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This guest post is by Daley Epstein, a contributing writer for SmartBrief. She reported live from South by Southwest in Austin for the past week.
Social media has a place in everything we do. Businesses everywhere are integrating it into their companies, knowing that they will fall behind the times if they don’t. Andrea Merry from Horizon Bank; Andrew Jones, a researcher at Altimeter Group; Jacob Mullins, a partner development manager at Microsoft; and Tabrez Sayed, vice president of Spiceworks collaborated to explain what social media can do for all types of industries.
Social media sites can help companies show customers that they care. Mullins emphasized the value in maintaining a voice that says, “I am the person who cares.” Social media allows us to think in a more specific, targeted sense, while treating individual customers diligently and compassionately. “We live and die by our community,” Sayed added, so we need to nourish it.
But what can social media do for a company? Jones asserted that, “Community insight is absolutely one of the most powerful tools that social media is going to be bringing.” It helps businesses gauge information about their customers’ preferences, leading to better marketing strategies and products that accurately give people what they need.
Social media spurs innovation and development. For example, through “feature request sections,” used by companies including Spiceworks, consumers can offer feedback on what they do and don’t like, allowing developers to alter products accordingly and update them between shipments.
“It’s that kind of model where we can act and react,” Sayed said. Great ideas from customers would have never come to fruition had they not posted them in social media sites that were then picked up by people who could actualize those ideas.
Social media can be scary at first, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s a new territory for some companies — an area full of confusing jargon. The group compared the integration of social media into the workplace with the idea of adapting as a high schooler. At first, you are extremely uncomfortable, but then a year goes by and you have a whole group of friends. By the time you graduate, it’s as if you own the place.
According to Jones, getting started in social media does require a bit of planning. Start with defined objectives, then establish whether you are ready internally within the company. Next, establish whether you’re ready to reach out externally. But the process is worth it because, “You are opening [your company] to so many people; you can get ideas from that you never would have imagined,” Sayed said.
Has your company integrated a social media plan within its community outreach efforts? How has the experience been for you?