Social Media Means Business
If you have an internet connection, you probably know that YouTube is a web site where you can upload videos for everyone to see and that Facebook is a site for communicating, chatting, joining groups and other online interactions with other members.
YouTube and Facebook, together with hundreds of other similar sites, are collectively known as social media. To start to get a better understanding of what constitutes a social media site, let’s look at the literal meaning of the term.
In communications, “media” are the means of communication. From handwriting, to telephones, to newspapers and television, all are communications media. “Social” generally refers to living in, or relating to, a community of people. When we combine and apply the definitions, “social media” web sites are online communities of people who communicate with one another. You may have heard the terms “the YouTube community” or “Facebook community”.
So, what does this have to do with you as a business owner?
The people who participate in online communities are your customers. Just like your business exists and participates in traditional communities of customers - actual neighbourhoods or business sectors – it should also have a presence in online communities.
Before you start, it’s important to understand the major difference between social media and the traditional media. When you promote your company through traditional media, it is generally a one-way line of communication – you deliver your message and, hopefully, your potential customers receive it. Occasionally, traditional media can be two-way communication, such as through direct mail, telemarketing or surveys, where you receive a certain amount of information back from your customers.
In any case, promoting your company using traditional media generally means you have a lot of control over the communication.
Social media allows “all way” communication. Like traditional media, this can be between you and your customers, but, more importantly, social media lets your customers have ongoing discussions about your company, products, business sector and competition. Everyone in the community can participate and offer their opinion, which, good or bad, may not be in line with your key messages.
So, unlike traditional media, when you promote your company using social media, you have little or no control over what’s being said in each community. Surfers will just as quickly pan as praise your company and products and their opinions can mushroom and spread through the internet, and sometimes into traditional media, with blinding speed. When the message is good, you will get more free publicity than you thought possible, but, when the message is bad, it can be devastating.
The silver lining is that you too can be part of the social media communities. With the right approach, you can mitigate the effect of negative messages and amplify the effect of positive messages.