A recurring theme that I see with marketers and corporations is that there are many who are "talking the talk" but have no idea how to "walk the walk" when it comes to leveraging social media from a business perspective. We’re ALL somewhere on the curve between the two, so don’t feel that you’ve been left behind if you happen to see a press release about a company’s new social media "initiative" or if you’re being peppered with buzzwords at cocktail parties.
If you start researching this area you’ll find endless evidence that corporate marketers have more questions than answers. They want to do the "FaceBook thing" or the "social media thing", but many are frustrated because there’s no apparent "magic formula" that you can easily define, implement, quantify and measure in the way that you might with other marketing initiatives. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for many is that it’s not necessarily easy to hold social media at arm’s length — and simply delegate it to others and hold them accountable. Without making at least some attempt to become a social networker yourself it’s hard for me to fathom how you’re going to understand the discussion beyond the abstraction level.
There are an overwhelming number of social networks out there, and the time we have to invest is obviously finite. A lot of marketers are feeling that they have to jump on the bandwagon and integrate social networking into "their" sites. But… there’s much to indicate that people are not looking to become members of a zillion different social networks. They may want less, not more. This is part of the appeal of FaceBook. It’s a pretty impressive attempt to establish a network of individuals who can organize themselves into geographical- and school-related networks, common interest groups, with a wide range of customizable features and applications.
Another reason that FaceBook may be the best way to get your feet wet with social media is that seems to be a significant migration in progress from the juvenile chaos of MySpace to the order, stability and user-sensitivity of FaceBook, as those users become a bit more mature and discriminating. Not everything on FaceBook is unique to them, but they seem to be doing the best job of integrating all the pieces, and the steady increase in new members is seems to indicate that thir efforts are appreciated.
If you have deeper pockets there are opportunties for marketers to throw money at the Facebook crowd. For instance, you can sponsor a group for around $50K a month. But for those who don’t, you may just have to get your hands dirty, set up a FaceBook profile and start your own process of discovery.
That said, a couple of friends have already posted some useful stuff to help you understand the nature of the beast:
Rae Hoffman offers a glimpse of the potential in Nine Reasons You Should Be Using and Watching Facebook . She also has some good tips for new FaceBook users.
In 8 Simple Rules For Social Media Marketing in Business to Business Markets, Todd Malicoat gets down to brass tacks on illuminating the context for social media. Even though the titIe is specific to B2B his points really apply more broadly (I suspect a bit of link baiting in the title choice). :-) I particularly appreciate his reference to the ClueTrain Manifesto . I was among those who signed this declaration in 1999, but I always benefit from going back and reading it again. I agree with Todd that social media is indeed the fruition of the potential to put some these ideas into practice.