May 2, 2011 -
Social media is the current big buzz for online communities and business since launching about 3 years ago. Homepreneurs, small business and large can benefit from using tools provided by social media platforms. Despite its omnipresent nature, much confusion and uncertainty exists over its nature, usefulness, and safety. I will attempt to cover basic definitions and answer some questions with this post.
Social Media Defined
In order to understand social media, we must define the term and its application to business:
- Social refers to interaction and communication within human society, persons and organizations alike
- Media are tools used to transmit, store, and display information or data. Social media implies the tools are electronic or digital and possibly mobile.
Wikipedia defines social media as “… media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” 1
Social media allows for conversation, networking, sharing, collaboration, gaming, and similar functions at rapid speeds. Information from news to pictures to opinions are shared and transmitted via social media platforms and may allow anyone to comment or add to what is posted.
Social media is virtually instantaneous with very little technical knowledge or talent required. Its ability to reach across the entire planet creates opportunities for groups to organize and plan anything from reunions to revolts (social media possibly contributed to recent Arab uprisings).
Tools or platforms that qualify as social media include: Blogs (e.g WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot), social networks (e.g. Facebook), micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter), Internet forums, wikis (collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access), and other web tools that help share multimedia or news with others (e.g. YouTube, Digg, Fickr)
This is a short list of commonly cited business applications that social media provides:
- Advertising: Advertising on social networks is growing at an astounding rate. Most young consumers have a social media account. Reaching these audiences is a must for business.
- Authority: Creating a website, blog or contributing to a wiki can demonstrate expertise in an area and show off a business as the “go-to” source for all things related to a product or service.
- Branding: For many consumers, delivering a product isn’t enough. They want to provide feedback (positive or negative) and see what others say about the product. Creating a company blog and interacting with customers enhances image and also helps retain current customers while acquiring new ones.
- Collaboration: Social media helps business organize better than ever before. Small and large business alike can benefit from working with international partners in virtual real-time. Companies can use wikis to build on ideas and share product pictures with platforms like Flickr.
- Networking: Simple lunch meetings are passe – why not have virtual meals while video conferencing with Japan? A personal blog can supplement a resume while interviews are conducted via Skype.
Social media has many applications for personal and business use, but the most important thing to remember is collaboration. When utilizing social media for business, engage customers and be transparent; these are core features of social media and customers will expect both. Social media allows even the smallest home business to appear much larger and compete with the major market companies. Social media is a powerful platform for consumers and businesses and in this new era of online business, it must be embraced.
By Dion Shaw
Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs.