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Moving Beyond a State of Social Media Insecurity

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Until very recently, I have been, as I believe many are out there, living in a state of social media insecurity. Whilst happy in the knowledge that I am at least registered on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, I have left my participation to the bare minimum and not strayed beyond the basic social etiquette of accepting invitations, requests, connections, and following those who I believe I should be following. Increasingly though, this has become an uneasy existence where one is plagued by knowing how effective social media can be, but yet still not quite 'getting it'.

Social media insecurity is all the more heightened within the business world today. Whether you are working in B2B or B2C, it has become impossible, not to mention a sign of short-sightedness and antiquity, to even think about strategy without giving proper airtime to the role of social media and all its facets. Be it news reports, blogs, tweets or likes, the general public are enamoured with social networking and its intricacies. Even for those who don't understand it, and/or are vehemently against it, they are still intrigued by its all-consuming power to drive engagement and conversations.

There are many companies that have embraced social media as part of an overall business growth strategy and seen the benefits from new forms of customer retargeting techniques. Equally though, there are just as many who have let social media strategy slip past, unprepared and insecure about their online presence and whether it is really 'for them'. For every social media success story in the press at the moment there are the social media faux pas -the inappropriate tweet or social networking blunder. The power of social media to make or break reputations for business has never been so instantaneous, nor has it captured such a large and global audience.

One can hardly blame CEOs for not taking the risk and entering the lion's den. Indeed, going in blind is ill-advised. Through social media alone, consumers have changed their purchasing and brand loyalty behaviour to such an extent that only 30% of consumer purchases today fall under classical marketing brand models. With such a high proportion of internet access and smartphone penetration, it is not surprising that radio, live television watching and print reading has declined, and with them, the traditional mediums by which brands engage their audience. And when we look at the numbers, one can be forgiven for thinking that this is just the tip of the iceberg:

 99% of 25-34 year olds own a mobile phone
 91% of people now keep their phone within 3feet of them, 24 hours a day
 81% of people use smartphone which offer internet access, email and a variety of internet-based applications
 Visiting social networking sites is the most popular activity (57%) for mobile phone internet users.
 76% of homes (2011) are connected to the internet with the average UK home contains 10 screens.
 1 billion tweets are posted every 2.5 days, with 80% of those done from a mobile phone.

Businesses are now operating in a world owned by the consumer space. A recent study from IBC reported that over 70% of all information online comes directly from consumers actively opting in to give their opinion and thoughts on a brand/item/company of choice. This demonstrates that the basic premise behind all sales and marketing strategies has not changed. Business focuses on engagement and in order for companies to move beyond social media insecurity they have to adapt the ways in which they communicate.

One way to navigate this is by using Eric Joachimsthaler's theory of Social Currency. Social Currency, the value and equity that your companies' online presence brings, is made up of six engagement principles that revolve around the ways in which people behave, regardless of technology.

1. Conversation: Talking about the brand to others
2. Information: Receiving and sharing valuable information from other people
3. Advocacy: Promoting or defending a brand or business
4. Identity: Expressing a part of oneself to others
5. Affiliation: Connecting and becoming a member of a community
6. Utility: The deriving of value from engaging with brand or other people.

By keeping these core elements at the heart of a social media strategy, businesses ensure that even in the worst case scenario, there is often scope for a level of engagement with their desired audience. This allows businesses, both B2B and B2C, to operate (even in a consumer-owned space), with a sense of security, and without getting their heads bitten off.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" - Alvin Toffler