If I’d asked you five years ago if you were tweeting, facebooking or blogging, you would’ve looked at me like I was a little off my rocker, or maybe thought I’d overdone a wine tasting. But that same question today wouldn’t seem odd at all. So how do you keep up with what is relevant and necessary for your business, and maintain a competitive edge into the future?

In my opinion, these so called ‘fads’ are becoming a necessary component of everyday business life. If your business isn’t strategically integrating all the various social media components into your marketing plan, you will be left behind in the coming years.

This transformation of information and technology reminds me of the internet in the late 1990’s and the initial drive for businesses to use it to grow and market through websites. It’s hard to believe that just 15 years ago websites and the internet were just beginning to gain traction in the mainstream business community. Who could forget the dot.com bubble and bust of the late 1990’s or early 2000’s?

At that time, I was a member of a team running a web development firm, and businesses fit into one of three categories:

  1. The Early Adopters: Companies who immediately saw the value of the internet and assigned the necessary resources within their organization to begin to grow their internet presence.
  2. The “Follow the Crowd” Folk: They understood that they needed to begin investing into their internet presence as they began to lose a competitive edge with their clients.
  3. The “Hold Outs”: Those who resisted the thought of investing in the internet because they felt it was not relevant to their business. These businesses lost market share and did not understand the value of the internet in connecting to a whole new audience.

The reality is that every business today must use the internet as a necessary tool.

Let’s fast forward to 2011. I feel that we’re in another transformational trend for businesses called the age of social media. Integrated into this business transforming trend is the technological evolution due to the emergence of smartphones, tablets, etc. and the desire for a whole new personal level of connectedness between customers and businesses.

Customers want to be involved in your business like never before, whether you want their involvement or not. In the previous decade of technological growth, individuals had begun to feel disconnected to the brands and the communities of people who supported those brands. Enter the age of social media that allows communities to support their favorite brands, concepts and ideas with ‘like-minded’ people around the globe – and it’s mobile!

In addition, if you don’t perform well, transparency is the new reality. A negative customer experience can be uploaded to Facebook or YouTube in a matter of seconds and can go viral before you realize what’s actually transpired. Also, Yelp and Google reviews provide another outlet for customers who have both positive and negative experiences with your firm, which can make the difference for potential customers considering your business over a competitor’s business.

Bottom Line

Where are you in implementing a solid social media strategy for your business? If you have not embraced this trend, I encourage you to wake up to the fact that just because you may not understand it doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.

To maintain a strong and growing business you must be integrating social media into your business – ranging from marketing to customer service to recruiting.

Shake it up – what are you doing to shake up your business model to embrace social media. The old public relations or marketing campaigns have to evolve into a multidisciplinary approach which includes a solid social media strategy. A strategy aimed at creating and building client based communities who will be your best advocates for your product or service.

Oh, by the way, you can now follow me on Twitter @mgcollaboration

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at www.Collaboration-llc.com.


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