Business

Professional Social Media Tips: Steve Spillman of TheBigMoney.com

Katie

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For the latest social media advice, we interview Steve Spillman blogger and journalist for TheBigMoney.com.

Currently, Steve writes the Re:Tweet column, a constant cultural and critical analysis of the business of Twitter, for Slate.com’s business blog The Big Money. His work can also be found on Dowser.org, a new site focused on finding innovative, positive stories of change.


Steve, what inspired your passion for social media?

I was in high school when that early wave of social media tools came into the hands of kids my age. I remember the way trends shifted in those days. Everyone I knew would flock to new modes of communication and interaction – first Xanga, then Myspace and Facebook. I guess it was then or sometime thereafter when I became really fascinated by how the internet was really starting to become the major driving force behind real-life social relationships. People acted differently in their everyday lives post-Facebook. And now, here we are!

As a typical young professional, where does social media fit into your life?

Everywhere, really. In my professional life, first of all, I’m always dialed into observing trends on Twitter and Tumblr. Facebook is indispensable for finding contacts for interviews and checking facts. Then on top of all that, I’m always using all these tools for my personal life as well; the barrier between those two worlds can be pretty thin at times.

How is consumer behavior being changed by social media and what steps should businesses take? What are the relevant trends today?

Consumers, especially in younger demographics, are practically begging to interact with businesses and brands via social media. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though – as consumers become more accustomed to life in the digital sphere, they’re becoming more savvy about what kinds of marketing appear genuine and relevant, and which are desperate attempts at staying fresh.

You can’t just put up a Twitter profile and expect people to react in a positive way – that’s sort of like putting up an ad with just the name of your company in a newspaper.
Social media is all about, well, being social. So interact with potential customers in a genuine manner! Seek out potential leads by searching around the internet for people who you want to sell to. Be willing to take valid criticism and respond to it! Just act like you would want to be perceived in real life and you’ll be golden.

Oh, also! Don’t feel confined to just the hot young communities you’ve heard are popular. There are older and smaller social media tools that will be better audiences for your products and services. Artists and writers get a lot of play on services like Tumblr and DeviantArt. Musicians would be well-served to stick to MySpace, but if you’re not a musician, it’s probably time to give that one up. Don’t be afraid to try new profiles and new strategies – it can never hurt to try and you won’t do permanent damage.

Mobile platforms could become one of the most promising avenues for small businesses to advertise. What are the mobile applications, sites, or platforms businesses should consider investing in today? Yelp? Foursquare?

If it’s right for your business, those are two great places to be right now. Again, though, not every social media tool is for every business. For example, you don’t really need to be on Yelp or Foursquare unless you have a physical location that customers visit. If you do, then go ahead and try some things out. As a Foursquare user, it really improves my perception of a place if they’ve put in the work to have a mayor special. For anyone who can’t use those services for business, though, it doesn’t hurt to still be aware of them. Use them in your personal life! Being comfortable with the current round of social technology will definitely help you be ready for the next big thing.

It seems like a new social site or application is receiving national press every couple months! How can businesses and marketers keep up?

It’s not impossible to stay informed. Major media outlets generally let people know about new sites as they become popular, but if you want to be on the real cutting edge, there are lots of blogs and sites you can check in on to keep abreast of the latest news. Of course, there’s The Big Money, which tracks these kinds of things through a critical, business-focused lens. There’s a blog called Mashable that is somewhat obsessively devoted to chronicling every new social media application and news tidbit. Their articles can be pretty insider-y, and often slight on details and context, but for the latest news, they’re probably your best source. Once you get into the weird world of social media, the way these things become popular starts to make sense after a while. Trust me.

Facebook is now the 5th largest video viewing site by audience. More importantly for Animoto users, Facebook viewers are more engaged and tend to watch longer videos. Can you speak to this phenomenon and how social media can help a business better qualify leads?

Sure. As reigning kings of the social media sphere, Facebook is definitely where you’ll find the most diverse user base on the web. It also functions as something of a hub – lots of people keep it open all the time and perform most of their social tasks through it, instead of just checking it now and then. This means Facebook users are often more willing to stick to something for longer, as long as they see it in the first place. People with thousands of friends have very crowded newsfeeds, so you need to stay relevant. One strategy for this is just posting status updates, videos, photos, and the like all the time. If you have good content, this can work, but many users are turned off by lots of junk in their newsfeeds and may end up ignoring your content. A better strategy is to post your best work – if people comment on it and “like” it, it’ll end up near the top of users’ “Top News” sections, where they’ll be most likely to see it when they sign in. I really think the key to using social media effectively, clear across the board, is to post quality content. People are too savvy and too busy to pay attention to near-constant cries for attention. Be personable, genuine, creative, and the rest will fall into place.


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