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Social Media Works Best for a Special Kind of Company

December 17th, 2009 by | No Comments

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A decade ago, businesses used the internet almost solely as a one-way tool for communicating with consumers. Most business owners would set up a brochure website at best—offering customers only basic, static information about their products and services—with little chance to ask questions, offer their feedback, or truly engage in ways that foster real conversations around products or brands, or let consumers themselves help promote the things they love through word-of-mouth.

The Evolution of the “Social Web”

That has all changed. Now, instead of using the internet as a one-way tool for communicating, people are now realizing the web’s potential for creating an interactive, dynamic environment. In this environment, individuals, consumers and businesses can collaborate and communicate in new and simpler ways.

What was once labeled “web 2.0″ by O’Reilly Media in the last few years—and many people are referring to today as social media—is a broad spectrum of many different kinds of websites that provide a platform where users have control over the content of sites. The social web includes social networking sites like Facebook, collaborative wikis, user-generated content sites like Squidoo, blogs, RSS feeds and other technologies that emphasize collaboration and sharing among users.

Web 2.0 isn’t a new internet, but it is a new way of thinking about how we communicate using the internet and how businesses interact with consumers. Long gone are the days of old where reading information on the web was much like reading a brochure. You need to offer your users much more than that. Today people are building communities where others can come together to share their ideas, interests, and passions. Only recently have businesses begun to realize the true potential of harnessing this collaborative networking, and empowering users to share their own voice.

Web 2.0 Challenges for Businesses

One thing that can be confusing and daunting to companies that are new to social media is that the social web tends to operate in a much more decentralized manner than they’re familiar with. Typically, in a traditional hierarchical corporation, information is passed from the top down. The CEO of the company may pass information to directors, who may pass information to managers, and so on. Companies that succeed well with web 2.0, however, tend to share information horizontally, meaning the customer-facing employees at the bottom of the chain of command would have instant access to the same information as the person at the top of the organization.

The social web rests on a philosophy that encourages freedom of use and sharing among all users. It supports the disintegration of hierarchical models of use, and instead promotes a horizontal or collaborative approach to knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing is after all, a collective effort that includes the information and expertise of multiple members within an organization, community or other forum.

People Before Products

Social media marketing will work especially well for your organization if you can embrace the philosophical values behind it. The social web encourages greater collaboration and sharing, utilizing the web as a platform for building conversation and communities. In this kind of environment, open, authentic organizations are rewarded. You really have to put people and ideas first—demonstrate that you care about your customers and their needs, encourage a participatory atmosphere where all users have the opportunity to contribute—and sales come second.

Cody is a nomadic entrepreneur & lifestyle designer who helps social changemakers & other remarkable people spread their message on the web.


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