Social Media is the new black among the business community.  Everyone wanted to jump on the social media bandwagon.  It was like a wildfire that all of a sudden every business felt the need to have at least a Facebook or Twitter account.

Unfortunately, in their haste to be a part of the social media circle…they joined without understanding how to fully harness its benefits.  For many, it is just another venue to post and market their products.   They are totally missing the “social aspect” of social media.

To better understand what social media is, I think we should define what the word “social” and “media” means.

   social means

: involving allies or confederates <the Social War between the Athenians and their allies>
a: marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates <an active social life> b:sociable c: of, relating to, or designed for sociability <a social club>
: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society <social institutions>
a: tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others   (source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Meanwhile, the word media is nothing new to most businesses. Radio, television, newspapers, and magazines are traditionally referred as a type of “media” by the business community.
However, in the dictionary the word “media” means:
: a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression;

In reference to the dictionary meanings of “social” and media”, I would like to point out the words allies, friends, interaction, cooperative, interdependent relationships, cultivation and expression.  These words best defines what social media is and why it is so popular. Friends, peers, and communities found a medium where they can form groups, interact, communicate, express and cultivate relationships.

In fact, this is the catalyst behind the creation of Facebook and Twitter.   It was not created for businesses but for individuals to establish communication among their peers or other people with similar interest, in the end forming niche communities.

“Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow computer science students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes.[8] The website’s membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University.” (source: Wikipedia)
“Twitter’s origins lie in a “daylong brainstorming session” held by board members of the podcasting company Odeo. Dorsey introduced the idea of an individual using an SMS service to communicate with a small group.” (source: Wikipedia)

Today, we usually define social media as:

“The use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Social media are media for social interaction, as a set of methods to enhance social communication, using ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques.

Social media can take on many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking.

Businesses may refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.” (Source: wikipedia)

From its humble beginnings, social media became a multi-billion dollar industry.  Businesses are trying to tap into the social media communities.  It became a norm for a business to have at least one social media account.  Facebook and Twitter are now popular amongst businesses as it is to individuals.

Unfortunately, while some businesses are using it to build communities with their consumers, open the lines of communication, build a relationship of trust and interdependence, many are just using it as another advertising channel. They are creating Facebook and Twitter accounts to post their latest products and market it to their consumers.  They are using it the way they utilize traditional media such as TV advertisements, billboards and print ads…introduce and present your product, hoping that you can convince your potential customer to go ahead and purchase it.

They are totally missing the concept behind social media. If not used properly, social media can be detrimental to your business.  Instead of building trust, your consumers can see through the marketing ploy and eventually lose interest.  The worst part is, in social media word travels fast.  One person tweeting or blogging their grievances can spread like a virus in the social media community.   Moreover, some unhappy clients have gone to the extent of creating hate sites to provide an online venue for customer complaints.

Thus, if you want to integrate social media as part of your business plan, it pays to understand the concept.  Have a plan and goal in place.  Don’t be a confused chicken tweeting and clucking  your way around the social media circle…trying to push your products.  An example is the annoying postings of product links in Facebook.  It is inappropriate and presents itself in a similar fashion as spam.

If you want to promote brand credibility using social media, treat it like another department in your business….a combination of marketing, customer service and R&D (Research and Development). Your company’s marketing and customer service department should collaborate with your consumers about your products and product improvements, maintaining a dialogue on how to improve customer service and customer experience.  In the end, it builds a community based on trust, reducing the rate of customer complaints and dissatisfaction.

“Thus, using social media as a form of marketing has taken on whole new challenges. As the 2010 Trust Study indicates, it is most effective if marketing efforts through social media revolve around the genuine building of authority. Someone performing a “marketing” role within a company must honestly convince people of their genuine intentions, knowledge, and expertise in a specific area or industry through providing valuable and accurate information on an ongoing basis without a marketing angle overtly associated. If this can be done, trust with, and of, the recipient of that information – and that message itself – begins to develop naturally. This person or organization becomes a thought leader and value provider – setting themselves up as a trusted “advisor” instead of marketer. “Top of mind awareness” develops and the consumer naturally begins to gravitate to the products and/or offerings of the authority/influencer.” (Source: Wikipedia)

I look forward to see the transformation of the social media landscape in the Australian business industry.  Tweeter and Facebook is a good start but use it to establish a community instead of another marketing channel. Use forums to communicate to your customers.  Create a blog to provide value by giving tips, product information and news…don’t just post the product…talk about it the way you would talk to a friend. Build trust by giving your customers the opportunity to contribute on  improving, rating and reviewing your product or service.  Use Twitter to enhance your communication channels, similar to an online chat.  Interact with your customers, get feedback and respond promptly.   It totally beats being put on hold on a phone—-one of the top customer complaints!

If you want to promote brand credibility through social media…please don’t isolate the “social” from the” media”!  Use it to create communities and foster interdependent relationships.  Quickly resolve any issues that may arise.

These days, you can’t command your consumers to trust you.  You have to earn it and build it over time.  In the end, if they trust you then brand loyalty is not too hard to request 🙂

Be Social!



Photo: ivanpw