When I first heard about social media, I thought that it was a forum that was dedicated to meeting people on a social and personal level where people made connection for the purpose of dating and marriage. It was only after being invited by the third person that I decided to take a look at Facebook. On looking closer to what Facebook was about, I found that it had greater implications than making friend connections — connecting with long lost friends and making familial connection and bridging the generational family gap.
Some of the wider implications that I discovered was that it has great business potential with great opportunities for meeting with and networking with like-minded business people across the globe and transcending various business industries and sectors: Connections that could also lend themselves to valuable opportunities for partnering and collaborating in joint projects.
I also found it to be a great space where you can learn about others and their culture. Social media enables you to connect with people in places that were once seen as far away. I have had the privilege to connect with and chat with people in India, Africa, Italy, Lebanon, the Caribbean, Latin America, to list a few places. Social media has brought the world closer together.
Social media also affords us with the opportunity to share experiences as they occur. For example when the Haiti’s earthquakes occurred, the catastrophic effect was quickly broadcasted keeping us informed of every aspect of it devastating effect. Similarly, when the miners trapped in Chile were rescued; news of that was broadcast to the world, and we were able to celebrate when they were freed and united with their families. More recently with the earthquake experienced in Japan, followed by the devastation of the tsunami and an imminent radio active explosion that threatened their way of living and possible opportunity for rebuilding; people globally were able to live the experience as it unfolded in Japan.
Social media, while it exposes us to what is happening across the globe; it also heightens our awareness and sensitivity towards each other. These experienced, though they might be far away, with social media there is a shared experience that also occurs. People are able to identify with each other's pain, suffering, happiness, disappointments and accomplishments. Our sensitivity towards the pain and suffering of others makes us more human: we become more empathetic.
Besides, providing a platform for businesses both small and large corporation, social media also helps people to connect with friends and family members to maintain a social connection. I also found that it serves as a great political platform for many governments across the globe. Both developed nations and developing countries a like use social media to keep their people informed, to garnish supporters and to maintain sociological and political positioning. It is a conduit for getting information across the globe regardless of the issues and institutions within society.
In addition to the many effects that social media has on our social interaction and social connectedness, the implications for businesses are great. Large organization are using social media as a marketing and branding platform for their products and services. Similarly, many smaller businesses and micro businesses are also introducing social media into their business strategic plan to ensure that they get their products or services before their niche market. Women-owned businesses are also a part of that change, in the way business is done; and they too are introducing social media into their marketing plan.
As a small business owner, it is important that you develop a social media plan proactively before integrating it into your business plan. Therefore it is important to consider the following:
- Determine if this is something that will work for you right now? Do you have the resources to implement it?
- Identify which social media sites you will use in the short-term and in the long-term. You can use a combination of sites.
- Identify a strategy that you would be using and come up with a schedule of activities for at least weekly, monthly or quarterly.
- Identify how much time you can dedicate to social media that will not affect your production and operation time
- Identify whether you have the personnel on board your team to facilitate your social media plan or whether you have to recruit or access outsourcing
- Consider training or education in social media
- Identify some of the benefits you will like to achieve with social media
- After identifying some key design elements that you want to include, develop a plan if you are seriously thinking about integrating social media into your business plan
- Implement it and remember to evaluate it after six months or one year to know if you are making a return of your investment
This article was first written and published by Dr. Cheryl Cottle in 2011. This is a revised version written by Dr. Cheryl Cottle, 2014