Biran Solis describes social media as the entirety of digital tools and practices that facilitate conversations between people by allowing them to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, recommendations and media itself. As such, social networks (Facebook, MySpace, LifeJournal), micro blogs (Twitter), podcasts, bookmarks, wikis (Wikipedia), ratings, reviews, pictures (FlickR, Instagram, Pinterest), videos (YouTube, Vimeo), etc. are all part of the social media landscape as we know it today and that Fred Cavazza structures as follows:
Long gone are the days when social media was considered ephemeral. Today, social media is omnipresent and a major part in the lives of many people, regardless of their gender, age or origin.
For companies, this new culture based on exchange is a tremendous opportunity. It allows them to communicate with people – for the sake of not calling them consumers – in a whole new way: by putting the individual at the centre of their preoccupation and by dialoguing with them on a “human level”. Companies that manage to create true relationships with their customers based on transparency and trust will ultimately have a competitive advantage over those that do not.
Being talked about by the right people, at the right time and at the right place is primordial for companies – and brands in particular – to be heard in an over-noisy market place. On the other hand, they have every interest to listen carefully to what is said about them and in joining, if not driving the conversation. Because, like Scott D. Cook, Director of Procter & Gamble puts it: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
So in a way, a brand becomes the sum of all the conversations be it offline or online in social networks. The number of internet users is ever growing. Classic websites and search engines are surpassed by social media. Today, information arrives at the user primarily via social platforms. If companies want to go where the consumers are, were they produce and consume information, were they experience ZMOT: then it has to be social media.
Due to the perpetually updating nature of social media, another advantage that they procure is that they are particularly well referenced in search engines. For companies, it is important to be there and to take the conversation lead instead of letting others talk about them in a way that they may not be able to influence!