Now that you have got an idea of the general business opportunities that social media offers, let’s look at the practical way each of these opportunities helps business. Using the Social Media Applications Guide:
Communication: social media offers enhanced internal and/or external communication through the following tools:
• Meetings and conferencing: the act of having actual meetings and conferences online, which can take place in a group of any size. This means that you can virtually meet up with several colleagues to discuss a project for instance, but also that you can attend a lecture or training session from your own home. Social media has completely dissolved physical boundaries, which translates into immense advantages for businesses.
• Sharing media: the sharing of all kinds of content including documents, videos, audios, pictures, presentations slides, etc. This sharing of information can be between specific people only, or with all users of a given site. This not only means that companies can share content easily, but also that they can share it with those they want to, such as their customers or clients. This is a very effective way for companies to promote their. business
• Location services: creating and finding information related to a specific location. These tools basically collect all data (infrastructure, people, events) based on a particular locality and make them available to a pool of users, whose knowledge of that specific place becomes much more extensive as a result. This mean a business can communicate information to a large base of ‘locals’ and attract customers.
• Broadcasting: these tools give the chance to watch, see or listen to an event as it is happening. This means customers get live, real-time information. This is very important for those businesses working around time-sensitive issues as well as for those wishing to communicate live with customers.
Communities: social media allows access to groups or communities where key players like customers, suppliers or competitors can be found, through the following tools:
• Marketplaces: these are social media platforms where some kind of e-commerce is taking place, i.e., the buying and selling of a range of goods and/or services between the users of the site. Entering marketplaces allows companies to reach a very large pool of potential customers, as well as create traffic towards their own websites.
• Social networks: from a business perspective, these offer excellent arenas to reach specific types of people – such as customers, suppliers or clients – and engage with them. Also, social networks give very good opportunities for businesses to spread brand awareness through these communities.
• Blogs and micro-blogs: these are very useful to create communities around a certain topic, product or organisation. Micro-blogs are much shorter blogs, as for example simple entries. Blogging offers many business opportunities: it creates brand awareness, increases market visibility, attracts traffic, improves customer relationship management and finally, allows you to get insight into your customers
• Virtual worlds: this might probably come to you as a surprise, but virtual words – online communities where users interact and create/do things in cyberspace – do have a place in business. As virtual worlds use and display real products from existing companies, businesses can spread brand awareness within huge online communities.
Collaboration: social media gives easy, efficient and often cost-effective ways to help different players work jointly or participate in a project, through he following tools:
• Freelance platforms: outsourcing jobs and tasks has been made very accessible by social media. You can reach all kinds of freelancers, from writers to arbitrators, from general skills to highly specific ones, from very affordable prices to much more expensive ones and from local to global freelancers. The point is the choices are there, which means you can find the ideal freelancer suiting your exact needs.
• Project & Team: social media makes a range of applications used at the office available on the web – which means they can be used anywhere, anytime. From online document management systems to mobile phones, a range of applications and devices allow more effective collaboration regardless of physical boundaries.
• DIY Wiki Platforms: do it yourself wiki platforms, i.e., internal company wikis. These are user-generated information allowing the sharing of spreadsheets, articles and RSS feeds among many other types of information. This facilitates information-sharing and project management, making it much easier and more efficient to work together.
• DIY social networks: do it yourself social networks have the same concept as DIY Wiki Platforms theoretically, but applied to social networks. Companies can have their very own social network and you can just imagine what this means in terms of collaboration. This also means they don’t have to use external, mainstream sites to collaborate if they prefer not to.
Collective intelligence: social media allows the collection and gathering of useful information for businesses, through the following tools:
• Discussion sites: sites whereby users generate specific types of content such as reviews, ratings or answers to questions about a particular service or product. This not only means that you can gather information on what customers like or dislike, but that you can also participate in questions/answers and develop an image of expertise in your field, while creating brand awareness.
• Wikis: these are platforms where users from all over the world can create content. This means that companies can get very easy access to relevant information, but also publish relevant information about them as well, reaching a very wide audience by doing so.
• Ideas platforms: these social media tools allow different people – from different backgrounds, countries, ages, etc – to come together and brainstorm about different ideas in order to come up with solutions to business problems. Ideas platforms are highly valuable and cost-effective solutions for companies facing business challenges.
• Market intelligence: these social media tools allows companies to get a better understanding of the environment in which they are operating and competing, through information like such as demographics, population data, consumption levels. Instead of developing expensive in-house market intelligence tools, companies can use social media applications which already gather and provide this kind of information.
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