2008 saw the rise of social media, not only for online communities but for business as well. However, the actual definition and usefulness of social media is still a little hazy to most. What is social media? What does social media refer to? And is social media useful for business? I hope to answer some of those questions by the end of this post.
Defining Social Media
Before we discuss social media, we have to define what it is and what it applies to. First, let’s tackle the definition. If you break down social media, you begin to really understand what it’s about:
- Social primarily refers to communication within human society and its organizations
- Media refers to the tools used to transmit, store, and deliver information or data. In the case of social media, these tools are electronic or mobile.
Thus, I like how Wikipedia defines social media: Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.
It’s also important to understand the characteristics that define social media. Primarily, they are collaboration, conversation, networking, sharing, and speed. Social media allows for the sharing of information; everything from photos to news in a quick and relevant matter, and provides platforms for anybody to comment or react to that information.
So, what tools qualify as social media? A short list includes blogs, social networks (i.e. Facebook), micro-blogging tools (i.e. Twitter), wikis, Internet forums, and web tools that help share multimedia or news with others (i.e. YouTube, Digg).
How Can it Help Your Business?
Now that we have a better idea of social media and what tools qualify as social media, here is the important question: How can it help your business?
To answer that, I have created a short list of common business applications for social media:
- Advertising: Advertising on social networks has reached an all-time high. Most young consumers have a social media account – at the very least, Facebook or MySpace. Reaching these audiences is a must for business.
- Branding: For many young customers, just delivering a product isn’t enough – they want you to hear their feedback, their complaints, and their love for your product. They want to know the people behind the company. Creating a company blog and interacting with customers not only enhances your image, but also helps you keep current customers happy and acquire new ones
- Collaboration: Social media can help you organize your business. Some companies use wikis to organize company ideas or create help sections. Others share pictures of their products using websites like Flickr.
- Networking: Networking is not just sitting down for lunch anymore. It is easier than ever to find potential hires or get a job without ever meeting anyone in person. A personal blog can supplement a resume and interviews can be executed over Skype. Using professional social networks like LinkedIn, it’s also easy to keep in touch with others you’ve met within your industry.
- Awareness: Tracking the mentions of your name or your business can help you understand how customers are reacting to you. There is a depth of information like never before. You can track user trends or figure out what your customers like about your competition.