Accidental inventions are everywhere. Some of them have enhanced our daily lives for the better: Coca-Cola, Teflon, Velcro, the microwave, Super Glue, the pacemaker — all stumbled-upon inventions. Add to the list: Facebook.
In February 2004, Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, unintentionally created what would become the busiest social networking site in the world less than a decade later, according to Alexa . With over 500 million users (and growing), the site has become so widespread that even Hollywood has taken note and produced a new movie — “The Social Network” — which chronicles the turbulence surrounding the site’s creation.
Today, Zuckerberg has inherited a new persona as a “punk genius billionaire” — a back-handed compliment from Hollywood and a testament to his generation that has inspired so many paradigm shifts (i.e., Google, Napster, Amazon, etc.) in business and elsewhere. And yet, those who’ve heard of social media but have not embraced it struggle with the same question: What is the return on investment and the value of social media?
Ironically, the answer lies within social media. Organizations must engage in social media to collect in-depth research, interpret analytics and assess measurement in order to determine where they excel or fall short. The ability to reach out to fans, prospects, employees, clients and, let’s face it, naysayers via social networks allow companies to appear more personable and human while processing what’s being said online and by whom. Whether the messages are positive or negative, companies are able to respond in a timely manner, letting users know that their comments matter. This not only fosters brand loyalty, but can convert a negative experience into a positive one.
If your company hasn’t introduced itself to social media, now is the time. For those of you just beginning your “social” journey, here are some tips, tricks and tools to get you started:
- Facebook — Include your company name, logo, brief description, contact information, videos, an RSS feed and press releases. Regularly link to landing pages on your website that provide tips and tricks on how to use your products/services to keep your visitors engaged. Allow fans to post comments on your wall to get feedback (you never know when you’ll get a great testimonial) or to quickly address problematic issues. For advanced users, running campaigns and loyalty discounts may attract more eyeballs Suggested reading for beginners: Mashable’s Set up a winning Facebook Fan Page ; for the more seasoned: How to measure Facebook engagement while gaining fans and likes .
- Twitter — Create a Twitter handle (i.e., @marketwire) and plan a strategy around how, when and about what you want to post. Respond to others and post informative tweets . Don’t be discouraged if you only have a few followers at first — everything takes time to grow. Suggested reading: A special guide for businesses .
- LinkedIn — Expand your network, connect with employees (or find new ones), take a poll, analyze surveys, setup a Q&A forum and receive recommendations from those you’ve worked with. LinkedIn is not as widely used as Facebook or Twitter, but it is a networking site that’s built specifically to make and maintain professional connections. Suggested reading, Gigaom’s: 33 Ways to Use LinkedIn for Business .
To become a successful social media entity, proper nurturing is required by listening, testing, and analyzing what people say about you, your competitors and the industry you’re in. Zuckerberg didn’t become a “punk genius billionaire” overnight. It took blood, sweat and tears to create what Facebook has become today. The same goes for all businesses. You may not be the next Facebook, but you could be the hidden jewel for someone who has been looking for you and what your company has to offer. Social media is a great way to gain visibility — and to engage and learn from them along the way.
Whether you are a social media neophyte or turning the corner from beginner to intermediate, our Social Media Fitness Program  (aka, SM 10X30) will put you on the path to social media stardom.