I dislike the term “social media”.  I think a lot of very smart professionals don’t think much of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ and a whole host of other social media platforms (i.e. Youtube, foursquare, etc…).

So if you think of social media as real time communications then how does that change how you think of it.  Other real time communications being a phone, face-to-face, chat…

It seems a bit more crucial to the day-to-day operation of your communications.  Which I think it is.

Much like you wouldn’t ignore someone knocking at the door of your office or calling your phone.  You don’t just ignore those people, do you?  Well, maybe some people.  Got to love caller ID.

What are the PROS of real time communications.

  • communicate in real time.
  • get indexed for search.
  • help you understand what are your best stories to communicate.
  • real time communications is great customer service.

What are the CONS of real time communications.

  • communicating in real time means that “real time” not two or three days
  • if you say something wrong, it gets indexed as well.
  • maybe your best stories aren’t what they think are the best stories
  • real time communications can be negative if someone is upset (this is customer service)

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What are some things that you should have in place before you start your real time communications.

  1. A good informational website to help you answer their questions.
  2. An email marketing program or customer database program to capture their information.  Connect with the alumni for their program or use your own.  I recommend mailchimp but there are lots of others.
  3. A brochure, one sheeter or flyer – this will help you respond to people (you need to know your best stories by heart)

But the big thing here is you need to BE PREPARED as best you can.  Think of things that people might ask you and make a list of their questions with the answers.  FAQs are great for this and always be adding to it.

The other thing you really need to know is YOUR AUDIENCE.  Are they actively using Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin?

Once you have your audience in your sights, make sure you plan for all of this real time communications.

We use Strategic Communication Plans, Communication Spreadsheets and Creative Briefs.  All of which are great and help you really think through what you are about to do.  And help you keep track of your time.

Don’t forget to track your time.  It’s important when it comes to getting an accurate ROI of your communication endeavors.  Here’s a great ROI calculator site to calculate what it costs.

As we talk about the 750 million pound gorilla of Facebook, one should know what’s the difference between using a Facebook Page or a Facebook Group to promote your dept or service.

Pages are for one to many communications much like a profile.  But they are used by brands and don’t have a limit on friends or fans (“likes”).

Groups are a free-for-all type of engagement and the page does not interact with anyone.  People attached to the group do.

You should never use a profile for your dept or service.  It violates the Terms of Service and it can easily disappear on you.  Don’t use fake profiles either.  They could get deleted at any time.

Administrators of pages/groups need to be friends of the other administrators and invited to be administrators.

Facebook provides analytics behind the pages through Insights.

The big thing about Facebook is that while “likes” are great, they do not equal success.  They do mean you have more reach so you have the opportunity to reach more people than say a couple hundred people.  But if those people that you reach are your most important audience then it is a success compared to a page with a 1 million plus but none are the audience you want.

Adding apps or just pages with iframes helps to engage the audience.  We’ve done a few apps for people – check out the alumni’s Facebook page and you can see 2011 Challenge we’ve added to their page.

The big thing about Facebook is how much time are you spending doing it.  You need to track your time.  In fact, that’s the best thing you could be doing is tracking your time on all your marketing endeavors because then you can calculate a better ROI.

Next is Linkedin.  This professional networking site is all business – maybe a little social through the Questions and Answers section but mostly it’s all about business.

For your personal profile, you need to keep it up to date.  This will help you in the long run for your career.  Accomplishments you can’t recall, projects you worked on.  It can all be there.  Including recommendations.

A lot of people set up groups on linkedin.  A successful group is one that engages people and is led by an active moderator.  Check out the Marketing Over Coffee Linkedin Group for a great example as well as our own Notre Dame Campus Communicators.

As far as Twitter is concerned, I believe this is something you really have to test to find out if it is worth the time.  To me, it is when I want to engage my peers but my audience (campus communicators) isn’t an active group on Twitter so I don’t spend a lot of time there pushing content or conversation.  But I used to.

If you know your audience, then you’ll discover if they are on twitter.  If they are, then follow and engage them in conversation.  It’s worth the time but if you are just blasting 140 characters at the general population of twitter, I doubt if there will be much return on your investment.

Finally, Google+.  I have great hopes for Plus.  I’m already addicted too many of their tools.  Gmail is my email of choice, I love my RSS reader, their calendar is easy to embed into websites and well, the agency is starting to use Docs more and more for collaboration.

The good thing that Google did with plus is learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others when it came to friends.

Organizing your friends and followers first instead of later is a great thing.  It makes conversations much more relevant when you know who you are talking to instead of just shouting at the masses.

They understand search and indexing conversations so much more than Facebook.  Search and being found are still among the best things to do when marketing on internet.

I also love that they understood that keeping a conversation together makes for such a better experience.  It’s hard to follow a conversation in twitter if you aren’t following the others involved but with Google+ it’s all there.

Check out this quote from Jeremiah Owyang. “Google understands threads and keeping conversations together.  I do think that Google+ is more suited for rapid communication over Twitter as it threads the whole discussion in one place, and also allows for longer responses.”

BTW, I got that off of Google+.

Google is integrating my life into one area.  The top left bar is all me.  My gmail, calendar, reader, +, docs, etc…

They get me.  They know I don’t want to run around and search for things that should be organized and easily found (killer search as always).

The job of the modern communicator is to explore these tools.  To see if their audience is using them and to have a conversation in real time with them.  It’s not just the marketing campaign or an email occasionally out to the group.  It’s integrating this all together.

Do you think your communications might need to move with the speed of real time?  How would you do it?