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Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal and business purposes.

Social media is also called user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).

While the previous case studies and numbers prove that social media can help organizations big and small, the next big question is how to apply it specifically to your organization.

Before you get started, understand that social media serves users and organizations as an online marketing media option in three main ways: communication, collaboration, and entertainment.

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Marketing is all about building relationships, and relationships start with communication.

Communications students learn the rule "You cannot not communicate."

Conversations will take place about your organization whether or not your organization is an active participant in social media.

New web tools, such as blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning), podcasting (BlogTalkRadio), video distribution (YouTube), event coordination tools (Meetup), wikis (Wikipedia), photo sharing (Flickr, Photobucket), and product review sites (Epinions), allow firms to communicate, educate, and share information directly with their current and prospective customers.

Social media’s direct communication distinction serves and supports organizations as it brings the people you want to attract directly to you, allows them to connect with each other, and makes direct communication possible. Many marketers ask if social media is more for business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, but the answer is that social media is all about people-to-people (P2P) marketing.

Social media makes communication a conversation so you can share, receive feedback, and connect on equal ground with the target markets.

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When consumers are empowered with information and support, they feel powerful—they trust you, buy from you, and stay with you.

Social media collaboration transforms consumers into "prosumers" (consumers who have done enough research to have gleaned some professional-grade knowledge). In an era of social media, prosumers (not companies) make, shape, or break purchase patterns.

Companies do not sell things, people sell things.

With social media, online collaboration sells companies’ products and services to each other, often without the company initiating the collaboration.

Organizations can ignite collaboration for marketing by creating and/or joining communities. By doing so, they can listen and connect to their target customers and build a free forum to bring a community of like-minded people together.

People want to connect, converse, and belong to groups. Online collaboration equals marketing acceleration. A community under your organizational brand can be a huge marketing booster.

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The most important reason that social media works as a marketing tool is because it’s fun. People want to go where they feel they belong, have a voice, are listened to, and enjoy themselves.

You need to be where your target markets are, and these days the masses are on Facebook, Ning, Twitter, LinkedIn, Photobucket, YouTube, and more. Why? Because they are fun.