I can only resist change for so long. It first started when CD players first came out. I liked my cassette tape players and I just didn’t see the need to buy a very expensive CD player and have to replace my tape library with costlier CDs that I didn’t think sounded any better. But, eventually, I folded and got the CD player several years after it had come out. Then it was the DVD player. Again, I refused to see any difference in quality and really hated having the replace all the VHS movies I had with more expensive versions. Again, I finally fell and 4-5 years after it came out, I bought a DVD player. Now it’s the flat screen TV, and I am slowly replacing all the big, heavy bubble TVs with flat screens. The real benefit for me there is the size and weight of the flat screens. They are easier to move and mountable on the wall out of the way, opening up shelf space in the guestrooms. But, I still refuse to pay for HDTV as I see no visual difference on the TVs. But, hey, that’s just me.
In running a business, I am confronted with so many different things that are beneficial and not so beneficial in staying viable. Even a bed and breakfast must move forward or there is a good chance it will not survive. Especially in a city like Asheville where there are a large number of bed and breakfasts competing for guests. Which brings me to this world of social media. What exactly is social media?
Social Media Defined
According to Wikipedia (a great source for information on just about any topic you can think of), social media is a group of Internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. That means that you and I create stuff (or content) and share it with others, through various means of Internet applications. In laymans terms, instead of me reading what other people write, social media allows for me to be the writer and to disseminate whatever stuff I’m writing out to many people through various sources. It also allows me to interact more with what other people are writing or posting, through reviews and other forms of online conversations. I can share as much or as little about myself, my life, my business, my knowledge as I want and anyone, anywhere can access that information (depending on how I set up the sources of information – public, private, or maybe to just people I designate). Social media can also generate revenue so it has become a business for some. I’m sure there is more to it, but this is how I understand it.
Social Media Forms
I admit that I am still new to the idea of “doing” social media so there’s a lot I don’t know. But here are some of the more common forms of social media that I have started using:
- Blogging – Probably the most common form of social media, the blog (or web blog) comes in several forms. Most people use a blog to write about there personal life, to share pictures, videos, commentaries and information. I started the Blake House Blog just under a year ago to provide information about the Inn and what stuff is going on here. For me, it allows guests and potential guests to meet me before they meet me in person. They can see the trials and tribulations, special events, renovations, and general goings on here. While I update the website constantly, the blog makes it more personal for the reader, as if I am talking directly to them. So, in my case, my blog is a business blog, but it has a real personal element to it. There are also professional bloggers who blog for a living, and make money from it! One that I follow is called ProBlogger and he offers tips to other bloggers on making a career and money from blogging, even listing blogging jobs on the site. Another blog-type option for people who have a voice is called HubPages. On HubPages, you write Hubs (blogs) on whatever you want. You can follow other Hubbers and they can follow your hubs. This is just another mechanism to create a web presence for yourself and/or your business. I have posted recipes, craft projects, and information about Asheville and the Inn. I’ve also picked up information from other Hubbers on energy conservation and greening actions that I can use at the Inn. It’s just another pond to fish from.
- Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn – This is another thing I resisted as long as possible. I saw MySpace being used at work constantly and I thought it was a time sucker, taking away from the job, and that it was used by the younger crowd (tweens, teens and young 20 somethings). My son was on MySpace so I really had no interest. Then I came across Facebook about a year ago and decided to join because it looked a little more mature. For the first six months or so, I really didn’t do much with it. I’d get on maybe once or twice a month. Little by little, I started getting more involved, I began connecting with many friends from high school, and I realized that there is a business side of Facebook. So I have a personal page and a I have a Fanbook Page for the Inn. I am really enjoying Facebook now. Connecting with old friends, classmates, and co-workers has been incredibly satisfying. The Fanbook page allows me to share the Inn with people I know and people I don’t, but I can follow other businesses, charities, and people and stay in tune with their lives. My mother is on Facebook, including aunts, cousins, and siblings who I don’t see often. This is one form of social media that everyone can benefit from. I do have a LinkedIn profile, which I see as a business tool. I joined a few years ago, but don’t spend a whole lot of time on that one. I’ll have to be better about staying “linked in.”
- Twitter - I just joined Twitter yesterday and don’t yet have a clue how it works. But, it’s another form of media where I can follow and be notified of topics that I think are interesting. On Twitter, you share short snippets of information (140 characters or less) in things called Tweets. Most Tweets have a link to something else; an article, someone else’s Twitter page, etc., etc. Again, I don’t quite get it yet, but I’ll get there. People can follow my blog on their Twitter account and receive Tweets every time I post something new. They can also subscribe to my Feed.
- Feeds – I use a service called Feedburner so that people can be notified any time I write a new blog (if they are interested). Feeds can be set up through many sources, including a simple email address. If a person likes another blog or page of someone else or a business, look for a feed link/RSS link. If you subscribe or sign up, every time that page is updated, you will be notified. I receive feeds from several other business into one source, Google Reader. I click on my Google Reader page and it lists all the pages I subscribe to and it will show which ones have new postings since the last time I checked. You can even link your feeds with your Twitter account. I have to figure out how to do this as soon as I finish this post. I’m still new to the whole “feed” thing so I still have a lot to learn. But, again, I have tapped into a lot of information that I normally wouldn’t know about unless I hunted around the Internet for it.
- Digg/Stumble – These sites allow you to share web pages, photos, videos, etc. with others by giving the item a Digg or Thumbs Up. The more diggs or thumbs up a page has, the more people who see it, all over the world. You can share your favorites through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sources. This can be beneficial for business because if something becomes popularized, that could bring more people to a website that wouldn’t normally find it. I use these sites mainly for news information and Digg sends 5-second pop-ups to my computer at various times throughout the day and I can click on the link if I want to read or see the whole page. These sites are simply easy ways for information to be passed around the Internet quickly. You may also see web pages and blogs with a Digg or Stumble button which means that you can digg or thumbs up that page without having to go to either site to find the page. If you have accounts with these sites, it keeps track of all the pages you have responded to, your favorite pages and topics, and you can submit a page to the site for others to see. I use these sites for fun and have shared a few pages on Facebook.
The social media forms that I have listed are the tip of the iceberg. They are the most popular right now, but I’m sure there will be more for me to join and experience. As a result, I am spending more and more time on my computer, but I actually feel more connected to people than I have since buying the Inn 4 years ago. If anyone knows of other popular social media outlets that you think I should look into, please send me a comment on this post and share it with other readers. I also welcome any comments that would help me and others to use these sites better.