Blogging, tweeting, friending. Odd sounding verbs, these. Not sure you'll find them in the "verb" category in the dictionary — at least not yet. Give them time. "Ain't" made it in, and that verb didn't have nearly the grassroots support of these three.
Indeed, this triad of new verbs is both the result and the harbinger of the most prominent types of social networks and social media marketing in the world today: personal and professional blogs (with RSS feeds so you can stay "tuned in"), Twitter (the "mini-blog" suited to the info-bites attitude and fast-forward pace of our lives in the 21st century), and Facebook (the global water-cooler). As the Bible says of Faith, Hope and Love, these three remain. Blogging, Twitter and Facebook: which is the greatest of these remains to be seen.
In the realm of the online marketplace, however, it's no contest. The winner is all three of them. They are the leaders of the newest form of network marketing and one of the most effective: social media marketing.
Why is it so effective? Three reasons that are particularly attractive to small business and other entrepreneurs: low impact/annoyance factor, cost effectiveness and a viral spread of information.
1. Low Impact (and therefore low annoyance factor)
In the same way that email rapidly replaced telephone contact and so called "face time," blogging, Twitter and Facebook are replacing other more traditional forms of marketing, and for the same reasons.
Emailing became the norm for the "sender" of information because it was easier (both physically and emotionally) than making a phone call or meeting with someone in person. Email grants immediate completion and instant gratification: No getting a busy signal or, worse, an answering machine or voice mail inbox that required you to leave a message (wherein you might say the wrong thing and not be able to erase and re-record) and no having to carry on an unscripted conversation with someone in person (wherein the same dangers were ever present). The receiver was equally blessed by the ability to respond (or not) at his or her leisure and with the same assurance of faux pas-free conversation.
Social media does the same for marketing by freeing the marketer to place his or her ads at any time, around the clock, 24/7, rather than to some PR office or publisher's schedule, while simultaneously granting the target audience the ability read/view and/or delete at will instead of having to dispose of or recycle the publication, and all for the low, low price of . . . well, nothing.
Which naturally leads us to reason number two.
2. Cost Effective ('cause it's free!)
Well the section header pretty much says it all. You can't get much more cost effective than free, and all of these social media marketing venues are just that. Free as the air you breathe — which, by the way, is how many viruses spread.
3. Wherein a Virus can be Your Business's Best Friend
Remember the water cooler metaphor above? Years ago, in the traditional brick and mortar model of business, the water cooler was the place where employees would gather to socialize during breaks, exchanging pleasantries and information, introducing the new guy to the old guard, telling jokes and showing off pictures of their pets or the new baby.
Long after the physical water cooler had been replaced by bottled water, "hanging around the water cooler" remained a metaphor for the casual meetings and conversations that took place among people in the physical spaces of a business environment. Whatever the place, the close physical proximity inherent to "hanging around the water-cooler," made it equally easy to pass along a cold or flu bug with the jokes and those pictures of your little ones.
As it is in the physical world, so is it in the virtual, and it is in this way, especially, that social media marketing is effective. Facebook is an especially good example of the virtual water cooler inasmuch as people meet there and exchange information (including jokes and pictures of the fam) and provide the perfect growth environment for spreading a virus in the form of word-of-mouth marketing.
It's little wonder, then, that adopting social media marketing is a good idea for your small business. And it's kind of comforting to some of us, after all, that even here, in the virtual business world, we can find in these new fangled technologies an echo of tradition and a sense of continuity that is familiar and reassuring.