Social media has become the next greatest business savior in the past 3–5 years. In actuality, the technology has been around for more than a decade, but like so many technology stories it takes a while for the business applications to finally appear and be adopted on a broad enough scale that they are taken seriously. Of course, its real ability to save a company is highly suspect. Social media is not a silver bullet (I will repeat that mantra throughout this book).
This might seem strange coming from someone who makes a living from selling social media consultancy to organizations. But I am nothing if not honest about the capability of social media to save a company. If your products, services, or your organization generally faces major issues, social media is unlikely to be able to save it on its own, although it can be a part of communicating the solutions that you have found. An example that was very relevant at the time this book was written was with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although BP could have used social media as one part of a much larger strategy to regain public trust, it would not have been able to change public opinion about the damage from the spill via social media alone. While a formidable tool, social media doesn't have that kind of massive impact. Real-world action has to accompany it. Social media is a communication channel, not a magic wand.
While many companies are still pondering the pros and cons of blogs, others are wondering if they can really achieve sales via Twitter. However, other companies have successfully incorporated these technologies (and more) into what they do and how they do it to the point where it no longer needs a special status.
What is Social Media?
Social media can be described as services, tools and platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others that allow users to share information with each other.
Often the term social networking is used interchangeably with social media. I tend to disagree with this usage. Social networking is something that is enabled by social media platforms. However, social networking is not the only use of social media.
Social media lends itself well to the marketing world and in fact social media marketing is what has led to the increase in use of social media. Social media has created is a new world of content creators. This content can come in the form of simple status updates, such as "I'm walking the dog", or via pictures, videos, blog posts, or even product reviews.
Social media has also created a new currency, often referred to as social capital. Social capital is the ability to perform tasks for others in the hope of some form of reciprocity. This might be introducing one person in your network to another person in your network to aid them in job hunting. You are expending social capital on behalf of the first person.
Alongside this is the concept of influence, which is the ability to get other people to perform tasks on your behalf. In its simplest form this is often the ability to get people to click on a link and go to a particular website. At its more complex, influence becomes part of a marketing campaign and the influencer is promoting a product, service or company to increase usage, adoption or awareness.