Today’s businesses, regardless of size, are beginning to thrive in ways unimaginable even 10 years ago. This is because the internet – and new media – now dominate our society. From keeping in touch with family to complex securities trading, the internet has dramatically changed the way we relate to each other and business.

Even in small businesses, marketing efforts can be greatly expanded by harnessing the power of the internet. This is Social Media, maximized to its full potential. Social Media allows businesses to communicate with customers, collect feedback and promote products & services at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.

What is Social Media?

The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Previously, this referred to older technologies which allowed collaboration on the internet, but today it is all about sharing. Sharing with friends and family. Sharing with a small group of opinion leaders or – more likely in our globalized world – spread your company’s information around the world.

Social Media is about sharing: anecdotes, ideas, creations, social circles and their influence. The various types of Social Media, according to Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlen:

  1. Collaborative projects – example: Wikipedia, eHow
  2. Blogs – ex: Awesome Planet
  3. Microblogs – ex: Twitter, Tumblr
  4. Content Communities – ex: Youtube, Vimeo, Grooveshark
  5. Social Networking Sites – ex: Facebook, LinkedIn
  6. Virtual Game Worlds – ex: World of Warcraft, Xbox Live
  7. Virtual Social Worlds – ex: Second Life

Activities include web logging (“blogging”), picture sharing, video sharing, music sharing, email and instant messaging.

It has been said that Facebook is now the #1 Social Media website. More than 100 million people use Facebook through their Mobile Phone alone. As of June 2011, Facebook has 750 million users.

Therefore, it is essential that today’s “plugged in” companies create a Facebook account and harness it to its full potential. Other social networking accounts such as Twitter and Linkedin are important as well; a diversified social media strategy is important to the success of an Integrated Marketing Communications plan.

How does Social Media lead to business success?

  • Building and nurturing relationships. The company establishes open communication with its followers, earning their trust and loyalty. This is significant because it allows companies to influence their readers thus creating “social authority”.
  • Reaching target audience. A business can easily announce upcoming events, new products, specials and promotions. This rapid – even instantaneous – sharing of information reaches customers faster and more efficiently than many traditional forms of media.
  • Enhances the image of a product or service. Customers and promoters repost company “tweets” and social media “press releases” which translate as free marketing for businesses.
  • Addressing concerns. Companies can monitor social networks – and what customers are saying – to address concerns and problems quickly.

Social Media has had a powerful and enduring effect on the business world. As customers are increasingly turning to the internet to make purchase decisions or research products and services, it is more important than ever to establish a powerful brand image in cyberspace.