Is Social Media the answer for the offline business

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Is Social Media the answer for the offline business

There are many tools available for an offline business to use to become more visible.  When offline advetising staples, such as newspaper advertising and direct mail, are not giving the best bang for the buck,  consultants are often called upon.  They are required to help transition the client onto the Internet for increased exposure.  Usually the first and most effective methods are the inclusion of the local business details in regional and metropolitan web portals that specialize in businesses on the local or regional level.

Another popular way that business can become more visible to its public is by trying to use the potential of Social Media.  There are a large number of ways that these tools can be used, but a careful evaluation of the needs and directive of the business must be undertaken.  Besides the huge potential for profit, there is just as large a possibility that it could become a disastrous situation.

The Social Media has been designed to promote networking and the formation of “cliques” and groups where like minded people get to explore their common interests.  More and more, opinions are being driven through the various sites. Consumers are finding the opinions of peers in their network just as powerful, if not more important than the information provided by the companies that physically manufacture and distribute the products they are interested in purchasing.

The strength of peer pressure and opinion offers a huge opportunity for the consultant to bring a client’s offline business into the spotlight.  The glare of public scrutiny can also cause serious problems if the approach is not upright and ethical.  For instance, some businesses have sent a “ringer” to join a number of groups to see what the members are thinking about various products.  If they are there to promote and push their make or brand, and it is identified (which probably will occur), the negative resentment of being made to be stooges by big business (no matter how big in actuality) can cause a drop in sales as people simply boycott out of principle.  The danger here is that sometimes the boycott can spread virally and cause serious damage to a bottom line.

If a business is going to join in the discussion, it should do so honestly and above board.  When a corporate representative is available to identify trends and help solve problems, there is a lot of good will generated and the word of mouth is strongly positive.  There are even large multi-national companies monitoring the Social Sites and the discussions on them to understand the trends  and concerns of the consumer in a wide variety of areas.  The small offline company can join in the discussion and promote their products or services easily, but as mentioned, do it honestly and upfront, otherwise the chances of being burned are rather strong.

Some Social Structures like Twitter can be used to offer press releases, 140 characters at a time.  Depending on how the structure is set up, a Twitter account can be interactive with the consumers, or it can be strictly used as a one-way blast to all the followers with no responses offered.  Although this is a cheap way to offer product announcements, this works best when there is a real person also online. They must be identified with vested interests, often through the actual user name,  their purpose is to identify trends and problems as they are voiced.

Some larger  corporations, with the resources to do it, will even approach a disgruntled consumer after they have been identified. They take the time and effort to help move them to a corporate Customer Service platform where their issue can be properly handled and solved.  This in turn often results in happy testimonials about the way a company has gone out of its way to provide satisfaction being voiced back to the original group.

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