What’s next for social media and best practice in digital communications is a hotly debated topic for PR practitioners the world over. I recently attended a Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) seminar looking at the future of social media and what this means for businesses presented by Gabrielle Laine-Peters – a social media expert who has worked with numerous companies including NASA. Here are my highlights of the session which were first printed in Business Brief magazine.
We’ve all heard of Generation X, born after the Post–World War II baby boom, and the recently labelled Generations Y and Z, which account for the current under 35s, but now is the dawn of a new generation. Generation C, aka the connected generation, isn’t limited by age or location – the qualities they share include being informed, engaged and part of the ever-expanding digital community.
Brian Solis, an author and keynote speaker on how social media affects businesses, describes Generation C (or the ‘connected customer’) as an audience with an audience of audiences. Businesses can now reach customers utilising a one-to-one-to-many model instead of the traditional one-to-many mass media method.
The internet and social media platforms have enabled people to share information more quickly than ever before. The public no longer needs to rely on the traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcast, for breaking news; the public can break the news themselves.
“We are now seeing news organisations abandoning attempts to be first for breaking news, focusing instead on being the best at verifying and curating it,” says Nic Newman in ‘The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism’.
So what does this new ‘connected’ generation mean for businesses?
Gabrielle, a recognised expert in social media, recently presented a seminar in Guernsey and Jersey, organised by the CIPR, highlighting the importance of the rapidly-evolving world of social media. She discussed how businesses can successfully engage with their target audience using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Gabrielle believes that Generation C is influential and plays a vital role in the distribution of information online. In order to succeed it is important that businesses understand how Generation C gets its information on events and products so they can ensure their business information is easily available for sharing.
Gabrielle noted that: “The currency of the digital economy isn’t money; it is ‘attention’.”
Generation C share what they love or what captures their attention. They want to build relationships and engage with businesses and brands that engage with them. If done correctly, Generation C can be influential brand advocates that talk positively about a brand or product and then share positive messages about the brand to other people.
Empowering brand advocates to share a brand’s story can help to increase the amount, quality and awareness of content and therefore increase engagement between the brand and its consumers via social media.
Following Gabrielle’s presentation here are my five top tips for engaging with Generation C online:
1. Office hours don’t apply: Remember social media isn’t 9-5. With the increase of social media being accessed on mobile devices such as tablets and mobile phones people can access your brand or business at any time. It is expected that questions, complaints or endorsements are replied to in a timely fashion.
2. Show your personality: Work out what your business personality is and broadcast this using social media. People buy from people and it is important to remember the ‘social’ element of social media. Sharing interesting industry, local or useful information and being a trusted source for this can help keep you top of mind and help generate business in the future.
3. Sharing is key: Make sure the information you post on social media websites is sharable. Photos and interesting charts and graphs are popular for sharing but me mindful of size and make sure any attachment to a tweet isn’t too big to download.
4. Be prepared: Social media moves quickly so businesses need to be prepared for when a not so positive message about the business appears on social media platforms. Gabrielle Laine-Peters noted that being transparent, keeping the brand’s tone, being well-timed and showing empathy is important.
5. Social media monitoring tools can help: Utilise platforms such as ‘Tweetdeck’ to help monitor social media interactions with your business.
Above all, Generation C is an ‘always-on’ culture. Intelligent, informed and interactive; it’s a generation that businesses will have to adapt to if they are to communicate effectively and tell people about their products and services in a way that they will respond to and appreciate.