I don’t believe that every company should heedlessly integrate social media tools as part of their marketing. To be done successfully there is a certain level of expertise and a continuous commitment to create content that could take away from other, possibly more important, activities. If a small business with limited resources has enough work with their current clients and already has sufficient means of contact and interaction with their publics, it would probably be best to not to jump on the social media merry-go-round of creating content.
For large companies with strong brands I would say it is essential , at the very least, to monitor social media networks for negative conversations about their product or brand. An example of brand bashing was the Twitter rant of Heather Armstrong of dooce.com about her Maytag washing machine that wouldn’t work and the company refused to fix despite the service plan that she had purchased. On a side note, Heather’s original claim to fame was getting fired for work related posts on her personal blog, which has now become her full-time employment.
Companies working to strengthen their brand or individuals attempting to establish themselves as experts would benefit most from the interactive nature of social media and should make it a high priority and dedicate the necessary resources.
The best place to begin for any business that is unsure would be a SWOT Analysis to create a clear picture of the Pros and Cons of investing the time and effort into a social media presence.
Strengths – What internal advantages do you have? Expert personnel? Smart phones?
Weaknesses – What internal disadvantages exist? Staff resistance? Out dated equipment?
Opportunities – What externally could improve profits? Potential clients on Twitter? Customers asking if you have a Facebook page?
Threats – What externally could cause trouble for the company? Parody account on Twitter? Competition already has a strong presence?
After looking at social media as a whole and determining what type of priority it is and how much time and money can be put behind it, then it must be broken down into the different networks (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc) and they must be prioritized as well. It’s also necessary to regularly reevaluate these networks as things can quickly change, just ask MySpace.
A sound and well thought out plan will be a map to start a strong positive presence in the online world which needs to translate to positive associations and connections in the offline world. That is why it is essential to create specific measurable goals as part of the plan.
Do your research, put your money on the right horse and you might come in a winner, but don’t spread your resources too thin: Know Your Limit, Stay Within It!