Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Social Media: More Than "Farmville" and "Words With Friends"

"All these whippersnappers playing around on their MyFace and Tweetering what they had for dessert is just a waste of time!  Their social networking shenanigans are just a passing fad, and shouldn't be taken seriously in the workforce!"

No, that isn't your grandmother prattling away with her girlfriends while playing Bingo, but rather the overall opinion of several U.S. businesses, according to a recent article from UPI.com.

The issue is that many businesses just don't understand how to take advantage of social media, and therefore don't know how to develop clear corporate strategies for this valuable tool.  The article goes on to say that the main concern of businesses, regarding social media sites, is the "lack of data tied to return of investment."

The challenge with gauging success is that the communication forum of social media sites take businesses to an uncharted territory full of new opportunities that aren't available with traditional communication methods.

Although the waters may appear murky, the article concludes that businesses should simply take a deep breath and dive in, as the ocean of social media offers almost limitless possibilities.

What can Social Media Do for You?

For starters, social media allows for optimized word-of-mouth recommendations, and the forum for such discussion is a lot broader than merely tweeting about a company.  YouTube videos, blog posts and Facebook campaigns are just a handful of potential conversation starters.

Once the word gets out, your company's message doesn't end there.  Now the user shares their opinion and experiences with their friends, who in turn share it with their friends and so on and so forth.  What better way to advertise your brand than by having your audience plug your company on their own?

You Still Don't Want to Go Social, huh?

Well, no one can make you join social networking sites and participate in this open forum for transparency and discussion, but that doesn't mean your competitors want to miss out.  Social media isn't merely a passing fad, but like it or not, it's a forum of communication that is here to stay. 

So, why fight it? Your audience is out there right now, looking for outlets to communicate with their peers and more importantly, you.  So if you aren't up to date with how they want to communicate, they'll look elsewhere.

Even if your audience isn't completely complimentary of your company, you can still take that knowledge and use it to your company's advantage.  Just like in real life, it takes time and effort to build meaningful relationships with your audience, but social media is a great start as it shows your audience that you are there and listening.

Measuring Return on Investment

As pointed out earlier, this is a valid concern of many businesses.  After all, you are putting not only your time and money on the line, but most importantly, your company's brand.  Fortunately, there are many programs both free and subscription based, that are designed to show you the your social media ventures are effecting your company's success.

A popular free site is Social Mention, which tracks what your audience is saying about your company, and makes it easy to see what they like and don't like.  TrackUr is another valuable tool, that can help monitor your social media efforts.  There are also similar programs like Tweet Effect, which gauges the success of your company's tweets, and Facebook Insights, which is available on the Facebook page and visible by the page's administrator.

In today's ever-evolving world of communication it is crucial for your business to actively participate in social media.  The key to business success is to establish and nurture relationships via the forum of your audience's choosing.

There is so much more to social media than simply posting photos of cats and writing snarky status updates.  It is vital you to appreciate this valuable tool, and to know how to use it to benefit your company, and establish it as an industry leader.

By: Laura Modrall

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