Business Week recently published a rather skeptical report on the current state of social media.

And the take away from this report is that the rapidly evolving social media trend has become the wild west of marketing, rife with “experts” selling the equivalent of “snake oil” that delivers little business value.

While it’s easy to dismiss social media as a fad or worse, the interest, wide adoption and frequency of use by millions and millions of people everywhere require more examination than just dismissing social media as improved online chat or just a waste of time.

Ready for the new continual publishing paradigm?

Proponents of social media including Brian Halligan, CEO & Founder of inbound marketing firm, HubSpot, claim that business executives and managers need to approach social media by first changing their old ways of thinking. His premise is that whatever your business is, like it or not, you now need to be in the continual content creation business too—more like the traditional approach and thinking of a publication editor.

Whatever is going on with your customers, your prospects or your business has value and you now need to broadcast it and share it frequently and consistently. The idea behind this new approach is that anyone should be able to find your unique value, whenever and however they choose. And today, that usually means finding it online.

What’s more, Brian and others emphasize that it’s critical that the content you create is nothing less than “amazing”. Because if it doesn’t measure up, your customers, prospects, and others won’t be compelled to react to it, comment on it or share it with others.

Prepared to become a content factory?
Are you prepared to become a content factory? |TeamworksCom

The objective of all of this content creation activity is for it to spread across the globe like a virus that explodes into a population with similar interests and profiles. The end of result of the interest, awareness, and conversation created from your content should increase visits to your website.

For it is here where all of the “traffic” you create can be converted into revenue by new customers. Or at the very least, this effort should yield very qualified prospects that you can influence or sell to because they have expressed interest in you and/or your business and the value that you offer as a credible, trusted and transparent provider of what they are interested in.

Beware of new opportunity costs.

It all sounds good but realizing this vision comes at a price. Because unlike the popular perception, social media is NOT free. Forget for a moment that it is the fastest growing segment of marketing that most small and medium sizes business will make increasingly larger investments in next year.

If you are unwilling or unable to make a significant investment in time and resources to learn, use and participate in this medium, it is questionable that you will realize any meaningful business value. Just having a Twitter account or a Facebook page is not a recipe for success. In fact, I would argue that what you get out of social media is exactly correlated to what you put into it. 

The time, resources and effort required to create content, distribute it, monitor, and participate in the conversation about it, measure its impact, analyze the results and make necessary adjustments to start all over again are significant commitments that should not be made without a good deal of consideration and resource support.

Today, more than ever, the development, integration, and use of these emerging marketing tools demand a solid brand positioning and clear strategy. Couple this with measurable business objectives and they can serve as a foundation on which to build a social media success. Without them, any experimentation with social media may be as rewarding as a dose of snake oil.

What’s working for you?

Where are you on adopting social media as an integral part of your marketing? Are you seeing a return on your investment? Have you allocated the resources and time to make the investment deliver true business value? Leave a comment and give us some insight on your experience.

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