Social Media As an Investment

In its brief history, Social Media, as called New Media, has traditionally been viewed as a place to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends and interact in an online social environment. In short, social networks were “a cool place to hang out” but held little applicability beyond that. There has been no shortage of funding in Silicon Valley for firms launching new media platforms. With the emergence of sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, there is no question that there is value in the vast amounts of information on people that these platforms have been able to collect; however, there has been no clear monetization strategy beyond bringing in advertising revenue. Arguments have been risen as to the true value of these firms; some would state that their valuations are inflated and artificial, while other claim that the value of their databases alone are enough to justify multi-billion dollar price tags.

The New Value of Social Media and The Social Media Firm
More recently social media has spawned a new value proposition, which is the business applicability of the vast user-bases these social networks have created. Regardless of which side of the valuation fence you sit on, it can be said that social media holds vast utility for businesses looking for a new way to reach out to customers and engage in two-way communications. This has never been done before from a traditional marketing, advertising or public relations perspective, and has given rise to a new business model: The Social Media Firm. This brings forth the argument of whether or not The Social Media Firm is a good investment. Is The Social Media Firm a fad that will die out in the coming years, or is this a long-term, sustainable industry that will one-day drive obsolescence to the traditional methods of advertising, public relations and marketing?

Given the state of the current economy, Venture Capital and angel funding sources have been keeping their portfolio dollars close to their chest, reserving investment only to businesses with a decent operating history, solid revenue streams and unlimited growth potential. Does the Social Media Firm fall into this category? My answer is yes. The bottom line is: social media is not going anywhere. Social media has become a staple of the lives of younger generations, and the fastest growing adopters of new media are people over the age of 30. Since the recognition of the business potential that social networks holds, large Fortune 500 firms are devoting a good portion of their marketing budgets to social networks and new media campaigns. For instance, Pepsi has devoted $20 Million of their marketing budget for a social media program called Pepsi refresh, and many large firms are beginning to follow suit. Needless to say, the earning potential for The New Media Firm is substantial.

Is it sustainable?
As mentioned earlier, new media is not going anywhere. For the most part it has become a standard part of the Internet experience similar to email. The sites that are considered the gorillas in social media may churn; however, there will always be something new to which these Internet-based communities will migrate. For example, the social media migration to-date has gone from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter, and the next major shift and/or addition to this massive online social sphere is likely just around the corner. The long-term sustainability of The Social Media Firm is largely dependent upon these companies’ ability to identify and pre-empt the next big shift, and to develop effective methods of leveraging both the old and new platforms for the sake of driving revenue, profitability, sales volume and identity to their clients.

Why Outsource to The Social Media Firm?
One question that may arise is: why would large companies hire a social media agency when they have the monetary resources to do it in-house? The answer to this is the simple fact that it is cheaper to outsource a new media campaign to a firm that has a skilled team already in place that is intimately familiar with navigating the complex world of new media. In the same manner that large companies hire advertising agencies to design traditional media campaigns, this approach can and will be taken for new media. By hiring The New Media Firm companies can eliminate both the administrative burden that comes with hiring a multitude of new employees, as well as the learning curve that will inevitably be present when trying to integrate those employees into their corporate culture. It is more cost effective, in both monetary and administrative respects, to outsource these campaigns to professional teams that are fully adept at leveraging the potential of modern media, navigating the codes of conduct of these online communities and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying the exploiting the latest new media trends.

Closing Remarks

In summary, I do believe that investment in The Social Media Firm holds great potential for many funds; however, it is imperative that when vetting these agencies, Venture Capitalists and Angels need to ensure that the company contains the correct personnel and management team to fully exploit this budding industry. The ditch is full of one-man shops and so-called social media experts that are no more than victims of the recession who happen to be adept at Facebook or Twitter. It is imperative that the architects of new media campaigns are familiar with the intricate details of new media, and the vast array of assets that exist online to for a business to take full advantage of the social media world. Utilization of the lesser known social media outlets such as Digg, BrightKite, hi5, Xanga and countless others could be the difference between a full-scale robust campaign that shows real results, and an ineffective and unorganized attempt at new media that wastes marketing dollars.

Due to the infancy of this industry, there are few companies out there that truly know how to unlock the value of new media for business. The one’s that do will quickly rise to the top, and if sufficient due diligence is done, these companies are ripe for investment. A strategic infusion of capital is likely the boost needed to take these companies from a sustainable cash-flow business to the next industry giant with A-list clientele.

Boom Media, Inc. is a new media optimization firm based in San Diego, California. New Media is the culmination of all online assets (such as social networking, blogs, micro-blogs, bookmarking and video sites) and tactics that can be used to drive revenue and identity for businesses. With a proven track record for success, the Boom Media team delivers results with innovative and measurable campaigns. Learn more at http://www.mymediaboom.com

Author: Eric A Rice
Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Simple Tricks to Make Your Site More Social Media Ready

Once thought to be a passing fad, and although still relatively new, social media is now taking a firm hold and warrants attention in many retailers’ online marketing efforts.

You can’t avoid it. No matter where you turn it seems you hear terms like “fan page”, “followers”, “tweet”, “re-tweet”, “blog” and more being used. With all the social media hype, many are questioning what social media actually is and how they can use it to move their business forward.

In this article I am going to explain what social media is, provide some strategies for making your site more social media friendly, touch upon differences between options presented by major social media outlets, and answer the question of whether you should do it yourself, or hire a consultant to do it for you.

Social Media can be time consuming, but when implemented correctly can add a level to your business that helps build brand loyalty, and awareness which in turn can boost your bottom line.

What is Social Media?

Wikipedia defines social media as: media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.

In other words, it is a group of Internet-based applications that utilize new web concepts to promote user generated content.

Examples of some of the major social applications currently online are Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Twitter can be seen as a “micro blog” type service that enables you to post short messages of up to 140 characters that are fed in real time to your followers. Facebook is more of a “publishing” platform which enables you to create a page that integrates multiple media options into one (i.e. discussion boards, blogs, photos, shopping carts, etc…) YouTube is a service that enables you to produce video content to the masses (possibly to demonstrate the use of your product.)

The power and uniqueness of each provides pros and cons. Because Facebook has a little more of a learning curve to it and because it has a number of options to choose from, I’ll briefly touch upon that below.

Simple Tricks to Make Your Site More Social Media Friendly

Whether or not you’re on social media platforms or not, odds are you’re customers are. They’re sharing your URL with their friends on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace.

If you want to engage in social media marketing, you’ll want to be sure to have that presence reflected on your e-commerce site.

Social Sharing
There are dozens of sites you can visit that will provide embeddable code which can be used to create social networking icons on your site. These icons make it easy for visitors to share what they like about your site with their social media friends and followers.

A couple of sites worth checking out are ShareThis. ShareThis is a tool you can install on your site that makes it easier for visitors to share with their network. You’ve probably seen some form of ShareThis on news sites. There are typically several icons spread out in a horizontal line or grouped together under a header of “Share.” Installing this tool lets your visitors easily spread the word via social networking sites about a page or website – yours – they like.

Add This is very similar to ShareThis. Both require site registration and a little publisher information, but both are also easy to use and do basically the same thing.

Show off your Social Media presence
If you’re on several social networking sites, it behooves you to display that affiliation somewhere on your site. For the consummate online shopper, these links show you’re not just an e-commerce beginner. The more social media sites you’re a part of, the more web-knowledgeable you look and the greater brand awareness you can build.

You can display your social media links either in self-created sidebar module or by using sites like Lijit ( http://www.lijit.com ). Lijit is similar to ShareThis; however, rather than pushing people out social networking sites, Lijit pulls them into your other sites.

Facebook Fan Page or Group?

A question that often gets asked when it comes to Facebook and brands is should you build a Facebook Group Page or a Fan Page?

It is a good question and the answer depends mostly on what your plans are for your site. I’ve broken down the pros and cons of both a fan page versus a group page below.

Facebook Fan Page
Facebook Fan Pages are a great option for brands – including e-commerce sites – that plan on posting information at least once a week.

Facebook Fan Page Pro’s:

* Looks polished; closely resembles an individual profile page

* Can include videos, photos, links, events, etc.

* Can be fed into “fans'” update stream similar to an individual profile update

* Can be given a customized url similar to an individual profile

* Hides the name and address of the page creator

* Offers options to add applications such as a Twitter feed

* Includes a “wall” similar to individual profiles that people can post comments on

* Can be paired with a Facebook Fan Page Widget on your site

Facebook Fan Page Con’s:

* More difficult to manage conversations between fans

* Conversations are on display for the public to see

* Unable to convert Facebook Groups to Fan Pages if you’ve already got a Group page set up

* Until you have an adequate number of fans, you’ll be posting a lot

* A dismal Fan Page linked to your site can hurt your inbound links in SEO

Facebook Group Page

Facebook Group pages are easy to create and slightly more personal than a Fan Page. Because it is not a constantly fed profile-like page, posts do not need to be as often.

Facebook Group Pro’s

* Can be more intimate; people see who created the group

* Still allows for pictures, photos, videos, events, etc. to be posted

* Allows for emails to be sent to all group members

* Pre-dates Fan Pages; more familiarity among early adopters of Facebook

Facebook Group Con’s

* Visitors must visit your group page for updates

* Does not allow applications to be added to the group page

* Offers visibility

* Will automatically post related groups to your group page whether you want them or not

* Cannot be linked to your site via widget(s)

The Verdict? Consider a Facebook Fan Page if you want to keep your “fans” up to date on the goings on of your site. Consider a Group if you have a niche within your site that people might want to create conversations about.

Should You Hire a Social Media Consultant for Your Site?

With the hundreds of social sites and applications available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When you’re already trying to keep your e-commerce business afloat, social media can seem unnecessary and time-consuming.

Research has shown, however, that e-commerce retailers are reaping the benefits of this new media channel (i.e., offering better customer service and increased sales) so it pays to use it.

Not everyone is social media savvy nor do they have the time which is why a lot of companies hire consultants to help them with their campaigns.

Do you need a consultant or should you do your own work?

When to hire a social media consultant:

* If you really do not have the time to commit to a social marketing campaign.
* If you don’t have the time to learn the ins and outs of social applications.
* If you don’t consider yourself a strong writer and/or interactive with your audience.
* If you want to launch a large social media campaign and need experts to help get things off the ground.
* If you tend to defer project work to experts rather than attempt to try it yourself.

When to do your own social media work:

* If you’re familiar with social media sites (like YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook) and use them on a personal basis.
* If you’re a quick-learner and tech-savvy.
* If you’re planning a small campaign with only one or two social sites.
* If you have content ready to post on a blog (or Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Note: Social media consultants tend to pay per project or per hour depending on their rates and availability.

What We’ve Learned

Social media seems to be here to stay. It most certainly will evolve and change as time goes, but you can be sure that in one form or another social media will continue. It’s much like the TV or radio were when they began and the power it harnesses for those who use it will shine through.

It can bring awareness to your product or brand and help you build a stronger relationship with your customers which can lead to greater sales and future growth for your business.

Having said that, keep in mind that social media can be time consuming and integrating a social media marketing campaign into your business should not be taken lightly. Proper planning and implementation is critical to your success-you may even want to consider hiring an expert to handle it for you. This will largely depend on your needs, budget, and time you have to allocate your own resources to getting the job done in-house.

When it comes to Facebook and the choice between creating a Fan Page or a Group, you’ll want to consider your objective before you determine which is best for you. Fan Pages are best for pushing brands and for ecommerce sites that can commit to posting at least once per week. Consider a Facebook Group if you want a more personal touch and if you can’t commit to posting at least once per week.

Integrating social media into your site is easy. There are sites that provide the code and icons for you to simply paste into your web structure. Once you are utilizing social media make sure you display it on your site so customers know where to find you.

Remember, social media is a tool that can push your business and brand forward. Plan carefully and choose wisely. Like those that harnessed the power of TV and radio, social media adopters will see the benefits with time.

Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at http://www.zencartoptimization.com. His online coaching system, Ecommerce Amplifier http://www.ecommerceamplifier.com, helps you increase your ecommerce sales by walking you through his proven six step process. He has helped store owners generate over $10 Million in revenue and counting. Will you be next?

Author: Eric Leuenberger
Article Source: EzineArticles.com