Social media: Hype or helpful?

The term “social media” has been everywhere for the past 12 months.

As platforms such as Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and YouTube continue to increase in terms of usage and engagement, it has become an area that has warranted enhanced attention.

There is no doubting its importance, but personally I feel right now there is a little bit of unnecessary hysteria surrounding it.

Word-of-mouth and consumer-to-consumer advocacy has always been an important element of a well-rounded communications mix – the problem has always been about how to truly measure it beyond anecdotal gut feel.

So let’s not get it twisted – social media is by no means a new phenomenon. Right now the scale is just a helluva lot bigger. Instead of a few people around one watercooler in an office talking about Underbelly on a Tuesday morning, it’s thousands of people standing around a virtual watercooler talking about Underbelly on a Monday night, while it’s on the air.

Right now you can get a reasonably good handle of consumer sentiment around your brand in a very short time. This is a big benefit of the new wave of “social media”.

Wikipedia defines it as: “Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words …”

OK then.

I was asked to define social media in its current iteration to a client, and I came back with this.

In its simplest sense, it’s about establishing and nurturing a long-term dialogue and trust between a brand and its users. Looking beyond campaign dates and monitoring consumer sentiment now, effectively in real time.

Have you wondered how you incorporate social media into your digital efforts?

The good thing is, you can dip your toe in the water and not need to employ the services of whatever social media strategist or firm has got your phone number… and even better, generate some good insights.

  • Twitter search – a great way to see real time discussion around all kinds of topics.
  • WotNews – a fantastic local tool that allows you to search for news around your brand (or competitors) and track sentiment. Very intuitive.
  • Google Blog Search – see what the blogosphere are saying around various topics.
  • Nielsen Blog Pulse – sketchy for me, but worth checking. Quality of results varies.
  • Google Insights – fantastic tool to see how search terms trend over time.

These tools will give you a good idea of what is happening in the “social media” world, and allow you to observe, initially, from a distance.

Remember, there are no rules around social media and what you should be doing. Just do whatever is comfortable and progress at your own pace.




Ben Shepherd is National Director – Digital at Maxus (a groupm company), and can be reached via

He also authors the blog Talking Digital



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