In the ancient times (before the last 5 years) when you wanted to talk with someone—say, your client—you picked up the phone and you spoke to him. Now I know in this day and age that practice of actually talking to each other sounds remarkably quaint. But it worked. Communication happened.
Then came email. Forget the phone. When you wanted to talk with your client, you sent him an email. It was fast but you had to wait for his response back. His response might necessitate another query from you which also demanded a response back.
And that was the big problem with email. It could take hours to have what had been a simple 5-minute phone conversation. Worse yet, in all the back-and-forthing, misunderstandings crept in.
Some PhD candidate somewhere (I've forgotten the exact details in a senior moment) discovered that 90% of emails were misinterpreted. It was shocking! If you ran your business (or love life, for that matter) on what you thought you had said and what you thought you had heard back, 90% of the time you would be wrong. Yikes! Communications where happening, but maybe not the communications you needed. On the other hand, you could at least have a paper trail that showed where the train went off the track.
But now I'm getting off track.
Today, 79% of corporations use Social Media today to interact with consumers. They use these communications to maintain top-of-mind presence, drive sales, get feedback, and award customer-loyalty.
The Altimeter Group cites that there are 600M (600,000,000) Facebook accounts and these 600M folks spend an incredible 700B (7,000,000,000) minutes per month on Facebook. Twitter is second with 175M users sending about 95M tweets a day. My calculator can't even figure out what this comes to on a monthly basis. Anyway, LinkedIn is third at 85M users. YouTube is another social biggie, but not quite in the same way.
If you are comfortable with the technology, and have the time each day to devote to the cause, you may find sending messages and responding to what comes back a rewarding experience. You'll be in good company. Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson, Marriot CEO Bill Marriott and Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz all write their own blogs and tweets.
On the other hand, if you are like many busy people today (who don't have a support staff of thousands), maybe you want to write your own material, then have a trusted associate distribute it and respond on your behalf.
In many large organizations there are entire departments of tweeters and social media mavens, sending out tweets, blogs, text messages and checking in with Friends on FaceBook and folks in various interest groups.
Why are these firms devoting so much energy and resources to this effort?
Because it works!
Properly executed, social media does indeed maintain top-of-mind presence. A well-written blog, delivered regularly, builds community. It's one of today's communication tools of choice, and communication—whether by print, phone or by blog—builds community.
Social Media does drive sales (think text messaging, or an email click here to link to our new catalog)... get feedback (PURLs, informal focus groups and surveys)...
inspire folks to act (give to earthquake recovery, sign up for a whitepaper, register for a free webinar)... and award customer-loyalty (Panera and Ruby Tuesdays are masters of rewarding customer loyalty.)
Social Media supplements—not replaces—your other marketing efforts. It can not replace direct mail letters, catalogs in the mailbox or ads on the radio. What it can do is make your audience more receptive when your direct mail letter or catalog gets in their hands.
You learned in Marketing 101 that successful marketing is about building a relationship between your company and your customer. If you first heard this sage advice in the last century, you'll remember there were fewer avenues you could use then.
It's so easy today, though the rule of relationships still applies. Social Media is the perfect tool to build relationships. It works. And yes, it can be fun.
Get with it.