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VOL. 35 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 22, 2011

Protect, enhance brand by outsourcing social media

By Richard J. Alley

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Feedback is not like it used to be, says Shauna Wright. There was a time when a bad experience with a company meant telling a neighbor or a few friends, but in today’s ever-shrinking world, those friends can be a thousand miles away and number in the hundreds.

Because of this phenomenon, the burgeoning field of social media management has taken off with the speed of a Google keyword search, and Wright and others find their days full of tweets, status updates and blog posts. And some of this work is happening from a breakfast table or patio lounge chair, as many managers choose to work from a familiar home rather than a corporate environment.

“So many people are on Facebook and Twitter that their information gets out there and it’s basically free advertising for them to be posting,” said Christie Jarvis, who set up a virtual assistant business from home several years ago but found herself more and more taking over the social media responsibilities for her clients.

Some of those clients include Angela Mazanti Events, Lucius Roofing and the National Association of Catering Executives, Memphis chapter.

“I post their statuses for them,” Jarvis said. “I am the representative for the company.”

While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube may have started out as the playground of teens, college students and office workers with time to kill, it has quickly become a necessity for businesses needing to keep in the forefront of their industries and in the faces of their audience.

Amy Howell has embraced the medium and is a near-constant presence on Twitter promoting the interests of her own business, Howell Marketing Strategies, as well as those of her clients, saying that “about 75 percent of our whole client list is on social.”

“Social media is important primarily for two reasons: content and search engine optimization,” Howell said. “Those are the two benefits that businesses can really elevate their status online if they’re using social tools. It helps with their message, but it also helps with people being able to find them. … Search engines love social tools. So if you are on Twitter, and are really loud online, then you’re going to move up that Google page.”

Wright saw the writing on the Facebook wall when she worked with Lokion Interactive before going out on her own, and knew that the key to success in the new cyber-world of business would be in reputation management and conversation monitoring, and in dealing with negative feedback that was being spread about companies or their brands.

“I started out as a content strategist doing writing and editing for a variety of brands for their (Lokion) websites and their print collateral, and as the social media thing started to really explode, that’s when I moved more into that realm and helping clients figure out how they should handle it,” said Wright, whose clients include Cellular South, Hilton Hotels and FedEx.

Comments and product or service reviews can be flippant and dashed off in the heat of the moment, Wright said, but those reviews can live on in cyberspace for years and come back to haunt a business. It’s something CEOs should not take lightly. Many companies, however, may not have the staff or resources for constant tweeting – a boon to the smaller, home-based manager.

With more than 500 million users on Facebook and 175 million on Twitter, businesses are doing themselves a disservice by not having a social media presence. If time or resources is an issue, there are those at their kitchen table just ready to help.

“Sales is now more about being found and letting people come to you than pushing it out,” Howell said, “and that happens if you’re on social media.”

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