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Focusing on Social Media

Originally published: 07.01.09 by Terry Tanker

If you have a heartbeat, you are exposed to social media on a daily basis either because you are actively engaging the technology, or because you simply can’t avoid hearing about it in print, online, or on your favorite broadcast.

Some of the most notable – Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube — initially were very popular with 18-24 year olds, and LinkedIn appeared to cater to business professionals who wanted to network in a new and more efficient way. However, all seem to have crossed over, and if you have set up one account, you’ve probably set up all four.

The latest and greatest is Twitter, the micro messenger (140 characters or less) that enables users to answer one question: “What are you doing”? Answers to this question are, for the most part, rhetorical. In other words, users do not expect a response when they “tweet” — send a message to Twitter. On the receiving end, Twitter is ambient — updates are sent to your phone, instant messenger, or Web site, and you are expected to pay as much or as little attention to them as you see fit.

Twitter’s growth is nothing short of astonishing. One year ago, it had 2 million users. Today it has 32 million.

Fortune 500 companies all the way down to momand- pop shops are learning how to take advantage of all that social media has to offer. And just like the Internet, it’s here

to stay. Learning how to take advantage of these different customer touch points will be key to research, sales, marketing, branding, and communications strategies for every company.

Some industries, such as local retail, will be transformed by Twitter — both at one-store operations that cater to customers within a few blocks of their locations, and at the individual stores of giant retail operations such as Wal-Mart. In either case, the opportunity to tell customers about attractive sales, products, and services can be done at a remarkably low cost. It also provides for greater geographic accuracy because Twitter users can follow local businesses and companies closely by ZIP code – perfect for hvacr contractors. The hyperlocal marketing aspects of Twitter have the potential to move billions of dollars of business to and from retailers based on targeted marketing.

Advertisers use print — whether outdoor, magazine, or newspaper — because of low cost and excellent reach. However, measuring ROI has always been a challenge. For example, billboard marketers could merely survey whether people remembered what they saw on outdoor ads and measure the number of cars that passed a sign on a given day. Using Twitter opens up the possibility to make a very large and difficult medium to measure – measurable by offering incentives to Twitter users who report seeing the advertiser’s message. And, maybe even more importantly information on who responded.

In the coming months, we have more than a half-dozen articles planned that will be dedicated to explaining the advantages and opportunities available to you through the social media. We will strive to ease your fears as well as give you step-by-step instructions on how to set up accounts for your business and manage the outcome. Stay tuned. There is much more on this topic heading your way.

Terry has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming Hutchinson Tanker Ltd. and HVACR Business in January 2006, he spent 20 years with a large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace. In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, AMCA and ABMA. He currently serves on the board of N.A.T.E (North American Technicians Excellence Association). He has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Boiler Manufactures Association (ABMA) and as chairman for both the Associates Committee and the Marketing Communications Committee.

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