In its most simple form, social media is not about the technology, it's still about the message. Just like regular ads or promotions. So what's the big deal? Why is everyone either A) so excited about social media they jump in with both feet without developing a strategy, or B) viscerally against it because they just don't know how to handle it?
The thing about social media is that there remains a tremendous amount of potential... if you are the right company with the right set of customers, selling the right products through the right channels.
You know what I'm saying — right? Social media can extend a brand to places it's never been, increase company credibility, create new sales leads, educate and engage with core customers, and offer customer and technical support. The problem is, with that new power comes a price. Your customers might talk back, ask tough questions, and even blurt out complaints in public.
That's just what you want, because that means your strategy is working, according to Mikal Belicove, a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine, and who just finished writing "Facebook For Dummies," the latest volume in the ongoing Dummies series of how-to books.
"When you choose to exist in the social media landscape, you have to be highly skilled in helping people and being comfortable doing that in a public forum," he said.
The experience is intense, but there is a payoff later, when consumers remember the attentiveness you gave them, and come back and, even better, tell friends about your company.
Another speaker, Mo-Gyung Rhim, senior relationship manager for Google, profiled large companies that have been extremely successful in using social media as part of their overall marketing strategy. Companies like Kraft, Skittles and Bounty have all embellished their reputations and reinforced brand loyalty by mastering the technology in unconventional ways, including viral video, real-time responses to current events or pure irreverence.
"Think of how you can use social media in ways that wouldn't make it onto your endcap or your print ads," she said.
One of the key tips Belicove had for aspiring Tweeters and Facebookers is to make certain everyone in the organization is aware of your company's policies and guidelines about how social media is to be employed. Get buy-in from critical internal players and identify the tools that will be used to measure ROI.
"It's no different from managing any other brand attribute," he said.