In the entertainment field, radio is normally a passive medium — unless it’s talk radio where listeners can call in. Television was until recently equally passive. But you can actually interact with a television with a remote, just like using a light pen, although such activities are still rare and expensive. Television does get into mixed media, where viewers can twitter remarks during a show which are posted on a banner during the show. Viewers can also vote on shows in progress via the Worldwide Web or text messages from their phones. These media are important for business when it comes to advertising.
The main way of thinking, however, is that social media are on the Internet, in the form of blogs, social networks, instant messaging, chat games, photo and video sharing and forums. These afford quick interaction in real time, often even faster than phone calls. Social media covers social network sites, background checks, chat games, blogs, forums and instant messaging. But it can also include any business interaction with the public through media. This is most often accomplished by “cloud hosting”, the new buzz word for interactions which use the Internet as the medium. These media are a great tool for business.
Hiring managers usually search a prospective employee’s name on the Internet to get more of a feeling of what the person is like. They can even subscribe to a background checker that will not only return demographics, but service and criminal records. They also frequently Google-search a prospective employee to determine if the person is suitable for that company.
Just as in the 1990s, when employers discovered the benefits of having a corporate Web site, they are now enabling chat online for help in purchases or troubleshooting. They are also triggering surveys to see how the public is reacting to their products and Web site. Virtually every entertainment idol, television show and corporation is an active participant on social networks such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. Within a company, employees are finding it easier to get contact with other employees using an instant messaging application.
Businesses use teleconferencing extensively, so that they can see demonstrations without traveling all over the country. This way, the presenter can be watched, information and charts can be shared, and questions can be fielded without regard for the distance between participants.
Social media is a great way to increase productivity, cut costs, and increase sales. When an employee does not need to travel, with the company paying for flights, hotels and meals, meetings take far less of an employee’s time and less of the company’s costs. Sales personnel can use social media to offer presentations, show clients particular samples the clients are interested in purchasing, and handle orders instantly, instead of mailing orders back to the home office; estimates, invoices and schedules can be sent immediately to the client. Such efficiency not only avoids human error and saves costs, but many clients feel more comfortable trusting the company.
Those businesses which have not yet taken advantage of social media should try some of the examples above, or perhaps hire a technology consultant to customize the benefits to the business.