Thursday, May 14, 2009

BusinessWeek: Dive into Social Media Now

Your competitors know that Twitter, Linkedin, and the rest of the social media gang are a communication channel between you and your consumers. Do you?

We believe this with all our heart: While social media are complex and often misunderstood, they have a value beyond traditional marketing campaigns. More specifically, we believe they can be used to help form your marketing strategy and be integrated into all your communications.

We have invested heavily in social media at our company. We believe in the power of online communities to help uncover insights; generate and validate new-product, service, and business-model concepts; and most important, create the necessary conversations that spark a new idea we can develop and introduce across the globe.

Everything it has done for us, we believe it can do for your organization as well. Our research shows that marketers intend to invest more in social media in the months ahead, but they have yet to allot substantial budgets for them. That isn't the way to go. And if you continue to fund social applications only as experiments, you're unlikely to be able to make an impact.

Ownership Is Fleeting

Our purpose here is twofold. First, we want to clarify exactly what we (and you) should be talking about when using the term "social media," and then we will address the three biggest worries about implementing it: the loss of control, the related concern that someone in your employ will make a mistake during real-time interactions with customers, and perhaps the biggest misconception of all, that there is no way to measure its impact.

Simple definition first: Social media are a technically enhanced—think Internet and mobile-based—way of discussing ideas with people in communities. (Twitter, blogs, niche communities, and giant communities like LinkedIn and Facebook are the sorts of things we are talking about here.) Social media use words, pictures, audio, and video to foster interaction.

It is that interaction that makes some business people nervous. We understand.

When you advertise in a publication or on radio or TV, you decide on the words, the imagery, and everything else. When you use social media to get that message out, that ownership is fleeting. While you maintain absolute control over the initial content, what happens afterward depends on the audience. Is there any way to alter that? No.

But instead of worrying about it, we think you should see it as an opportunity, one that you already have some (analogous) experience with.


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