Testing the waters of social media

February 24, 2009
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On Feb. 25, Jen Crowley, owner and marketing strategist for Highland Group, will give a presentation on social media marketing in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Her aim? To reach out to companies looking to dip their toes in the waters of social media.

Crowley said she hopes to explore the various avenues of social media with the audience.

“My goal is not really to espouse one particular way, but just sort of present, in a neutral way, the pros and cons of the types of social media, explain them, and define them and group them a little bit so they make more sense. Should it be Facebook? Should it be MySpace? And what is this Twitter thing?” said Crowley.

“The other big thing that I think is important to this audience is to talk about some of the concerns that businesses would have in engaging in social media.”

Crowley listed some of those concerns as control, transparency, issues of privacy and so forth. While all the choices and concerns can be overwhelming for a company, she said the basic principles are really the same as they have been for decades.

“When companies think about social media, what they need to think about is the opportunity to reach out to new people and strengthen customer relationships,” she said. “In that way, these are just tools. It’s really not new. The way you use the tools may be new.”

One way she said companies can use social media as a new tool is for doing consumer research.

“This can be a quick and cost-effective way to understand what your target market is thinking,” she said. “In the past, that was a pretty expensive proposition.”

David Kettler, cofounder of Media Place Partners, a media services firm, said that while traditional media is still needed and a major part of marketing, social media is a “must have.”

“It’s all client driven,” he said. “When looking at the whole advertising model, traditional is more of awareness for someone to go online to find out more about their company and how are they set up to handle that.”

Kettler said that the model of using traditional media to support a company’s online presence is becoming more prevalent for all types of companies.

“It’s really coming down to even small local businesses, not just the Fortune 500 companies doing this with their brands,” said Kettler. “The mom and pop business with technology — they’re really starting to be able to get into this. It’s the whole Web 2.0 marketing model that we really have to deal with more and more, and consult clients for.”

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