"Facebook. I just don’t get it. Same goes for Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, all those social networking sites. I’ve read the information, heard the hype, but just can’t seem to connect with the concept. Guess I’m getting old.” That’s a recent statement from my assistant, who happens to be quite a bit younger than I am and who is also usually very up-to-date with current trends.
Granted, Entertainment Weekly did rank Facebook No. 20 in its 2008 “Entertainer of the Year” review. Reporter Adam Markovitz even wrote, “With over 70 million new users this year, the social networking group … became the preferred time-waster for Netizens from all walks of life.”
I guess I can’t blame Sondra for her disconnect. Me? I’m on Facebook—and Twitter, and MySpace, and LinkedIn. I make it my business to research the tools that are out there and then pass on that information to my clients.
But how much does Facebook really serve as a business tool, and how much of its appeal is as a social distraction? Can Facebook and other social networking sites serve a larger purpose? Can we harness them as marketing tools?
Brian Gunn of PixelPops Design (www.pixelpops.com), fellow EventDV columnist Alan Naumann (www.memoryvision.tv), and South African videographer Howard Neill (www.capevideos.com) are all Facebook users. Gunn is pleased with its “relaxed, personal approach,” and he finds it allows him to better connect with his contacts. Naumann uses Facebook and has had former clients find him on the site. Neill’s foray into social networking sites began with MySpace in 2006. He moved to Facebook after being “bullied” into it by his son. Now he too welcomes the ease of contact with fellow videographers.
None of these guys, however, have seen an increase in business because of social networking—at least, not directly. But one of the things I preach is the importance of your clients and prospects knowing who you are—identifying with you and wanting to work with you. It’s all part of creating a niche, a brand. Social networking sites—fun, informative, and perhaps a bit egocentric—may be a tool to do just that.
Jeff Natalie of Erie, Pa., founder and president of ErieKIDS (www.eriekids.org), is a widely known producer of children's wellness videos whose work with families and the community was the focus of a November 2007 EventDV article. His first foray into social networking was a couple years ago when he began using YouTube. He now uses Facebook (which he calls “the most useful and effective portal”) every day, and he uses LinkedIn and YouTube as needed.
Natalie says that the web and its use are the “very backbone of our marketing strategy. For a nonprofit, prior to Web 2.0 technology, how would I ever hope to have a national presence—especially for free! I’ve worked hard at content creation, but because of the web and my organization’s presence on it, all I need to do is say, ‘Google ErieKIDS.’ It’s leveraging the ’net to build a reputation.”
You might very well recognize Jason Magbanua (www.jasonmagbanua.com) as a two-time EventDV 25 honoree. The Philippines-based event videographer is a canny self-promoter. He began using “regional” sites such as Multiply and Friendster a number of years ago. But within the last year, he has grown to appreciate Facebook because it combines “elegant simplicity” with “sophistication of the back end.” Magbanua sees social networking as part of the marketing process, not a stand-alone tool. “What it can do is shed a little light on the kind of person you are, what you do, what you like, and who you are friends [with] to build your brand.”
Steve Bailey, an award-winning wedding videographer from Seaford, Del. (www.memoriesforevervideo.com), likes Twitter and Facebook for different tasks. Facebook caters more to Bailey’s target demographic, and he sees “a lot of great marketing potential” in the site. Twitter serves to let “people know more about you than from just a business point of view—people can see you’re a real person and that’s made relationships a lot closer with clients and with other vendors we deal with.” He says, “To us, these sites are more about staying connected with past clients (so they constantly keep us in their minds and tell their friends) than anything else. Any business we get from it is really icing on the cake.”
Ryan Koral (www.epicmotion.com), a Detroit-area wedding videographer, has been using social networking sites for more than 4 years. Koral uses Facebook and is a big fan of Twitter. “I’ve been Twittering for 3–4 months and love it. It’s probably my favorite out of all of the tools because it’s so simple, the interface is so clean, and the idea behind it is so perfect.” Does it work? Koral says, “The more I can stay in front of people, and the more authentic I am, the more people are able to relate and feel like they can trust me and Epic Motion. I think it’s something that has helped improve our brand.”
Using social networking sites isn’t so much about soliciting business as it is about establishing yourself as a real, live person with whom others may wish to do business. Next month, I’ll share examples of how some of your colleagues are making this happen, and I’ll give you some tips on how to hit the social networking ground at full tilt. As to my own social network preferences—stay tuned.