Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What is Social Media to a Business?

A few weeks ago, I was invited to take part in a discussion on social media and which company 'department' it should belong to. It was a great debate, in part due to the different opinions on the matter but also because it answered crucial questions about social media’s role from a business perspective.

First, let me answer the obvious question: What’s the big deal? Why are so many people raving on about social media? Here are a few interesting facts:
  • In early March of this year, surpassed as the most visited domain in the U.S. That means more people visit this single social network on a daily basis than search for information on the almighty Google. It also technically means that you have a better chance of people discovering your business on Facebook than through a search engine.
  • On an international scale , there are more than 500 million active users who spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • Yes, I used the word ‘billion’.
  • 70% of these users are outside the United States and the site is available in 70 languages.
  • Twitter now has over 105 million registered users, climbing at a rate of 300,000 per day. With 180 million unique visitors coming to the site every month, it's obviously got people's attention.
  • LinkedIn, which was launched in 2003, has over 66 million members (May 2010) and receives around 36.5 million visits every month.
  • The online photo sharing site Flickr now hosts more than 3.6 billion user images. The online bookmarking service Delicious has more than 5 million users and more than 150 million unique bookmarked URLs.

With figures like these, social media is changing how the world communicates. It transcends the passivity of watching TV but offers equally powerful advertising opportunities. We’ll look at social media and advertising in more detail at a later date.

For now though, how you use this multi-faceted ‘wunderkind’ of a platform is completely up to you, and will depend on the resources available to your business. The truth is, you can use social media to advance in a number of ways, each with their own reward. It can be a communications/PR tool, it can be an advertising platform. You can use it for customer support, or you can use it to monitor your customers’ habits. You can use it to present the 'tone' of your company, or to find out what your competitors are doing. The most powerful way to use social media, in my opinion, is to engage with your clients and create communities filled with a healthy mixture of customers and professionals. Remember, social media isn't a subliminal arena, so it needs to be personable to succeed.

On a final note, using your market's reluctance to engage in social media is a huge advantage to you: Using this tool when your competitors won't gives you a significant competitive advantage. One that can't be ignored with the types of figures I mentioned above.

Next up: Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for businesses.

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