Advancing Social Media From Talk to Action

First in a 2-part series.

Harvard Business Review recently conducted a survey of 2,100 companies concerning their use of social media. The results spoke volumes for the explosive growth of social media, with nearly two-thirds of respondents either currently using social media channels or having social media plans underway. Surprisingly, many believe that social media is still in the experimental stage and are struggling to understand how to best use the different channels, measure their effectiveness and incorporate social media into their business strategies.

From Facebook and Twitter to blogs and YouTube, social media offers companies the opportunity to interact with millions of customers worldwide every single day. Despite this enormous potential, some companies view social media as a one-way promotional tool and have yet to grasp its ability to generate customer dialogue and turn the information gleaned into insightful strategies that affect the bottom line.

Only 12 percent of the companies surveyed believe they are currently effective users of social media. These were the companies most likely to utilize multiple channels, employ metrics, possess a strategy for using social media, and integrate social media into their marketing operations. Fortunately, two-thirds of the respondents are convinced their use of social media will grow, with many anticipating spending more on it next year.

“Too many companies have not evolved from what I call ‘shout marketing’ — think TV, newspapers, magazine ads — to influence by initiating and participating in conversations with consumers,” said Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist, who believes that harnessing the power of social media has become the new reality.

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The explosion of social media channels is astonishing and the new opportunities they present are endless. Social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook bring together friends, fans, and critics, while wikis and social news sites like Delicious and Digg quickly transmit ideas and links around the Internet. Review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp are designed to help customers plan a meal, a vacation, or a manicure. Publishing tools like WordPress and TypePad offer any company or customer a way to write a blog, while microblogging on Twitter enables a stream of real-time commentary, recommendations and criticism. On multimedia sites like YouTube, companies can post promotional clips as easily as angry consumers can capture scenes of inferior service or products on their iPhones and instantaneously upload the video.

The only thing more astounding than the proliferation of social media channels is their rapid-fire growth. Facebook has over 500 million users and projects one billion total users worldwide by 2011, while Twitter reached 50 million tweets this year. There’s been an 82% increase in the average amount of time spent on social networking sites in the last year. According to Forrester research, approximately 70% of adults read blogs, check tweets and watch YouTube, with a third posting at least once a week to social networking sites.

Social media offers unprecedented opportunities for companies to reach, relate and resonate with millions of consumers at a remarkably low cost. By the same token, it also enables consumers to talk amongst themselves and share their personal experiences with products and services, for better or worse.

This is all the more reason for companies to harness the power of social media in order to manage their image, market their products and make the most of these limitless opportunities to truly connect with consumers.

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MDG Advertising, a full-service Florida advertising agency, with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, specializes in developing targeted Internet marketing solutions, exceptional creative executions and solid branding and media buying strategies that give clients a competitive advantage. Our core capabilities include print advertising, branding, logo design , creative, digital marketing, media planning and buying, TV and radio, public relations, Web design and development, email marketing, social media marketing and SEO. To view MDG’s portfolio, click here.

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