Many people in EMS (and other industries) are still confused about what social media is and how they should be using it. The most important thing I can tell you right up front is that as an EMS Manager you NEED to begin integrating social media into your PIER (Public Information, Education and Relations) Program! In this article I want to explain what Social Media is and provide a common understanding to build on in future articles as we develop your social media program.
Social Media is about connecting many people together that share an interest in some topic (inside and outside of your organization)!
I define Social Media as the use of web- or mobile-based sites and applications to create, share and collaborate on content with other people who have an interest in a specific topic in order to develop, build and maintain relationships. These sites and applications allow everyone to engage in information sharing and discussions (debates) in a world-wide open forum. Social media does not just provide participants with information it allows the users to create and direct the information!
Social media is not just another broadcast tool for you to sell to the masses, it is a way for you to expand your ability to hold conversations with the people you serve.
The goal of social media is to spread your message to the world through your network of followers. But your message MUST be more than just a broadcast of your sales pitch. Think of traditional media (marketing) as a “one-way” street in which your message is delivered to the masses but there is no easy way for the public to get more information or provide feedback (good or bad). Social Media is the two-way street, the public is able to hear the message and then communicate back with questions, suggestions or other input. One of the greatest advantages of Social media is the ability to follow (monitor) what the public has to say about your message!
When people see quality content they want to share it with their friends and take action with the information!
People want to be involved with things that interest them, decisions about things to be purchased, and the events happening in their communities. Social Media gives you a platform (or multiple platforms) to engage with them. The key word there is ENGAGE, not talk at. By using social media tools you can have real two-way conversations with the people who are using your product/service, while others watch and join in as they have something to offer. It is this “back-and-forth communications” with the clients and you that make social media so valuable.
Social media allows you to communicate your message and improve on it in a real-time active world!
There are more than 100 social media sites on the internet it can be very easy to get distracted and lost to all the technology. People shy aware from social media because they are looking at the tools (the applications and websites) instead of what social media is doing in their world. The tools are a very important part of the process and at first they can be overwhelming and confusing to someone just getting started. As your social media program develops it is likely that you will only use a few of the different tools that are available and with a little experience you will quickly master the ones you use.
To avoid the feeling of techie overload the key in social media is to know what message you what to get out and who you want that message to reach – than you can choose the medium tool(s) that will spread that message to your target audience. I will be discussing individual mediums / tools in follow-up posts.
Social Networking is important component of social media. Networking is nothing new to EMS folks (and business people in general), it has been used throughout history to communicate with friends and friends of friends. Face-to-face networking allows us to meet new people through introductions of people we already know, these introductions could lead to new business clients, valuable information or future resources. Every ask a group of friends for advice on a topic and get a reply like; “oh, I have a friend who can do that for you” – that’s NETWORKING!
Social networking does the same thing but without the limitation of face-to-face interaction. Instead of meeting people in a room at a business card exchange social media sites allow you to connect with over the internet – this can greatly increase your number of contacts and your ability to reach other people! As you update your status and post information it can rapidly be disseminated to the friends of friends through sharing – you can reach 100s of thousand of people within a few minutes (if you have the right message)!
When you combine the power of interactive communications with the vast reach of social networks you have an incredibly powerful tool in Social Media for influencing the people who are using or maybe using your service! Don’t be mislead and think that social media is just a marketing tool, in future posts I will share how EMS agencies should be using social media to achieve any number of different objectives.