Having gone to the panel, Stories from the Frontline - Building a Social Media Business, more than a couple weeks ago, and only recently having taken a read through the notes from my friend, Tan Lam who manages Social Media at Specialized Bikes, this is a post probably a bit late in the making. But there are a lot of relevant ideas that I think are worth sharing. The panel consisted of Benn Parr, Co-Editor, Mashable; Blake Cahill, Senior VP of Marketing, Visible Technologies; Louis Gray, Managing Director, New Media, Paladin Advisors Group; Emely Melton, Partner, Mayfield Fund;Augie Ray, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research; and Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp, Inc.
While it’s no surprise that the main topics touched upon hovered around localization, the focus of the panel centered on how companies can leverage social media to actually make money. One of the major points, which I have made a number of times in this blog, is that there is going to be an ever increasing need for companies to take advantage of tools to parse the conversations happening out there. Monitoring effectively and then taking action on those conversations that will have an impact on the bottom line is going to get harder and more important over time.
Social media is not a one size fits all. It requires creativity and attention (in real-time), and for many local businesses, this is a pretty hard thing to do… or least get a handle on. But for those smaller businesses who have been able to do it well, there are monetary rewards. They are more nimble to react to what their customers want, and they are able to leverage the personality and culture of the company to make the conversation around their business more interesting. Whether it’s the Koji BBQ truck in LA or even a Seattle based bag manufacturer like Tom Bihn, these are really the companies that are seeing results from engaging on social media.
In addition, shopping for a good number of people is a very social activity. Mobile makes things local, and local makes things more personal. It makes sense that social media can play a significant role in e-commerce especially when merged with technologies that are blurring the line between the virtual world and the physical world. Whether it is the Monocle feature of the Yelp iPhone app or a check-in through Foursquare, we are beginning to see how companies can take advantage of social media to drive sales.
I think there are two important points here.
- If you’re a local business, you need to start experimenting with these new technologies today. Especially if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, there are a lot of opportunities to make money by facilitating the transaction that can happen in social e-commerce.
But the final thought should always be that social media is a tool. It is not the end goal, so think first about how you wish you could engage with your customers, and then see how these tools can help you achieve those goals more effectively and efficiently.