On November 1st and 2nd, 2011, the Javits Center in New York hosted the Social Media World Forum. Several specialists and companies showed up to share their experience and expertise on the up-and-coming field of social media. Here are the 10 things I took away from SMWF:

1)      Think before you engage

Many companies enter into social media, without giving much thought to the process. While it’s easy to create a Facebook page, a Twitter account or a YouTube channel, but managing your company’s online communications is a totally different thing. What’s your objective, and what kind of resources do you want to invest in it? Which platform suits your needs best? What are your customers waiting for?  All these questions are important, and they will help you shape your social media strategy.

2)      Adjust your objectives to your spending

Every company has different social media goals and needs. You can engage your audience by asking questions, or by creating special offers or events for your fans. Or you can use social media activity solely for presenting your products. Both strategies are acceptable, as long as you spend proportionally. If a big firm wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on social media, they have to do it all: present products, engage with their customers and field questions, make compelling videos (like this one by Dove)… On the other hand, if you don’t have the resources to respond to customers on social media sites, a simpler approach may be best for you.

3)      Measurement is key

You would be amazed by the number of companies providing social media analytics. Each one of them has their own characteristics, and it’s a headache to decide which one suits you the best. Measuring your impact online via analytics is very important if you’re serious about social media. The results can help you see what’s working and what’s not.

4)      There is always a tool for you

The first day of SMWF, Greg Cargill, a high-powered executive specializing in social media at Blitz, one of the most successful marketing agencies in the US, was asked a question about Buffer, a Twitter tool that allows users to program their tweets, and he wasn’t aware of the service. That’s when I realized that there are hundreds and hundreds of tools for your social media accounts, and a simple Google search will help you find what you need!

 

5)      Social Media is still growing

You only need to look at Facebook’s growth to see that this is true. There are many new ideas on the social media horizon. We met with the CEO of CHAINels, a new social network similar to Facebook, but linking companies instead of individuals. It will allow firms to connect with their partners or clients, or even find new clients. It could revolutionize social media for B2B companies. Another company that impressed me is Tokkster, which allows you to chat with people visiting the same website as you. For example, if you’re passionate about a sport like rowing and regularly visit rowing websites, you can connect with people who share your passion.

6)      Blogging still is the ultimate social media tool…

While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube get a lot of attention, blogs are still one of the most important, and easiest, ways to communicate with customers. A blog allows you to express your ideas in a longer format (unlike Twitter) and can lead to more insightful comments than on Facebook. But you can promote your products, respond to the most common questions/comments of your clients, express the values and the DNA of your company or relay current news on your field.

7)      … but blogging isn’t enough

Blogging is awesome because it allows other bloggers to react and interact with you. However, to sustain these interactions, you have to be an active part of the blogging community. So instead of only posting on your blog, leave comments on other blogs to maximize your online presence!

8)      Stay true to your fans’ needs and desires

When someone likes your page, follows you on Twitter or subscribes to your YouTube channel, they do it because they enjoy the content you provide. So stay true to your message, or your fans will turn away from you. For instance, we have no business reporting sports news because that is not our field of expertise. If you have a very diverse audience, or offer a wide range of products, you should create several pages/accounts than mixing your messages.

9)      Reward your best fans

Some fans are more important and more connected than others. Online tools help recognize those fans, who could become ambassador of your brand to their friends. To keep them involved, you should reward them, either by offering them discounts on your products, or by asking them for input. Contests in which fans show off your brand or polls that allow fans to share their opinions can help you improve the visibility of your brand.

 

10)   Social media is still underused

The attendance at SMWF was surprisingly relatively low for such a big event, which just shows that social media isn’t really respected as a true marketing tool yet. However, the value of social media to companies will only increase over time.

 

We hope this list will help you have a better understanding of the social media world. We would like to thank all the companies that showed up for this great event!