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Part 1: Social Media for Business – why, what, when, who, and how?

It’s not surprising business people are confused by Social Media. It’s been thrust upon us and heralded by some as the only way to communicate and the demise of traditional media.

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It’s not surprising business people are confused by Social Media. It’s been thrust upon us and heralded by some as the only way to communicate and the demise of traditional media. Yet do any of us really understand why we should bother, let alone what we are dealing with or how this will make a difference to our business?

I have been engaged in online marketing for many years; I have seen what can be done with good online marketing campaigns and witnessed plenty of failures. Websites are fundamentally easy to understand; they are a system and a product, more aligned with traditional media than this emerging new media landscape.

Websites have been part of the business toolkit since the first one was published some 18 years ago and since then they have essentially remained the same – structured information portals with a set of predetermined outcomes, “See Me”, “Try Me”, “Buy Me” … me, me, me.

The fundamental change as a result of Social Media is you. You are no longer an observer, you are a participant, you have a voice and your voice can make quite a difference to the conversation that is taking place … you, you, you.

Because Social Media and the endless array of applications that support it are so new there are few trusted, let alone tested best practice methodologies in place for us to apply to our businesses with any degree of confidence.

We are starting to see conflicting messages adding the fuel of uncertainty about “is this for me” with stories of damaged reputations and brands pouring water on the initial fires of enthusiasm we may have experienced.

Yet the unprecedented growth in the global use of Social Media is hard to ignore for any opportunity hungry entrepreneur and commercially savvy business person. In essence this is why many of us are struggling with the concept of Social Media engagement from a business perspective; it seems we are damned if we do and more damned if we don’t. Perhaps the answer eludes us because we haven’t yet determined what the question is.

One question we do have to ask ourselves right now is – what will be the short and long term impact on my business if I do nothing?

The greatest burden to most business people is their lack of spare time. We are so busy creating new products or dealing with customer demands that adding something new to the business model invariably won’t be on anyone’s top priority list. To be attractive in the short term existing problems need to be eliminated or improved cash flow achieved and is Social Media able to deliver on either of these demands?

I have been experimenting with blogs, managed several twitter accounts for myself and clients, I have experimented with social networks ranging from LinkedIn to Facebook, hosted webinars, dabbled with video and podcasts, listened to the experts and spoken to the uninitiated. The outcome of this is I still have more questions than answers.

To create some clarity for myself, and I hope for you too, I am going to approach this as series of questions related to Social Media and how it applies to business over the coming weeks. Why, what, when, who, and last but by no means least, how?

Being a series on Social Media and its impact on our businesses your involvement is not only important but essential. Please do not hesitate in giving me your thoughts, ideas and opinions so we can share and learn together.