10 years ago, Asia reeled from the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-1998. This was followed by the dot.com crash in 2000-2001. Now we face a Global Financial Downturn.

Reducing budgets and layoffs are the usual reactions to such phenomena. Marketers usually find themselves drawing the short straw in such trying times; since many companies and businesses classify marketers at the top of the ‘dispensable’ resources list.

As a social media specialist at Priority Consultants, I face the perennial question when I’m out pitching our social media services to companies in Singapore.

“We can setup our own Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts, get our own blog in Blogspot or WordPress.com. Why do we need you to help us do that?”

Many people have the misconception that a Social Media campaign means setting up the above-mentioned tools and then that’s that. I admit that when I was just a web designer, I had thought the same as well. I used to wonder how could people actually charge companies money to set up these tools when a random teenager could simply create it at no cost at all.

A social media campaign is much more than just setting up infrastructure. It is building a community of consumers/customers talking, giving feedback and exchanging experiences. It is the two-way conversation between the business and the consumer, and many-to-many conversations between the consumers and the business.

Remember the days when doing market research means getting hold of a market research company, who will then marshal an army of temps with survey forms and have them run amok getting it filled. Not to mention the tedious and long process of data churning and report generating. Alternatively, using focus groups to get feedback on a new product or packaging design.

Social media allows you to do all that at the fraction of the price. Using the technology in place to provide detailed feedback quickly and allowing businesses to respond quickly to any concerns by the community. In this uncertain and bearish economic climate, this is where we as social media marketers are supposed to bring value to businesses.

Feel free to let me know what you think…