I've had a handful of calls lately from friends and former colleagues who are currently managing social media campaigns for their companies… large and small.  I don't know if it is the economy or what, but it sure seems to me that a lot of folks are rationalizing what they are doing.  That means different things for different companies.

The sophisticated folks have the benefit of historical data on their side, so they are trying to strategize to optimize ad spend and effectiveness.  It's the logical next phase for companies who are eager to improve their brand engagement with customers who spend more and more time online.

Others who are familiar with social media, but not yet doing anything see it as a growth opportunity.  I'm actually seeing a lot of action here for understandable reasons.  Facebook continues to edge upward in older demographic groups, so it's more in the consciousness of middle managers and now executives.  Newer Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter continue to get press in mainstream business magazines.  And arguably, we elected our next President as a direct result of social media engagement and the execution of a coherent Web 2.0 strategy.

Finally, there are people I know who have yet to really adopt social media in their personal or professional lives.  Yet, they want to know how to take advantage of it.  The first step, obviously, is to engage.  It isn't so easy for people who don't want to share life's details online.  But it is a necessary step to take to understand what to do and why.

Developing a good social media strategy & implementing it is, despite the bad economy, perceived as  a good business idea.  At least it is in my extended circle.  Why?  A few thoughts:

  • No company has truly figured it out.  The best use of social media as a marketing campaign has been by our new President.  So there is room for a huge victory that *will* make a career or two along the way.
  • Interactive brand engagement is significantly better than passive brand engagement (TV/radio commercials, magazine ads, billboards, etc.).  If people actually do something with your brand, you win.
  • It's also far cheaper than the above alternatives.  Give me a fraction of the $$$ spent on a single, bad Super Bowl commercial, and everyone on the Web will know about your brand. :-)
  • Millions of people.  Guess what has a bigger audience… Facebook or the Super Bowl?  Facebook by a ratio of about 1.5:1.  What's better is the fact that people hang out on Facebook more than five hours once per year.  And Facebook is just one of many Internet properties gaining loyal users.

I alluded to this before… or maybe I just flat out said it.  Not sure… but 2009 will be a year when Internet Marketing and Social Media Marketing sortof blend into each other.  We used to spend a lot of time optimizing around search engines.  In fact, I built my 3rd startup simply from learning how to use Google Adwords.  We are at the same inflection point in 2009 if you substitute things like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and Youtube for Google Adwords.  All of the properties I just mentioned have attracted the same Millions that Google attracted to search engines years ago.  Similarly, marketing campaigns today on social networks are unsophisticated, advertising is relatively cheap (especially compared to where it will go), and people don't yet know how to take advantage.

If you spent any time in the last few years wondering what it would have been like to take advantage of Google in its early days, don't fret!  History is repeating itself.

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