Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Social Media Buzz

The Social Media Buzz
There has been a lot of talk about social media in the past couple of years, and names like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn have become very common among everyone.
So, why is there so much talk about social media? Is social media word of mouth? Word of mouth has been and will be the basis of human communication. We all love to talk. Talking makes us looks well-informed, smarter than others, helps in selling and helps us be successful in life. People used to talk before the advent of traditional media like radio, newspapers, magazines, TV etc. The media added a layer between corporations and people, and we all tuned in to hear news and the latest buzz from these channels (whether we believed all of it is a different story).
Social media is changing the entire ballgame and providing a set of tools and technology so that media can come back to where it belongs – in the hands of people. People now have the capability to express their thoughts in their own words, and the new tools enable them to share these thoughts with friends, family and everyone else with the greatest of ease.

Companies can take advantage of social media by listening to their customers and using that feedback to improve products or services, create brand advocates, create communities, innovate, recruit and communicate.
The above projection highlights the fact that companies are flocking to the possibilities of social media, but they should be cautious: Social media can be the most effective component of their marketing strategy, but it should not be their only means of reaching customers. Social media includes the following: blogs, discussions forums, social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), social bookmarking, video sharing and microblogging, etc.

The heart of any business is word of mouth because that’s how most businesses got started and grew. Using tools provided by social media can take us back to our basics and enable us to start connecting with our customers — like one of them, not as a corporate entity. And the number of people who might be discussing your product or service at any point of time using social media tools is simply mind-boggling!

To give you an idea of the power of social networks, Facebook became the most-visited site in the U.S. for the first time over the 2009 Christmas holidays, pushing past Google:

A question many businesses might ask is “My customers are not engaged in social media, so why should I join?” Well, the answer is that the power of social networks will continue to grow. Facebook currently has more than 350 million active users and is proud of the fact that it has “real users.”

Here are some benefits of using social media for your organization:
a) Your customers might be using social media, but you are not aware of them.
b) Prospective customers might be on the social platforms, and the best way to reach them is to start interacting with them on their platform of choice. c) Customers will start to expect presence on social media platforms. Many other companies are doing it, and it will become a standard just like e-mail, e-newsletters and websites.
d) Listen and learn what is being talked about regarding your brand and industry and see if there is something that can help your business.
e) Mingle and connect with people in the media, vendors and prospective employees and be part of their network.
f) Being in social media means that you are an authentic, honest and transparent company (otherwise you won’t survive), and that goes a long way.
g) Your employees might already be using social media, so why not leverage their knowledge and give proper guidance so that it can benefit the organization?
According to Forrester research findings, social media will be a bigger marketing channel than both e-mail and mobile by 2014, but still just a fraction of the size of search or display advertising ($31.6B and $16.9B, respectively).

In closing, social media is the latest buzz. It’s exciting, and everyone is doing it. But that doesn’t mean that ‘Everyone is doing it so we should, too’ is the best approach for using social media.
Well-laid-out objectives, understanding of social platforms, your organizational culture, metrics on objectives, and learning and adapting will be the difference between success and failure for any social-media venture.

Ajay TejwaniSocial Media Strategist – USAA
Fun Social Media Cartoons: