Social Networking – Viable for Business?

February 10, 2009

Social networking is no longer a young person’s entertainment media. It has grown into a more mainstream method to interact with your customer base, give employees options to interact internally, and provide a company an authoritative voice on the Internet.

Social networking, including blogging and online communities, has experienced phenomenal growth over the last 5 years. Early adopters primarily used the technology to communicate with family and friends. Now the social networking phenomenon includes major corporations and is showing strong, steady growth in the corporate space. A recent study of the top 500 corporations as ranked by Inc. Magazine, a major business publication targeting CEOs of fast-growing private companies, shows a significant increase in the use of social media in their marketing mix.

The Inc. Magazine survey depicts a 22% increase in use of social networking as part of their top 500 corporation’s marketing strategy over the previous year when comparing 2007 and 2008. A critical metric to understand is the final question asking the corporations if they were not using any social media. The results yielded a 20% decrease in companies no longer considering or using social media. The survey also predicts continued use of social networking among large corporations.

Edelman, a leading independent public relations firm, compiles an annual survey on trust and credibility. The 2008 version yielded some interesting results, including 58% of those surveyed named a peer, or “a person like me,” among those trusted to provide advice and information. This is the first time in the nine year history of the survey this number surpassed professionals like doctors and corporate executives. Therefore, it is important that all companies find a means to communicate and collaborate in a peer-to-peer fashion with their target market and customer base. Social networking allows for such interaction while giving a “person like me” face to the company. The personalization of companies is important to achieving success in social networking. Additionally, companies engaging in social networking will have a collaborative effort with some competitors and affiliated professions, known as co-petition. This open communication provides a competitive advantage by the sharing of ideas and issues between organizations, and has not been previously possible in such an easy and open way.

Bottom line – social networking is here to stay, and needs to be seriously considered as part of every company’s marketing strategy. Otherwise, you may find yourself left behind.

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