Having an audience or a community depends on which way you turn the chairs

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Are you building a loyal community or an audience for your Internet business?

A handful of virtual friends or a connection with an old classmate. No, it is the chance to boost profits by as much as 200 percent over this next year. Interested? Allow me to pose a question to you. If you chop down a big tree (create a stir) in your media forest, without anyone standing nearby to see it fall, would it even exist? If you are not currently pulling customers and clients into your immediate network, you have already chopped down the most valuable resource you will have all year. Social media is the most important tool for business in 2010, and if you’re not taking advantage of them, your business is losing out on these five major profit builders:

Free Traffic– While the average cost of producing and airing a national television commercial is $350,000, it is less than $100 to purchase your own domain. According to IBM Consumer studies, personal Internet usage has already overtaken the boobtube as the more popular extra-curricular activity among consumers.

Partners– A partner, in this scenario, is a consumer who has become your brand’s liaisons. When you have done a good job, you create, in a sense, an ally who will echo your message to others. In other words, word-of-mouth. Imagine the power of that traditional form of advertising, multiplying, until instead of just having immediate friends, family, and neighbors approach you, suddenly you have an entire community of followers echoing what it is you are selling/doing, for free!

Joint Venture Opportunities– Having a voice in the social media, such as through your own blog can do more than just pull in new customers, but it can also open new opportunities with other businesses in the form of joint ventures. Your blog is your personal calling card, and its reach is international. How big do you want your business to grow?

Media Interest– Where do you think that today’s media professional finds a good portion of their stories, and who do you think helps guide them in this search. Media loves a company who is creating a buzz with their blog. In fact, having a well respected social website is one of the quickest ways to gain a professional opinion than all the years of school you could fit into a lifetime. Why? Because media outlets create a relationship with your client. They create trust, which leads to the next point.

Opportunities of a Lifetime– How many folks in the days of the old media channels could ever hope to find themselves writing a book as an expert in their field, or sitting in on Good Morning America talking to the host about your product or service? Not many, but today those opportunities are happening everyday through the magic of social media. Social Media Channels Nielson Online reported this year that social networking and blogging were the fourth most popular activity among consumers throughout 2009. It is more popular than personal e-mail (email is quickly becoming passé to today’s generation), and accounts for over 10 percent of the average surfers time on the Web.

Think of it this way, it took radio 38 years to gain 50 million listeners, television 13 years to gain 50 million watchers, Facebook only 9 months to gain 100 million followers, and iPhone less than 9 months to gain 1 billion users. With that kind of consumer power, a 5-star company can literally be built from the ground up in less than a year. If you believe that if your product or service is really exceptional, people will eventually take notice and hop aboard your bandwagon, you are right. But do you have 5 to 10 years to wait? Social media helps you find your consumer, build their trust, establish motivation for your product/service, and create a community of believers who will spread your word to consumers near and far.

Where’s the Action? For 2009, Facebook was the social media giant, pulling in 79 percent of users. MySpace came in at a distant second with 15 percent, Twitter at 5 percent, LinkedIn at just just over 1 percent, and FriendFeed and Identica both under 1 percent. Now this is all fine and dandy for businesses with the eye on a small slice of the pie, but for the folks who would rather indulge in the entire thing, there are several international networks worth your time investment. China’s Qzone has built itself up to 300,000 users since China’s ban of Facebook, and Russia’s, Vkontakte.ru social network, pulls in over 1,307 page views, per visitor, each month. Why You Care? Where does your business fit in among these socializing folks? What is happening right now, is that people are watching less television, reading less newspapers, and buying less magazines. They are spending a good portion of their time on these social websites, watching videos, talking to old friends, and making new friends. In order to stay on the consumer’s radar, businesses are going to need to take part in their daily lives in much the same as a friend would, bringing up important/interesting topics and discussing them among peers.

Over this next year, consumers are going to find they no longer need to search for the products they need. They wont need to, as they will come to them in the form of blog and Twitter posts from their favorite social channels. Instead of having marketers focus on the traditional “ad”, businesses will find the most success in producing quality content (articles, surveys, interviews, quotes, etc.) inviting consumers to take part in the product/service in some way, through their opinions, reactions, etc. This content can then be easily transferred to multitudes of social networks, where they will be picked up, read, and discussed by thousands of potential customers and clients.

The best part is, it’s all free, will take only a minimum amount of time per day to orchestrate, and will not need any kind of specialized personnel to get the job done. What we are talking about here, is a twist from the ever popular Dale Carnegie business outlook, which measured success by the number of connections and allies you accumulated over the lifetime of your business. The entrepreneurs who will come out ahead in 2010, will understand the importance of becoming a trusted friend and ally to the consumer, rather than a bully.

Customers no longer want to be told what to buy, but rather tell the business what they want to buy. Your trees will consistently fall upon deaf ears, until you learn to listen first, and sell second!


Eric, writer at Pixelfanatix.com


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