Interestingly enough, this is another case of moving from somewhere to nowhere. Originally, all business communications happened by paper or fax, using company letterhead, dates and signatures. Then came email, and communication became a bit more "virtual", but still went out through a corporate email server, usually backed up by information on a corporate portal.
But now, savy companies have figured out that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a host of other social networking sites can drive significant interest and ultimately business to them. The interesting thing is that now your corporate communication is no longer controlled by a corporate server. While you can block a Twitter account from following you, and you can refuse to accept a Facebook invite, when dealing with the volumes that one hopes to get from these sites, there is simply no way that you can do this practically.
Setting up these sites and getting started using them can be done very quickly, and with minimal cost, yet with huge benefits, so many companies are jumping on the bandwagon. In some cases, they jump on it because their competitors are there and they have to, in order to survive. But then, there are risks involved in using these things.
Where the company originally controlled all communication, and who we did it with, we now find that our communications are controlled by a series of other sites, and that our customers consist of anyone who can find us by any means and chooses to subscribe to our updates. We've lost control of who we do business with, we've lost control of our marketing medium, but we've gained infinitely more customers as a result. No longer are our customers people that we approach. They are people who approach us!
Most IT people still don't get it. Kids are getting it. They don't really think about it, they just use it, and the common uses become obvious. Business people really hate to not have control, so this type of free-wheeling business-by-experimentation model really scares them, or simply pisses them off. Many won't embrace it - to their disadvantage, I may add. Those who do embrace it will find that it will open new opportunities to them. I can't really say what these are, nor can I predict which ones will work and which ones will turn out to be insecure or unsafe, but for those willing to experiment, the opportunities await.
I suspect that the push to use these technologies is as likely to come from, or be blocked by, management and IT people almost equally at first. Misinformation, concern over the risk of the unknown, a desire to micromanage everything to fine detail, and people being protective of their job security, are all factors that can inhibit the move to use social networking.
So, my questions are:
- Are you willing to yield some control, in favor of reach and savings?
- Are you willing to experiment with new marketing opportunities?
- Are you stuck in the past, or ready to embrace the future?