I love how big businesses, especially in the Fortune 50 set, are starting to "get the hint" when it comes to social media.
For too long, large corporations have shunned new media in favor of more traditional methods (television, print, and radio). The larger the company, the more they cannot afford to miss the opportunities that social media offers such as:
“Forced” Transparency – the Internet will not allow anyone to be hidden in their meaning. Even if you veil your attempt right away, eventually you will be exposed. Earnest businesses that wish to be successful by doing business with social media will realize this up front and join in the Internet’s offered transparency.
Low ROI – In a majority of cases, social media offers wonderful Return on Investment because there is no/low monetary cost. Businesses like my own (outside of the company) and those I consult for know this and embrace it. Unless you want to make a monetary investment (the rewards are higher, but the risk is also higher), sites that require no cost are best – Twitter and Facebook being the two that are paramount. Weight the options and proceed from there.
Medium – As mentioned in the previous point, Twitter and Facebook are the two biggest options for social media branding. The reason for this is that they offer different things. Twitter is more of an open platform, not requiring authentication (for the most part – the Tony La Russa lawsuit has changed a few things regarding that.). Facebook is a closed-platform type of system, requiring users to verify information such as email addresses and websites. However, both platforms offer a more direct way of contacting the general public and receiving inquires. Twitter, in my opinion offers more of a direct contact method that works both ways. General inquires can be both send a received with relative ease with applications made for customer contact work, like Co-Tweet. Facebook Groups/Fan Pages are a little more one way with their forum-like set ups for discussions. In the end it will matter more as to what fits the company and their strategy and what their consumers find most usable for their lifestyles.
Ease – It is remarkably easy to send a Tweet or a post a discussion on Facebook. Users can do this with little to no effort, easier then even sending an email. However, ease of use also needs to be thought of when choosing one or more social networking sites to participate in. Look at your demographic and do some research. Figure out what sites you patronage uses and gear yourselves to that medium. There’s no sense in putting up a page on MySpace for example, if most of your customers use Twitter (as an example). This may seem relatively common-sense, but you would be surprised how many businesses – both large and small – forget this rule in their zeal for being on the ‘Net. Community-based Networking – New media experts from Tim O’Reilly and Robert Scoble down to myself all agree on one thing – The key to new media is to keep things community-based. The trick is to keep adding value, rather than asking yourself what “you” are getting out of it. New media is an investment that sometimes doesn’t bring immediate results. Take for example podcasting. A small-production podcast can sometimes do 100 or so episodes before really becoming something people really notice on a large scale. That may not seem like a lot, but considering that most shows are done weekly, you can see that it would take about 2 years for the average show to really take off. The point is that sometimes you have to keep plugging away and keep producing, because you WILL get the benefit sooner or later. Remaining community-focused can really help you reap what you sow.
If anyone has any comments, please post. I also accept thoughts via email at email@example.com.