Over the last 20 years, with the invention and popularization of the Internet, the traditional mediums that companies used to advertise, inform, and simply connect with their consumer base have change drastically.  In fact, the traditional organization of a business has also been revolutionized.  Now there are thousands of businesses that are run out of individual homes, forgoing the typical brick-and-mortar companies that were abundant before the Internet.  For example, my friend's neice just started her own business online at a site called etsy.com.  This brilliant idea for a website allows users to have their own “shop” wherein they are able to sell vintage and/or handmade items.  Because of this, potentially millions of stay-at-home moms, craft makers, and people with hobbies making things can actually make a profit doing the things they love to do—without leaving the house.

Social Media-Leveling the Playing Field:

Normally a business would have a marketing manager in charge of all of the advertising campaigns, launching an expensive, extensive, and very broad-reaching commercial crusade using many different mediums, resulting in a fraction of the people reached who actually respond to the ad.  For the people with “etsy” shops, all they have—and need—is social media.  With the developing of sites like MySpace, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, and many more, market outreach and advertising have been revolutionized.  Anybody can use these sites to any extent, to either benefit and/or hurt a business.  With the smaller, personal businesses, a seller relies completely on friends and contacts to spread the word about the shop.  For larger companies, it is much different.

Marketing Revolutionized:

To the companies that used to spend millions on marketing, social media could be considered a godsend.  Although they still have to maintain traditional marketing strategies to some degree, it isn't nearly as costly.  Using Facebook, for example, setting up an account is free, and everybody who “likes” the page will get the automatic updates the merchant sends.  This narrows the outreach to current customers and exposes the business to many potential new customers when their “friends” like that page as well.  This drastically decreases the seller’s Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) because it is completely free.  A seller can pay for additional ads that will specifically target people with similar likes and interests as the general customer base.

Marketing to Public Relations:

Aside from the marketing advantage, social media allows a company to connect more deeply with its customers.  This, unfortunately can be a double-edged sword.  Social media is just that: social.  If there is any type of scandal in a business, everyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can know about it within minutes.  The lightning speed of bad news can result in a PR nightmare—just ask Domino’s Pizza.  Because of this, you will need to be extra vigilant maintaining a good relationship with your customers, which can only help.
In addition to managing public relations, Facebook gives the seller a direct line to customers, getting fast, honest feedback about products or commercial campaigns, even including them through contests and giveaways.  Take Doritos for example. The biggest TV commercial event of the year happens on Super Bowl Sunday.  Companies plan very far in advance to make sure their commercials are funny and memorable.  Doritos was running out of ideas, so they did something ingenious: had their customers come up with ideas in a contest with not just prizes, but the ultimate prize: a spot in the Super Bowl commercial lineup.  This strategy has been extremely successful, probably more so that they had ever imagined.
Every business, from a cottage industry to a large corporation, must understand that social media is here to stay.  It can be one of the greatest vehicles for mass advertising the world has ever seen, and using it properly can be a great advantage to a business.

About the Author: Rick Delgado is a freelance writer who specializes in the latest social and technology trends. He is cur

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