What is social media's place in business?

Author -  Linda Coles [Guest]

There seems to still be a lot of confusion over what social media in business really means! 

Well I can tell you what it isn’t for a start, and that is - it is not a tactic. Simply put, it’s another communication tool. Just like the telephone, or email, or SMS, it’s just another way in which we choose to communicate with each other. And yes it is also used as a marketing tool, but when you think about what I have just said about it simply being a communication tool, it works for marketing because of the engagement factor, the communication factor. 

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  

I am planning a trip to New York in the coming weeks and need a place to stay around Times Square. There are many hotels in the area, and so I narrowed my choice down to three. These were all about the same price, same location and looked pretty much the same. There really wasn’t much to differentiate either one.  

Only one had a Facebook page, and reading the wall posts from the happy customers, everything was very positive. To top it all, if you mentioned Facebook when you placed your booking, you got a free upgrade to a better room!  

That meant that my booking went to them - so a $2,500 sale, simply because they allowed me to do a bit of easy research to see where to spend my money. 

Since, then, I have needed to ask a couple of questions such as airport transfers and gyms nearby, so I simply post the question on their page and they respond quickly. I don’t need to worry about trying to find an email address or the right person to contact, very easy. Easy communication, and a communication channel that suits me. 

But it’s not all plain sailing and things can go wrong. If someone decides to set up a negative campaign about the way you do business, as a certain fishing company is currently experiencing, you might wish you hadn’t bothered. But the truth is, that bad press you are getting, will be going on with or without your input so isn’t it better to try and keep a hold of your brand and put your point of view across? As Nestle found out some months ago, the backlash was fierce and it made the company rethink their use of Palm Oil in their products. You just need to know how to deal with it properly. 

The crisis will pass, and who knows, you may have created a stronger brand by listening to your audience and acting on their wishes. After all, they are your customers and without them, you don’t have a brand. 

There is no going back to time before the social media channels. The Fat lady is already singing! The communication channels we now have available to us will only get better and probably more varied with voice recognition around the corner for mainstream.  

But the here and now is social media, and as you can see, there is a use for social media in business. So make sure your customers and prospective customers have access to the channels that they want to use. Don’t dictate to them that they must use the ones that suit you, or you might find they go to your competitor.

Linda Coles is an International Speaker, Author and Consultant on building relationships online. www.bluebanana.co.nz

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