We have all heard of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, and many of us are active participants on these sites. There are several definitions of social media, and it can take many different forms. It also enables true, two-way communications in trusted communities unrestricted by geography or socio-economic background. The power of Twitter, Facebook and other major social networks to promote a particular company or throw it under the proverbial bus needn’t be overstressed. A social

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networking service is as much a leading contact opportunity for an organization as is answering the front desk phone. It’s 2009 (and way closer to 2010). If your marketing plan is not Internet-based yet, it had better be soon. If you don’t believe having a social media presence – not to mention an informative Website and regularly updated blog – is essential to success with contemporary audiences, then you’d better rethink those thoughts. In social marketing, as in real life, there are similar codes of conduct that we (should) all follow. For exmaple, please don’t feel the need to Tweet your every move – post something of value. 2009 has been a major year in that regard over best practices for connecting with consumers in relevant and meaningful ways. Companies have begun to really utilize social media to enhance their relationships with their customers. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool known to man. Think about what is most likely to convince you to buy (or not to buy) a particular product or service. More often that not, it is a recommendation from a friend, family member or work colleague. Now think about social media, where people with common interests are able to freely comment and communicate their preferences to anyone and everyone. Where anyone can express their pleasure (or displeasure) over a product or service. Keep in mind that to be done correctly, social media is a time intensive proposition that requires daily monitoring. Social media is about developing meaningful relationships with customers and prospective customers in their natural habitat. You have to create content, be part of many communities, and progress one step at a time. Many successful social media programs take months to really develop. It doesn’t matter what the demographics of your customers are. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. If your industry doesn’t have a social networking site, create one. We did. Your customers and prospects are talking about you online. Your company needs to be part of that conversation. Today. Online is where many people do their talking, so that’s where you need to be as well. Social media is not about Facebook or MySpace or Flickr or Twitter or blogs or YouTube. It’s about having a strategy for making your company or organization more like a person and less like a machine. It’s about humanization. Use technology to be yourself, and don’t over think it. Start by communicating with your customers on a monthly basis via email marketing. If your customers and prospects feel like your company is more human and actually cares about them, they’ll want to be part of it. That’s the ultimate in marketing brand awareness. Get out there and get social – update your Facebook status, tweet, blog…Have a friendly and prosperous 2010!

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