Social Media – as important to business as a telephone?

Posted on March 24, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Which tools is more important to your business – social networking sites or a telephone?

retro telephone

Does it seem like a ridiculous question?

Up until this past year, I’m sure the standard answer would have been, “My telephone is an essential business tool.  Social networking – you mean Facebook? MySpace?  They’re a total waste of time, and I don’t let my employees use them at work.”

How things change, and yet remain the same. Think back to the tv series of old, where the boss says “Miss Smith, take a letter.”  That directive comes from a time when telephones were seen as a less-than-concrete way to do business.  If the order wasn’t in writing, then how could you be sure it happened?  Right through the 50s and 60s, telephones weren’t an obvious feature of every employee’s desk.  If everyone had access to a phone, then how could an employer be sure that Fred in accounting wasn’t spending precious working hours talking to his girlfriend?

Eventually, the business case for telephones trumped any fears, grounded or not, about their potential for misuse at work.  And this is the stage we are at with the adoption of social media tools for business right now.

Business owners know that people are spending less time in front of the TV, or at least being captive to the ads, and more time in front of the computer screen.  And that screen time is, more often than not, tied in some way to the Internet and the many interactive ways that we use it.   It’s where we go when it’s time to get a movie or a restaurant recommendation.  We log on increasingly to file our tax returns, to look up information on our children’s schooling and our parents’ aging.   The internet is the place where we spend our social time and do a ton of shopping.  And increasingly, we are sharing that information with friends, followers and connections on social networking sites.   If social networking sites are where customers are hanging out, then you can bet that business people looking to build relationships with their current and potential clients are going to want to meet them at those hangouts.

Put that way, it seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  As important to business as a telephone? That day may well be here.  But using social networking sites efficiently for business is an art, much like the business use of a phone.  More on that in my next post.

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