For web-based companies, social media has already become an essential part of marketing, promotion, outreach, and overall strategy. Viral videos can bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to a company’s website. eCommerce websites have already embraced using Twitter as a way to do customer service and interact with consumers.
But what if web traffic is not a major business driver? What if your business is a local business and doesn’t need or want people in Sweden posting about it on their Facebook pages? How does Google Reader or LinkedIn help a brick-and-mortar store sell out its inventory or acquire new customers?
In other words, why should traditional companies that don’t rely heavily on the web care about social media? You and your business have a limited amount of time and money. Is social media the most effective way of using that time? The answer can be found in the need for traditional businesses to connect and understand their customers, as well as real-world examples.
Social Media is About Connections and Information
The first thing to remember is that social media is far more than just Twitter and Facebook – it is a subset of web, mobile, and electronic tools that help people share and discuss information, as well as connect with others. Facebook falls under social media because it helps people stay connected by exchanging pictures, status updates, and hobbies.
But LinkedIn, the business social network, is also social media, and has been a tool of choice for millions of businesses and professionals when they want to stay in touch with a business contact, meet someone outside of their network, or research potential hires. Plaxo helps share business contact information digitally. Dropbox helps businesses share and back-up files with absolute ease.
All of these tools help share information and connect people, and both are essential to business. What business succeeds without knowing its customers? What company prospers without in-depth research? Social media is helpful in all of these regards.
Social Media in Action
Alright, so social media has some business applications – are there any real-world examples of success? The answer is yes: hundreds, from job-seekers finding jobs via Twitter to a blog post sparking exponential growth. But if you are not convinced, take a look at one unique case,CoffeeGroundz (Twitter: @coffeegroundz).
J.R. Cohen, Operations Manager for CoffeeGroundz, a local coffee shop in Houston, was able to foster huge growth for the business via Twitter. How? First, he signed CoffeeGroundz up for Twitter and chatted with local Houstoners. Soon he reached 1,000+ followers, most of them local.
One day, one of his followers unexpectedly tweeted an order, and he fulfilled it. That little exchange blew up into a story all across Twitter. This resulted in press coverage and new customers from Twitter. Today, tweetups, real-world gatherings of Twitter users, occur at the coffee house and customers can tweet their orders. Cohen and CoffeeGroundz’s openness to Twitter resulted in increased business.
This is only one unique and creative example of social media in action. It shows how stories can spread, how it can connect people, and how business can be conducted through it.
Why Traditional Businesses Should Care
Business may be about finances and the bottom line, but really, it’s about customers. It’s about pleasing customers, acquiring new ones, and connecting with them. For brick-and-mortar businesses or companies that focus on production, social media is an excellent way to connect with customers and businesses.
It’s easy to find new customers in your area if you’re a regional company – friend people on Facebook or Twitter. It’s also easy to find information and feedback via social media. Want to know about coffee trends? Do a twitter search for coffee and see what people are talking about. Want to find out about a new employee? Find his LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.
Social media has become a powerful connecting force for not only people, but for businesses. There are great synergies between social media, which connects people, and traditional businesses, which depend on their connections with customers.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, djgunner