We are all familiar with the regular forms of media such as TV, Radio and Print. What is social media and how useful is it in the Information Age? According to Wikipedia,

Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media supports the human need for social interaction, using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).

In traditional media we had to contend with media owners, the broadcast media and the press… We had to have something worth mentioning before we could get their interest and get our word out to the masses. Following which, to find out whether the media relations campaign was successful or not, we had to pull out survey forms, interviews and polls to find out.

With social media, YOU OWN THE MEDIA. Each person, business or organisation has the opportunity to own his/her own media space, in Facebook for example, everyone’s profile page is their own media space (Billboards). Having a blog allows you to publish whatever you feel is news-worthy (Newspapers). YouTube gives you the opportunity to have your own TV Commercials (TVC), TV programmes. You reach out to your target audience, people who have shown some interest in your offerings by virtue of subscribing for your media spaces.

Of course it now comes to the next question. How do I get people to know I’m there? Social media is driven by the community. For any media campaign to work, you need to have an audience to speak to. Unlike traditional media owners, they have a community of followers by virtue of their presence and reputation over the years. We have to build our own community of followers, people who are interested in our offerings as a person, business or organisation. This can start from your own personal connections.  We have all had experiences when we hear of a product through a friend who heard it from another friend. Social media gives you the opportunity to harness the power of the “Word of Mouth”.  Depending on the content that you generate, in your blog, Facebook profile or YouTube channel, it has the potential to hit the millions of web surfers, giving you the power that even the media owners are working their asses off for.

Social media comes with the advancement of Web Technology. In this medium, all activities are stored in some form or other in logs. This gives you the ability to track and analyse habits of your viewers. In traditional media, there is no real guarantee that your news release is picked up by the masses. You have little or no idea on what the buzz is about on your product. With social media, you can retrieve actual numbers using Google Analytics. You will know exactly how many people read your blog post, watched your video or tinkered about in your Facebook Fan page.

And if you think that is all…

Social media opens up another area, comments and feedback. We have all been asked to fill up survey forms in our life. Businesses have also realized that at some point will need feedback from their customers for them to improve. In almost all social media platforms, you give your customers the ability to give you feedback on your posting, your services in general – or both. Through this, you get to monitor and respond to your community. Examples of this can be seen in portals such as HungryGoWhere.com and Wat2Eat.com. Patrons of restaurants and other F&B outlets write reviews on their experience dining at certain establishments. The management of these establishments can respond to complaints and kudos and improve their services.

Now another issue arises, “Why will I want my dirty linen to be washed in public?” Many businesses are averse to such avenues; many businesses would rather not have the bad points of their services and products publicised. Of course you can moderate the comments and even delete them, but doing that will only cause more dissension and the person or persons who started making the negative comments could move on to some other space and make themselves heard even more after that. When that happens, you have no or little control on how to handle it. What businesses do not realize is that there are advantages when such situations should arise.

  • You know it when there is negative buzz.
    Instead of looking through page after page of comment cards, feedback forms and survey questionnaires, negative comments on your corporate blog or Facebook fan page stick out like a sore thumb.
  • You get to address their concerns immediately.
    You can engage in a conversation with the person posting the bad feedback. Find out more and possibly even include the solution and the outcome of your conversation for all to see. This helps you gain the confidence of the community.
  • Showing a human face to your organization.
    When your customers and community members see that you are taking pro-active steps to listen to and act on your customer feedback, you gain even more credibility after a while. Following which, they could become your most ardent followers and even help you when another negative feedback comes up.

In the spirit of my commentary, which should not be a monologue, I open the floodgates and this discussion is open to the floor…