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Social Media - How effective are they for business?


Until very recently, the English dictionary did not have words like "tweet". Such is the power of social networks that today, anybody who doesn't have a facebook account will be outcast and such non-participation in social media will be considered blasphemous by the modern youth. Social media has brought together all kinds of people - irrespective of age, culture and background.

Besides typical users like you and me, corporations also invest in social media to generate more business. Automotive companies promote their new cars on facebook, LinkedIn is a common tool to hire new talent and Twitter is a powerful media to broadcast your independent views to all your followers but it still raises fundamental questions. Is it worth investing a corporation's time and money in social media? Is there a solid ROI? This is not an easy question to answer- the adoption of social media as a channel of commerce or marketing varies significantly between industries and even between rivals in the same industry

But how many companies have really made it large in social media? According to a survey by "The Daily Meal", Five Guys (burgers and fries) didn't make to the top 20 most liked pages list despite all its cult-like proponents while Chic-fil-A has 700,000 more "likes" than KFC despite having only 10% of the number of restaurants as KFC. Starbucks is sitting pretty at the top of the list with more than 29 Million "likes". Though this does not always translate into number of visitors, it clearly establishes how some companies have managed to harvest the power of social media more than others.

Some of the key trends observed in reaching out to more customers through social media include building mobile websites, offering "limited- period, online-only" deals and discounts that turn visitors into customers and soliciting their anonymous feedback.

A great example of fully harvesting the power of social media is Chipotle. In conjunction with the firm's goal of going back to the basics, Chipotle's social media drives are geared towards local sourcing and local farms that exhibit consideration towards animals and the environment. Every year, during Halloween, Chipotle hosts a community-centric on-line "Boo-rito" contest, where participants upload pictures of themselves at a Chipotle Mexican Grill and winners are selected basis a combination of votes, tweets and such social media. The proceeds of the contest go towards FarmAid, a non-profit organization dedicated to family farmers. They also actively engage with their customers on a one-on-one basis for its social media platforms. In a Nation's Restaurant News study in 2011, it was reported that Chipotle responds to 83% of Facebook posts -- more than any other quick-service restaurant. Likewise, about 90% of the company's activity on Twitter is responding to customers. It clearly sends a strong message that they care about the "chatter".

 For companies, social media is not just about engaging the existing customers. It's also about converting even random Twitter and facebook users into customers. They must constantly keep themselves up to date with the latest trends in social media be it search engine optimization, mobile apps or competitor strategy. It's an iterative journey of engaging with customers to win their attention and loyalty - companies must adapt quickly, effectively and consistently to stay in the race.

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