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October 15, 2008
Do You Really Need to Pay Attention to Social Media?

Lately, in conversations with clients, at networking events, and even over beers with friends the conversation of social media keeps popping up.

Probably because I keep bringing it up.
I talk about Twitter, or Facebook, or YouTube and eyes roll so fast I’m afraid someone’s going to pull a muscle. Then I start telling stories.
About the small job we got through a woman who knew me only through Twitter, and how she’s now talking to us about a bigger search engine optimization project.
About the camp buddy who found me on Facebook, then hired flyte for a custom programming job.
About the neighbor who saw a video on email marketing I created and uploaded to YouTube. He then forwarded it over to his company and is now looking to bring us in.
The list goes on. This is about the time when the eyes stop rolling and start going wide.
Social media is not a get-rich quick scheme. I had about 800 tweets under my belt before someone approached me about a job. The camp buddy who found me on Facebook was just that; a camp buddy. Although the YouTube video was only five minutes long, it represented about seven years of email marketing experience.
You need to understand and respect the social norms. People aren’t jumping into Facebook or Twitter to learn more about your widgets. Trying to make the quick sell in social media is like being the guy at the cocktail party trying to push life insurance on everyone. You don’t want to be “that guy.”
It’s probably not feasible to ask, “how do I behave here?” as you try a new social networking application, so it makes sense to listen first and engage slowly.
The norms of social media will undoubtedly evolve over time, but it will continue to be good advice to get a lay of the land before opening your mouth and jumping in with both feet.
Social media can benefit any business. I’ve heard that “decision makers aren’t on Twitter.” I disagree, but even if that were true, there are other social media sites that decision makers do use, the most popular of which is probably LinkedIn.
But even if deal making is off the table, businesses can use social media to engage their next generation of employees: college students. Showing that you utilize and engage social media can make your business more attractive to prospective employees.
You can also use social media for customer support. Since social media users often complain loudly and publically when your product or service fails to live up to expectations, it’s a good idea to have an employee actively monitoring those online conversations. They can then engage these customers and solve problems. Stories of these good deeds travel fast through Twitter and the blogosphere.
And, for customers that already love you, social media is a great way to engage them and build stronger loyalty.
Social media can benefit anybody. People who are already engaged in social media have a leg up in interviews with forward thinking companies. If you can show a prospective employer that you understand social media you have a competitive advantage over other prospects. If you have a large following of the employer’s target audience in an application like Twitter or Pownce, your hand is even stronger.
While the individual applications of social media may wax and wane in popularity, the idea of social media isn’t going away, it’s only becoming more mainstream. When you stop seeing social media as a teenage fad and realize that it’s just another method of communication, you’ll be able to realize the benefits that it can bring.
Want to discuss this further? Why not tweet me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or pose a question on LinkedIn?

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Rich Brooks is president of flyte new media a Web design and Internet marketing company. Flyte designs professional Web sites and promotes them with strategic Web marketing campaigns that include search engine optimization, email marketing, business blogs and more.

He blogs on Web marketing topics regularly at flyte blog: web marketing strategies for small business and publishes a monthly email newsletter called flyte log.
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