to social media or not to social media? that was the question of the night in this week's installment of the NxLevel business education for creative entrepreneurs class. on hand to help us budding artrepreneurs answer this emerging media question was deb robison of rudymedia.
president of the mile high social media club, robison uses her expertise in various emerging media trends to help businesses build community around their products and services. "building your business is all about community," she says. "the stronger your community, the more effective your work."
for starters, robison says that companies unfamiliar with new media technologies come to her with one simple question regarding whether to participate in social media: do i have to? her answer is a definitive, "maybe." she says she usually advises these types of clients to answer that question for themselves by starting internally. ask yourself, and by extension your company/organization, what do you love doing?
exploring the answer to this fundamental question can lead you to others in the social media world that share your passions - and these are the places to start building a supportive community. interacting with people bound by common interests can help a business owner or entrepreneur develop a strategy to intertwine work with this community of peers and potential clients/customers. and, more importantly, this time becomes an opportunity to "listen, learn and share" from the folks you'll meet.
some of the resources robison shared with class include wefollow.com (a directory of twitter users organized by special interests), the behance network (a platform for creative professionals to gain exposure and get hired), ning.com (an online service to create, customize, and share social networks) and trendhunter.com (self-explanatory). take some time to explore these links and see if who you meet/what you learn can't be used get a better understanding of how social media can enhance the community surrounding your products, services and ideas.
as we all know, time is money. and keeping up with the latest social media trends can be quite time-consuming. many business owners simply don't have the time or energy to spend online interacting with and participating in any social media communities. firstly, don't underestimate the value that this time can add to your business or organization. even though you might not realize it, there are people everywhere either already socializing about your particular interests or they're enthused by the prospects of meeting others who share their views on products, services and whatever else.
additionally, setting goals with regards to emerging media trends is a useful tool to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the social media phenomenon. learn and practice new tricks, robison says, then turn around and train others in your team. pick a new technology to learn each week (or month, depending on your availability) and dedicate enough time to become familiar with how it works and how you can integrate its functionality into your website or social media strategy.
the benefits, robison says, are rooted in authenticity and transparency. when an organization interacts with its community online, the dialogue carries with it a "real," grassroots voice that is often missing from traditional advertising and PR campaigns. it is a conversational medium where consumers and clients get a true sense for exactly "who" is talking. it's an arena for genuinely open discussions and problem solving. these are invaluable interactions between business and customer that are rarely achieved anywhere else, robison says.
testifying on behalf of social media's relevance for the small business owner was sean moore, co-owner of denver's own cake crumbs and driver of our fair city's first mobile cupcake delivery unit. in addition to super yummy cupcakes (which he shared with us during class) moore credits the use of social media outlets for helping to bolster the support and popularity of his (and his wife's) boutique park hill bakery.
moore uses the company's facebook and twitter accounts to interact with his customers and notify denver's cupcake addicts where the cupcake truck will be on that particular day. the company also uses its facebook page to generate new product and flavor ideas that his clientele want to see (or, taste, actually) in addition to random trivia and humor. it's a different, more personal method of interacting with his customers and creating a sense of community over bite-sized confections, he says.