What can social networking do for your company? Quite a bit, says blogger extraordinaire B.L. Ochman--as long as you don't treat it as some kind of magic bullet. Ochman's entire post is worth reading, but here's the excerpt that got my very specific attention because of its relevance to everything from advertising to crisis communication:
Communication isn’t a fad. People young and old use these tools and pass along information in a casual way because this way of spreading information is now part of the culture.I commented on Ochman's blog, and I'll share the spirit of my comment here, too: if you're in marketing or you're an executive of any type, there's only one way to truly understand how social networks work: join one. Sure, it might seem a little awkward to be the only adult at the kids' table, but you can't fully understand what's going on unless you're in the middle of the action (and you'll be surprised how many adults are on board, most of whom are fairly normal). I'm 38, and I'm a Facebook member--primarily so I can provide my clients with a first-hand view of how social networks are shaping consumer perceptions. And like most things, I've learned much more about social networks by immersion than I would have by simple observation.
Yet corporations are still expecting a static website with no feedback mechanism, banner advertising, multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads, top-down messages, and over-saturated search engine advertising to pass for communication. Then they wonder why their marketing doesn’t drive sales.
A company that has open channels of communications that include social media tools has the opportunity to interact with online influentials. But they need to speak in a human voice, to answer and ask questions, to provide information. Because in a crisis, only a company with open lines of communication can be heard. Companies that participate in social media will have the opportunity to be heard and perhaps believed.
Social networks aren't going away, but they are changing. If you want to know how they're changing, and how that affects your business, you have to be willing to jump in.