The 1980s are remembered for developments in business and technology, particularly computing. Remember your first big, clunky computer? The 1990s are remembered for advances in technology, particularly the growth of the internet and online business. Wow, how things have grown! If the 2000s are to be remembered for anything (although it is still too early to tell) it will be for developments in communication and online communities – particularly the incredible power of social networking.
Social media gives major brands and companies some serious power and clout, but it is rarely used as it should be. Commitments to quality are often let down and overlooked; and opportunities for branding, direct sales, or indirect marketing are often passed over without thought. These missed opportunities costs businesses, so preventing them from slipping away is essential for operating a smooth business.
A dollar unearned is a dollar lost. Businesses are often theorizing on the value of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (as well as other sites) for their branding efforts, but few take action and put their foot down when they should. Billions of dollars are being left on the table, particularly as major brands move onto social media services, and the value of a social media-friendly brand still is not being recognized.
An experiment is always worth more than inaction. Discussion on social media's branding abilities will only take companies so far. With the low cost of social media efforts, an experiment with social media branding can generate huge returns, all with a reliably minimal level of risk.
Search Engine Optimization:
SEO consultancy (and in-house efforts) was once the domain of spammy content and low quality link generation efforts. Low-cost websites were set up, poorly planned information was thrown at them indiscriminitely, and marketers shot out as many links as possible. Despite being somewhat effective, the old world of SEO is packed with inefficient models and outright unethical business models.
However, social media has given SEO a new life. The old "SEO is spam" cliche is no more, thanks to the developments of social networking sites. Each new social media asset is another opportunity for high quality outbound linking, and every such conversation is another opportunity to spread links that actually add value.
With Twitter tweets and You Tube videos appearing in Google's standard search results, the divide between search and social media is likely to become even smaller. Marketers accustomed to spam-style SEO tactics are in for a new surprise, while businesses that depend on high-quality social media receive a well-deserved SEO boost.
Social media is not a good sales platform, but it is a good resource for generating future sales. The sales process is made up of many parts, and generating prospects is one of the most important. Marketers that were once dependent on direct lead generation have a new platform available to them, particularly in open platforms like Twitter or MySpace.
The greatest news is that social media is still in its infancy. Businesses that are built on lead-based sales models have nothing but good news to look forward to. As social media develops further, sales models will be refined, micro-networks offering great sales potential will grow greater, and marketers can look forward to a platform that is refined, sales-friendly, and willing to be marketed to.