From the Trenches

What is Social Media, and what can my business do with it?

Mike Sweeney | July 29, 2008

Social media is hot.  If you’re a marketer and you don’t know that, you must be busy reading your back issues of The Industry Standard.

From a business standpoint, 90% of companies are trying to figure out how to address social media, and the other 10% are just pretending they know what they’re doing with regards to social media.  Much like the early days of the internet as a new medium, social media vehicles are developing so quickly that it’s almost impossible to keep up and address the business opportunities associated with social media.

My guess is that social media is going to be a topic covered in this blog for years to come, but just in case this is the last time we discuss it, here are a few things you should know about this phenomenon:

1. There is no universally accepted definition of social media.  Most of us, including the so-called experts, make it up as we go.

2. Speaking of experts, those who proclaim themselves social media experts are typically just folks that understand the innerworkings of social media properties like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace.  That comment isn’t meant to demean the folks that proclaim themselves experts in social media, as much as to acknowledge that social media changes on a daily basis, which makes it difficult to become an expert in this infant industry.

3. Social media is for real, and every business needs to address it in some form or fashion.  If you’re the guy/gal that is just now getting around to believing in search engine marketing as a potent lead generation/customer acquisition vehicle, here’s a piece of advice – get on this train early, as it’s only going to get bigger over the next few years and you don’t want to be left behind.

4. Educating yourself on social media vehicles is easy, unless you believe the so-called experts (referenced above) who may tell you it’s a very, very complicated area.  Start a blog.  Join LinkedIn.  Sign up for Facebook.  Use a social shopping site like Kaboodle.  You’ll learn a lot about social media just by experiencing these sites on your own.

5. The more you read on the topic, the better.  The more you read on the topic, the more confused you’ll become.  Did I just contradict myself?  Yes, and I did that on purpose.  Social media is a topic covered by many, but again there are few universally accepted news sources on the topic.  Just read as much as you can, and then ask your agency/marketing department/consultant lots of questions and figure out the answers together.



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