Friday, April 29, 2011

Standing out in the social media crowd

I am currently using social media to market a free online conference for midwives on the 5th May called the Virtual International Day of the Midwife (VIDM). But with the plethora of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts out there, I am wondering how to stand out amongst the crowd.

Leading the social media charge
This is the third year I have been managing this event. The first year I had a very poor response. Last year I started to use Facebook and Twitter. There were very few midwifery organisations using Twitter or Facebook so I was very pleased when my "VIDM 2010" Facebook page reached 2,500 followers and the event had at least a 1000% increase in attendance. The only midwifery organisation that had more followers than us was the midwifery journal "Midwifery Today" with 10, 000 followers.

Increase in midwives' use of Facebook
This year I started a Facebook page that was more generic to our event - "Virtual International Day of the Midwife". I have not attached a date to the page so that we can continue to use it year after year. What I have noticed is that the number of followers has been very slow to get going - at the moment we have 539 "likes". The other thing that has become evident is that there are many more midwives and midwifery organisations using Facebook. Midwifery Today is currently standing at 25,000 "likes".

Standing out in the crowd
So I am wondering how I can make the VIDM voice heard above very famous organisations such as the International Confederation of Midwives, UK Nursing and Midwifery Council, or even the spoof Facebook pages The Midwife and The Student Midwife.

Is Facebook a waste of time?
Or is Ashley Morgan correct when he says that "Facebook is overcrowded and is fast becoming the new myspace. A total and utter waste of everyone's time"? And that the best way to stand out in Facebook is not to have an account there?

Would love to hear what you think. Has Facebook lost it's effectiveness as a marketing tool, or is having a Facebook page still a vital part of an organisation's communication strategy?

Image: 'yellow umbrella'


John Coxon said...

Sarah hearing you voice the possibility of social media, in particular Facebook as having lost marketing appeal is akin to hearing the Pope suggest Catholicism will disappear in the next millenium - considering your level of committment to social media.

At the same time you are voicing something I have felt for a while now, and over the past year have found myself moving away from social media, even blogging and back to more traditional forms of direct marketing.

A cornerstone of marketing is to understand who your customer is, what information they require and where they go to get that information. If social media is not identified as a key source of information for clients then the time spent maintaining an online presence may well be to the detriment of time spent gaining business elsewhere.

Are we able to trace new business directly to our online presence? If not, then why are we spending time on this medium?

One advantage of social media may be that it enables one to communicate directly with a decision maker and avoid self-interested gatekeepers. If the decision maker regularly visits online sites.

I have noticed my online visits have declined noticeably and my contributions even more so without any noticeable decline in business, to the point where social media is becoming irrelevant in my circumstances. For me this suggests the time to 'turn off the switch' may be getting closer.

At least any decision I make re social media will be based upon experience of having utilised the process, which is more than some critics of social media will have done.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi John, I've been thinking long and hard about my blog post and the comments you made, and had to laugh at the comment you made about the Pope.

The reality is for me...I do not have a better way of getting word out about my work on an international stage. Facebook is one of the most universal places where midwives meet, so I've got to work out how my voice is heard above the rest.

It is also the place where birth consumers are fighting their battles against medical interference, so I believe midwives have to hook into that.

Whilst the shine may have gone off social media, I don't think it is a bad thing for me to take a realistic and pragmatic look at what I am doing and re-evaluate what I am doing with my time in regards to Twitter, Fcebook etc