Wednesday, May 28, 2008

10 Advantages you'll gain through Social Media

Even though Social Media sites have been around for a couple of years, they are now hitting the mainstream in a big way. Often, it takes time for people to understand a new phenomenon and those who are late to the game often miss out on the biggest gains. If you're on the fence on Social Media, there are a number of great reasons you and your organization should be using them.

According to Wikipedia, Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other.

Companies, organizations, corporations--even the military are starting to realize the benefits of Social Media. Below are the top 10 advantages you'll gain through Social Media:

1. Gain intimate information about your customers and competitors
Social Media has an unprecedented ability to connect you to your customers in a very intimate fashion. If your customers feel that respected by their Social Media experience, they will speak openly and helpfully about what works and doesn't work well. And, not only will they speak openly about you have to offer, but they'll also share what they like and dislike about your competition. Organizations pay a tremendous amount of money for focus groups, test marketing, pilot programs, etc., but Social Media can offer similar results if you listen carefully to what you're being told. Generally speaking, in my opinion, most people want to help--let them help you to improve your company and your products.

2. Share information with those who are REALLY interested
The Internet has offered unprecedented opportunity for people with highly-specialized interests to find a forum, share their thoughts, and interact with others who share interest. If your Social Media efforts are well-placed, you can get your message to the exact group(s) that will sign-up, purchase, donate, contribute, share, or work with you on whatever your goal. Tread gently--be humble--and genuine because chances are high that the people you're interacting with may have far more experience on the subject than you.

3. Raw communication from your customers and potential customers
There are few better, faster, or cheaper opportunities to gain raw insight than from Social Media. The anonymity of the Internet offers some the needed "boost" to speak candidly about what you have to offer. They may be more inclined to write a post about something good or bad if they don't have to be concerned with hurting the feelings of your customer service representative or salesperson. That being said, be sure to *read* customer posts "in the best light". That is, posts or blog entries lack the tone or body language that would accompany a phone call, focus group, or other human-to-human interaction so it's easy to misunderstand the intent, agitation, or enthusiasm of the writer. When in doubt, assume that the person meant the post to be helpful and constructive, and respond accordingly.

4. Customers feel connected to "insiders" in your company
We've all felt it... that connection felt when an employee reveals something about an upcoming product or change in the organization or company. That knowledge has a certain "value" to it. You might call your friend, your mom, sometimes--anyone that will listen--and share it with them. When employees understand what they can share, and use that information strategically, it can benefit the company and the customer. In some cases, customers will develop a heartfelt bond simply by learning a little detail about the company, your products, or anything that strikes an emotional interest in them. For example, learning a little-known story that Ben & Jerry's named its newest flavor after comedian Stephen Colbert might mean something to a serious Colbert fan. It's hard to anticipate those connections, but it's not impossible.

5. Blazing-fast information sharing
Many people start their day by checking their favorite Social Media sites. When they do, they can be the best purveyors of information throughout the Internet. What used to be shared by phone, is now shared by hotlinks to postings and articles of interest. If you want to share something new--Social Media can make it happen at lightning speed.

6. Inexpensive public relations, advertising, and marketing
Compared to the cost of traditional print--even websites--you can't beat Social Media for spreading your message. A website may have a certain following of people, but a true Social Media network, wherein people share information and interact, and feel part of an online community can spread the message much less expensively, more successfully, and to the desired group better than any other media.

7. Customers feel like they're being heard
When customers see that members of your organization are responding in forums, comments, and posts, they know that their message has been heard. People want to be heard and know that their opinion is respected. That's not to say that you have to react or agree with their thoughts--in many cases--you've probably already heard their idea somewhere else. However, a kind response of "That's similar to something that we've explored in the past that we might have to reconsider." will go a long way to cementing a helpful bond with your customer.

8. Employees and organization members love to use Social Media amongst themselves
Social Media is also helpful to learn insight about products, employees, and other members of organizations. When employees feel comfortable sharing personal information about their hobbies, pets, experiences, aspirations, and interests, with other members of the organization, a lot can be gained. When a CEO blogs about upcoming challenges facing the company, and employees share information, i.e. Delta Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, Whole Foods, or Starbucks, everyone benefits.

9. Support your other marketing/media efforts
Social Media can [and should be] be an integral part of your overall marketing efforts. Connect to your customers on a personal level while supporting that connection through traditional media. Integrating the two can be a powerful combination. Consider launching blogs with specific topics in mind and, if necessary, with a limited lifetime.

10. Social Media can radically change your organization
Adopting Social Media strategies and techniques can develop entirely new directions within your organization. Sharing and interacting with your customers and employees can enable you to move faster with less-expense, and react more quickly to changes. IBM launched a new exploration of Social Media called Beehive and, in just nine months, they've reached 30,000 users. If some of those 30,000 users become IBM customers as a result of their new direction, you can be sure that other companies will pick up on the trend.

Social Media can help you spread your message quickly, inexpensively, and surgically-right to the people you want to hear it.

1 comment:

  1. great post.

    Social media is a good tool but I think it works for specific niche only