So now that we’re over our passing fears that social media are just a big productivity drain, how do businesses actually use things like Twitter and Facebook? For people in B2B media, this isn’t an idle question. Our readers and advertisers are increasingly engaging with each other via social media. Whether we stay relevant in that interaction depends on how well we understand the ways they are or aren’t using those media, and how well we use them ourselves.
With this in mind, I’ve gathered eight online sources that, together, can get you up to speed with how business is using social media today or how it is likely to do so in the future. All of these sources are reasonably current, and cover the topic from a variety of perspectives and in a range of formats.
Businesses Getting Social
1. 10 Small Business Social Marketing Tips (Mashable, 10/28/2009)
This article by Mashable guest columnist Ross Kimbarovsky gives an excellent overview of social media marketing opportunities, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and other tools. For each of the ten suggested opportunities, Kimbarovsky offers both basic and advanced strategies for using these tools. I suspect that even the tech-savviest reader will learn at least one new trick from this roundup of tips (for me, it was learning how to connect my blog posts to my LinkedIn profile.)
2. The Coming Change in Social Media Business Applications (PDF; Social Media Today, June 2009) or via Josh Gordon’s blog post
If you want detailed statistics about how businesses actually use social media, an excellent resource is this study by Josh Gordon of Selling 2.0. Based on a survey of 632 respondents, Gordon’s report shows that while business has mostly used social media for PR and marketing, it is now discovering the value of social media for customer engagement. Among the findings:
- While 42% of organizations have no corporate policy on social media, 22% do have formal policies for blogging.
- The top three social-media tools for these businesses are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, with blogs not far behind.
- In B2B markets, Twitter has not taken off as a customer contact tool.
3. How I Use Social Media to Promote My Business (Mark-Hayward.com, 1/27/2009)
Blogger Mark Hayward offers a real-world example of how one person uses social media to advance his business, taking a day-in-the-life approach. Though short, this blog post does a nice job of showing how even small-business types can fit social media into their working routine.
For Visual Learners
For the YouTube generation of business types (remember when we called it the MTV generation?), here are two slide shows that offer broad and entertaining overviews of the business case for social media.
As John Battelle says of this multimedia slide show, the music might be the best part. The tone is overly portentous, but the statistics are compelling. (Among the jaw-droppers: E-mail is now considered so passé among the college crowd that Boston College this year stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen. Really? [Update: Yes, really. And not just BC.])
Though the barely-veiled and frequent invocations of the F-word probably make sense in a social-media context, they still make me slightly uneasy. But if you have no issue with that, you will be very impressed by this set of slides from Espresso managing director Marta Kagan. If only it had a cool soundtrack!
Keeping It Real
Social media isn’t a cure-all, and it’s easy to get carried away when talking about how Twitter and Facebook will change the face of business forever. The following sources offer some reasons to tame and channel our enthusiasm.
6. Debunking Six Social Media Myths (BusinessWeek 2/19/09)
One could criticize this BusinessWeek article by B.L. Ochman, president of Whatsnextonline.com, as dwelling a bit too much on the negative, but it’s a useful reminder that for many in business, social media is neither as cheap nor as easy to use as some claim.
7. Most Common Social Media Mistakes (Small Business Trends, 8/13/2009)
A useful and concise guide for businesses on what not to do in social media. Among the insights are these:
- “Not everyone should be on Twitter. Find out where your users are, where they’re interacting most, and where you’d be most welcome.”
- “Every social networking site is different and you need to create a different strategy for each.”
- If you don’t measure the results of your social media efforts, don’t make those efforts at all.
8. Five Cases When Social Media Isn’t Right For B2B (Social Media B2B, 9/15/2009)
Kipp Bodnar of SocialMediaB2B.com is an advocate of social media for B2B companies, but in this article he underscores Josh Gordon’s survey result showing B2B companies behind B2C in using Twitter. Those reasons include a very small customer base, decision makers stuck behind high-security firewalls, and a need for high-volume, short-term sales.
Though it won’t make you an instant social-media expert, working your way through these eight resources will certainly help. But the only way to achieve and maintain real social-media expertise is to jump in yourself. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go send off some tweets . . . .