One might call it an epidemic: high school and college students are no longer talking in person, as their primary means of communication is found online, on Facebook. Others see it as a godsend: businesses can now reach out to consumers in ways they would have never imagined, more than 20 years ago.
With Facebook having more than 500 million active users and Twitter claiming more than 106 million registered users, it seems almost mandatory that businesses focus their attention to the online community. Of the variety of outlets that businesses now have in the world of social media, I examined three main websites that businesses use primarily and tried to discover why they’re using these outlets.
Facebook has become the online tool for business to connect directly to communities and to consumers. Online forums still exist, but began to fade as Facebook’s popularity grew. Facebook’s 2006 decision to open itself up to third-party developers sparked this decision. If you’ll recall from an earlier post I created, “Facebook for Everyone,” I closely examined how public relations professionals could utilize Facebook to their advantage.
I’ve found that businesses tend to use Facebook in a means similar to that of public relations practitioners. There are two primary ways that businesses get engaged in this specific social networking website: groups, and business-to-consumer communication.
An excellent way to keep interested consumers informed about your business or organization is to develop a Facebook Group. Facebook groups are an in-depth means of communication for businesses to focus their attention on a specific subject (e.g., a seasonal sale or a new product launch).
People will join a business’ Facebook group because they want to stay informed about the business. Therefore, it is imperative that a business continually update their group with valuable information. Unlike spam e-mail or bothersome “junk mail,” Facebook Groups can be visited at a customer’s convenience–businesses must have the information available.
We live in a busy world, to say the least, and now most people don’t have the time to sit and read a full-length blog. Twitter offers its users a place to update the most valuable information of a company (or a person’s life) in a concise manner (140 characters or less).
The smart business is not using Twitter as an advertising channel, wherein they continually talk about their products or services. Most businesses use Twitter as a marketing channel to promote their own business profile and remain involved with their “followers.” Some companies utilize Twitter as a medium to promote special deals and because of Twitter’s broad reach, thousands of “followers” receive the information instantaneously on their computers or mobile devices.
One can argue that this once-popular social networking site began its downfall in 2006, with Facebook making itself openly available. MySpace.com, however, still offers itself as a good means of social marketing and some businesses still use it.
Marketing oneself on this social website, however, can be a bit tricky–many community members look down upon blatant commercials and advertisements. MySpace is sometimes seen, by some, as a place to simply advertise oneself rather than develop one’s personal brand. What I tend to find on MySpace is smaller brands or personalities developing profile pages that build an online following rather than marketing. Browsing through the profile pages on MySpace, it’s easy to find hundreds of music bands with MySpace pages.
One tactic that nonprofit organizations are using to build their brand, is having “fans” recommend their organization to friends online. Yet another tactic is to have employees build personal profile pages on MySpace and spread the message of the nonprofit through details shared on these personal pages.
As with all good marketing strategy, it’s beneficial to develop useful content for followers, friends and fans to read. Businesses need to adhere to what their customers want and create messages that will be most advantageous to those consumers.
Ultimately, this all begins with choosing which social networking site will be best for your business.
**For a map of a few Fresno businesses that maintain a social media presence, click here.