“Social Media”, a buzzword that people flock to and yearn to understand in business. Entering “social media business” in Google yields over 796 million results. Wow, just a little overwhelming?
The term “social media” is relatively new, however I have been participating in social media for almost 20 years, beginning in the early 1990’s. Anyone remember CompuServe? That is where I jumped on and I haven’t left. I spent hours searching online forums, even during the days of limited internet participation and topics. The history of social media “technically” goes back to the 1970’s, although the audience was limited.
In 1997 I started using social media for marketing and business purposes as a marketing consultant for a niche pet supply company, Oxbow Animal Health (aka Oxbow Pet Products). Social media was really responsible for the start of a very successful world-wide company. We were in the right place at the right time. They were one of the first pet companies in 1995 to have a website with a shopping cart and I believe one of the first companies to use and leverage social media.
Although we didn’t know really what to call it at the time we were often amazed at the power of online networking. UseNet groups, typically using university servers, spread information across the country and the world in seconds. Groups such as Etherbun, HouseBunny, and PetBunny had over 1000 passionate well-educated subscribers who received messages in their email box about pet care, news and where to buy the best hay, or toys for their house rabbits.
Many of these communities transferred to e-groups, then to Yahoo groups. Now, organization and social members use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Social media ADHD is now endemic. A few target portals with thousands of participating members has now fragmented into many smaller portals with less effective message streams. There are now more social media groups that you can keep track and manage, many ineffective for your business.
Although a lot has changed, the basics and core values that made social media powerful 20 years ago still apply today.
Basic Social Media Rules:
- Learn where your customers live online. Visit, listen, and learn
- Don’t try and be all places at once, be picky, choose sites wisely
- Provide information, not just advertising
- Participate socially and often with community leaders
- Have something valuable to say
- Give references on facts (opinion is nice but everyone has one)
- Apologize and be humble
- Develop relationships with people
- Read before you post, once it’s there, there is not taking it back
- Flamers are still not welcome
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Integrate your internet efforts with “real life” marketing.
I’d like to hear your early years in social media and how it affected your business, product or brand, especially if you really didn’t know what you were doing at the time.
Photo from Deviant Art (a little known social media site)
The History of Social Media