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In her new role as Commercial Director for World Trade Centre London, Ann Camwell needs to find a way of reaching out to her audience and potential investors. For this, she's chosen to harness the power of social media. The only problem is that she's about as masterful over social media as Wayne Rooney is over Quantum Mechanics.
Ann has endeavoured to change this, and over the next twelve months, she will be documenting her journey on ATE as she goes from Amateur to Expert.
At the Beginning
Like many professionals, I do my utmost to keep up with how the internet is an ever-changing business interaction. I have the required LinkedIn account, the personal facebook and regularly use instant messaging. However, working with the World Trade Centre London is challenging both my knowledge and use of digital media.
Social media is crafting a new relationship between institutions and their target markets. Jeremy Heimans says, “Social media helps all institutions become transparent and engage in a more participatory dialogue with the stakeholders. Social media and technology have helped political organisations, providing a more democratic mechanism to get people involved."
I'll be the first to admit, I am far from mastering the art of social media. I am out of my depth. Not only in understanding how all the different platforms (as I now know they are called) interact, the range of media available and choosing the ones most suitable for my use: the jargon is in itself a learning curve. And sadly, it’s precisely this kind of buzzword bingo that does marketers and their customers a huge disservice. Blogging, #tag, avatar, tweeting are just a few of the jargon words that don’t explain, unless you practice the art.
So Many Friends, So Little Time
So, here I am, writing a journal over the next 12 months from beginner to expert; it will be interesting. Success will be measured by the number of followers and the increase in activity achieved during the 12 months.
My need to master social media comes from my recent appointment as the commercial director for the World Trade Centre London. WTC London offers business services to domestic and international SMEs across all business sectors. Consequently, a large part of my role is understanding the need to communicate to a range of different target audiences, and utilising different mediums to reach these audiences.
The challenge is how to raise the profile of the World Trade Centre London, offer the business services, identify market opportunities and service these opportunities. The time scale is short, the current economic climate and the growth in new markets combined with the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee offer huge opportunities to business and the World Trade Centre London is an ideal route to market for many SMEs. With 336 World Trade Centre Associations in 94 countries there is a network of 1.2m businesses accessible through matchmaking and trade delegations.
My own personal challenge has been where to start, how to use the digital media available and probably one of the most challenging aspects what content to use. At the point of writing this, I’ve been doing research into the platforms available and have opened a twitter account and a blog, both sitting awaiting their first content! With LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and a blog, what else do I need? What does all the jargon mean?
The Journey Commences
On investigating social networking sites I was gobsmacked to see how many there are. Most are general, others have a specific market. For the time being I’ll leave it where I am. Others may follow as I identify ones that will be of use. I have found or been provided with a lot of information, most of which is available on the internet. The time in research has been well invested and like all projects the planning time will pay off, even though the hours in front of the screen sometimes seem wasted.
During this month, I intend to start using all these accounts, working my way round them, and understanding how they interact. What content to put out there and how to get people to start following what I say? That’s probably going to be the biggest challenge; finding content that is interesting, informative, and personal… There’s something frightening about sharing your own opinions with an unknown group of people.
LinkedIn has become the site I’m using the most, primarily as we have a series of events planned and I need to get these out to a wider audience to gain participants. If I can promote these through LinkedIn and gather participants then I will have succeeded in two areas, firstly in learning how to utilise LinkedIn and secondly, promoting the WTC London.
The first mile
I started out with approximately 100 contacts and needed to increase these rapidly. I joined various groups and have watched the conversations going on within the groups. As I have met people I have then where possible connected through LinkedIn, which increased the number of contacts to some degree, but nowhere near enough. A few weeks ago, I had created an event, published the event and sat back waiting for people to sign up… It certainly didn’t happen!
I had to rethink not only the event and how it’s created, but, more importantly, how and to whom it is sent. The quantity of contacts I’m linked to obviously doesn't deliver quality; they are individuals who probably aren’t focused on international trade, property, or the content of the events we’re planning. I then started looking in detail at the groups I had joined, who made up these groups, what their interests are - both from the organisation's view point and the individual’s role within the organisation. Saturday afternoon was spent connecting to individuals through the groups. Suddenly the number of contacts has doubled. I can see another Saturday afternoon being spent doing the same again, that and joining further groups.
I’m now intending to create an event, comment on the subject within the groups and do personal invites to a select range of contacts. I will also ask some of my contacts to comment and add to the discussion to stimulate interest. This will also then give me something to put out on my Twitter account and blog.
During my research I came across the hashtag. It appears to be a label that allows particular names or words to appear in searches, providing a way for my twitter to increase its followings and stimulate activity. Or that’s how I understand it at the moment. It's something else I’m going to have to experiment with this month. Finally, I’m going to work out how these interact so that I can expand information on all the platforms I’ve chosen at the moment.
The #tag for this will be #londontalking. I’ll let you know next month how successful this was, and what I’ll do to try and refine the methodology. This journal will be a subject I’ll talk about over the next few weeks. I’m sure it will become highly entertaining as I struggle with connecting the dots, finding the content, without over doing it. Communicating remotely is a major challenge. I have been surprised at how difficult it can be when there is no feedback; the lack of reaction that you get from face to face conversations is really weird!
One thing I have learnt is that the brain is struggling with all the information it’s trying to absorb: new role, new technology, and new markets. The interest in Social Media by business is increasing daily, with many business people aware they need to get involved. Like me, they are lacking confidence and knowledge of where to start. The information has been absorbed with an increased confidence to try new elements of social media. Searching and using LinkedIn is becoming easier. As with all new challenges doing something is half the battle, the rest follows easily. Enough for this month, next month I’ll expand on building an initial following and developing a social media strategy.
A few interesting facts!
800 million active Facebook users, with over 200 million added in 2011.
Around 75% of Facebook users are outside of North America with accounts available in 70 languages
One out of 5 social network users is likely to visit another social site after leaving one.
What are business leaders doing in light of the obvious shift toward social media in online behaviour?
The 3 most important reasons small businesses leverage social media are:
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