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Social media. It’s the buzzword we all know and love to talk about.

By now many businesses have incorporated Twitter and Facebook into their online identity. But with Twitter having recently celebrated its third birthday without an effective revenue model in place, we have to find it curious that companies are so eagerly jumping on this web 2.0 bandwagon. It’s clear that social media is here and it’s here to stay, so what’s the next step and what can social media really do for us?

In THE book on Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz offers his “Five T’s of Word of Mouth Marketing.” These valuable pointers apply to both B2B and B2C businesses, and are helpful in translating the opportunity that social media presents into an advantage for your company or brand. Here they are:

  1. Talkers: Who Will Tell Their Friends About You?
    Social media is essentially a conversation between two people on a much broader scale and in the public forum. This makes it easy to find out who’s talking about you, and who is likely to talk about you in the future. The great thing about Twitter and Facebook is that the people interested in your company, product, or brand make an effort to listen to what you have to say by “following” or “friending” you. This takes the guesswork out of finding a target market and assessing the best way to grab their attention. Your company essentially has a captive and eager audience when an account is created.
  2. Topics: What Will They Talk About?
    New clients, new products, office events, company updates, a deal or promotion, expansion into a new market – these are all examples of possible things to write about. The important thing to remember is that topics must be interesting, memorable and portable — easy to pass on.
  3. Tools: How Can You Help the Message Travel?
    The power and reach of social media are what strengthens and deepens your audience’s connection with your brand or company. It allows your audience to spend more time discussing your brand and mission in a forum that encourages personal opinion and two-way conversation.
  4. Taking Part: How Can You Join the Conversation?
    This step is the hardest for marketers who are accustomed to traditional one-way communication channels that are partial to their brand. It calls for a stronger sense of accountability and a more accessible public persona. Your enthusiasm reads through your post – so be sincere and encourage dialogue.
  5. Tracking: What Are People Saying About You?
    Social media is easy to measure in a basic way, although quantifiable results comparable to traditional marketing are still in the works. To start with,  your company has a definitive number of “followers” or “friends” and you can witness this number increasing or decreasing in real-time as your brand gains or loses favor in the public marketplace. It also presents daily qualitative data on your brands public reputation and image through the opinions and ideas of your audience. As a marketer you can immediately react to the needs or concerns of your customers and clients, reinforcing their trust in your brand.

This is one approach to leveraging social media and there are many other ideas out there. The important thing to remember is that there is no magic answer for how to use social media.  Social media is still just a channel; your company must build and maintain a strong identity and message in order to take advantage of this channel.

For more information on THE book on Word of Mouth Marketing, visit Andy Sernowitz’s site.

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