Social Media for Small Business – 2009

This was an article featured in the Scottsdale Airpark News, a local business publication in the Scottsdale Business Airpark. Published in 2009 it already feels dated.

Click here to see a scanned version of the article

 

Unless you have been living under a rock on Mars chances are you have heard about Social Media. Twitter, Facebook, Squidoo, LinkedIn, the list goes on, and on…and on. Frankly, it can be exhausting. But just what are these forums and online communities and why should business people care?
Social Media is a broad and daunting form of media. It can take many forms and have many different users. Social Media can take just some of these forms such as blogging, video blogging, microblogging, social sites, email, podcasts, forums, and music sharing. All of these forms of communication can be done very simply and cost effectively. Social media is highly accessible and is changing the day to day activites of how people read, write, share news and information. Wikipedia even goes so far as to call it the “fusion of sociology and technology…and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers to publishers.” No that’s is a very powerful statement. Sociology is an extension of social sciences and is the study of human social structure. In the Social Media-sphere we are applying classic sociology understanding with the evolution in technology, to drastically change the way humans are interacting.

ONCE UPON A TIME

Just how did social media start? Well many attribute the start of social media directly to free email clients. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, these still are email sites that allow people to directly communicate, and publish thoughts, feelings, and keep in contact with others next door, in the next state, or in the next country. Email was and still is an instant communication tool and the most widely adopted form of social media.

Social media, as it has more traditionally been come to be known has generally been acknowledged with the beginning of the out of favor site Friendster. Friendster’s initial goal was to “create a safer, more effective environment for meeting new people. Friendster allowed you to connecting to friends, friends of friends and so on, allowing members to expand their network in face-to-face type scenarios.” Friendster was the first to actually take away the anonymity and encouraged users to use their real name. Now I would be “Jacob Lebo” instead of “kinglebo2027” thus allowing all users a more personalized and fulfilling online experience. Friendster is mentioned as falling out of favor and sure, you can still get a profile and actively participate on Friendster, but good luck finding your friends and family to engage with. Friendster suffered a fabulous and almost instant death, similar to what is happening with MySpace right now.

In fact Jon Gibs, vice president of online media and agency insights for Nielsen Online notes. “Remember Friendster? Remember when MySpace was an unbeatable force? Neither Facebook nor Twitter are immune. Consumers have shown that they are willing to pick up their networks and move them to another platform, seemingly at a moment’s notice.”

DOWN TO BUSINESS

As a business owner it is in your best interest to have a strategic plan to understand just what networks are worth engaging in. So do you need to participate in social media? Does you business need social media?
A recent Anderson Analytics report found an estimated 110 million people in the U.S. — or 36% of the total population — are regular social networking users. A regular user is someone who logs in at least once a month Within those regular users Facebook dominates with 78 million regular users, followed by MySpace with 67 million, Twitter with 17 million, and LinkedIn with 11 million regular users.

With 110 million members in a captive audience, members that willingly share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, wouldn’t your business be hurt by not participating in Social Media?

Getting started on social media, is best done personally first. Then you can decide if it right for your business. Obviously an informed decision is the best one so here are some points to get you started.

DO NOT Accept every social media invitation. I constantly turn down invitations to many different social media circles because quite frankly I don’t have enough time.

DO NOT use social media during the day. I know it can be addicting, however in addition to building relationships, it can be a time vacuum. Many social media activites should be done off business hours.

DO engage. In Facebook, wish happy birthdays, and make relevant comments to your friends. In LinkedIn pose and answer relevant questions that relate to your business. On blogs and forums leave thought provoking comments and compliments. “that was a great aritlce” doesn’t work! I said thought provoking.

DO NOT get overly personal. Remember these comments are generally read by your peers and business associates. Do not write anything you wouldn’t say in person, and be aware these will be listed forever.

Remember the key to any successful social media strategy is to actively listen participate and engage with you industry, customers, and other relevant players. If you do this correctly, the relationships you build will foster a greater ROI for your business and brand.

Nothing is ever deleted from the web; it just goes into Google’s cache… What’s a cache you ask? Google it!

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