For anyone older than, say, 29 (like me), it's easy to be skeptical about the marketing value of Web 2.0 communities, like Facebook, for early-stage companies. This is particularly the case when trying to consider how to utilize these applications beyond just catching up with old friends and former colleagues or generating sales leads. I'll admit, at JumpStart, we are just developing our own strategies for social media and what it can do for our brand, in support of our mission. That said, I'm absolutely convinced that:
1) Social media communities are here to stay (and like everything online, will evolve quickly - so if you are confused now, imagine how you'll feel in another year!)
2) You'll be left behind if you don't learn how to take advantage of social media for almost any business, and especially in any business targeting people younger than 50-ish (and savvy people older than that.)
There's no magic bullet on how or why, just like any media or communication strategy, but there are now lots and lots of helpful resources to bring you up to speed and provide you with nuggets which may help you decide how to prioritize or use social media vehicles for your early-stage company. Here are a few:
- For a primer on how to functionally use each of the sites, go to the sites themselves. They won't necessarily provide you with any strategic grounding for marketing purposes, but it's very easy to get started. For more analysis, Andrea Kalli wrote a blog called How to use Twitter for Business which tells you how to get going, use it efficiently, and a few ideas for "why" (which are the most important for you to consider.) And, guest blogger Jesse Stay wrote a great 101 about Facebook which provides a great intro lesson for those of you new to the site.
- Regarding the application of social media to marketing objectives, one of the most insightful analyses was written by Jeremiah Owyang, a Senior Analyst in Forrester Research focused on social computing. He actually took a list created by Chris Brogan called 50 Ways to Use Social Media, but divided Brogan's list of ideas by marketing objectives. Be sure to check out the insightful thoughts and comments in responses to Owyang's blog too.
- On mistakes you can make with social media, Susan Kuchinskas' article in iMedia offers some thorough and provocative examples. (By the way, I love iMedia and receive the free email every day.)
Of course, before you do anything, I would suggest you sign up and experience all these vehicles yourself. There's no way to do good thinking about your interest or commitment, or the application of these for your sales or marketing, until you've really experienced them yourself.
Cathy Belk is the Chief Marketing Officer of JumpStart. She specializes in branding, marketing communications, and business management. She brings 16+ years of experience in a variety of marketing and business roles, but gets her energy from working daily with entrepreneurs and their growing companies.