Beyond Hype, Social Media opens new frontiers for Business

by Jonas Lood - Last year, social media acceptance and usage grew at a rapid rate. Today, Facebook has more than 400 million active users, one fifth of which are using the newer and rapidly growing mobile platform. Not bad for a company that started just six years ago. Similarly, according to Nielsen Online, Twitter grew by 1,300% year over year registering a total of more than 7 million unique visitors. As these trends continue, users will also adopt new and innovative ways to embrace social media as it becomes increasingly mobile, functional and exclusive.

While it is true that social media grew as a web-based communications medium for individual use, an increasing number of organizations are beginning to take notice. Our clients are frequently asking us how they can adopt new and innovative uses for social media at their organization. In particular, how such an approach will result in quantifiable, tangible and measurable results.

Whether you are a Business to Business or Business to Consumer organization, there is a place for social media at your company. According to Dan Schawbel, social media specialist at EMC Corporation, and author of the book, Me 2.0: “It’s all about aligning business strategy to the use of each tool.” How you embrace the medium ultimately depends on your business strategy and approach. Failing to do so means you will not reach your intended audience and the opportunity will be lost.

A common trend we’ve seen is companies that are searching for marketing and communication methods that optimize exposure without breaking the budget. Case in point, Best Buy’s TwelpForce. It leverages the combined knowledge of hundreds of employees throughout their store-wide network to provide customer support and technology advice via Twitter. Using Twitter, Best Buy has managed to position itself as a consumer electronics knowledge leader. TwelpForce provides opportunities for customer communication and service that would have been very expensive using traditional methods.

Both Dell, the world’s third largest PC maker, and VISA have developed unique Facebook pages specifically designed to ‘carry on the conversation’ to better serve their customers. The topics can have a general customer service and feedback-oriented emphasis, as is the case with VISA. They can also be highly granular, focusing on unique topics with “how to” guides, company events and discussion boards. The goal here is to communicate with your customers, not just as sales people but also as a resource, raising the secondary possibility of a sale.

Companies who do not participate could be left out in the cold. According to Brian Solis at Futureworks “If you’re not part of the conversation, then you’re leaving it to others to answer questions and provide information, whether it’s accurate or incorrect. Or, even worse, you may be leaving it up to your competition to jump in to become the resource for the community.”

Social media has come of age and can now be viewed as an essential business tool. Those who insist social media is a fad and write off the technology in favour of more traditional modes of customer interaction are making a mistake. The start up costs for the technology is generally nonexistent, and in some instances it is free. Companies are advised to invest in social media and incorporate these programs into their marketing mix. Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management coined this term in the 1960’s “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” With that in mind, now imagine the opportunities social media could bring to your business.

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