken of bevorderen. Collaboration Services is onderdeel van Centric Software Engineering (SE), waar Alexander sinds 2012 werkzaam is.