With Facebook putting some of their shares on the market in May 2012, it is difficult to avoid news about social media, such as Twitter and Facebook

Stories about the impact of social media have been many and varied including:

  • Arguments between sports personalities about incidents on the field.
  • The fuelling of London riots in 2011.
  • The imprisonment of a University student for a racist remark.
  • The mobilisation of thousands of protestors in several nations during the “Arab Spring”.

There is so much ‘hype’ and mis-information about social media; it can be difficult for businesses to decide how they should participate. Counter to the ‘hype’ there is also prejudice against social media; it is often attacked for being trivial

One sad and unlikely event in the news recently may prove to be significant in the development of social media in that it demonstrates both the power of social media and its ability to be used for a worthy cause

During the London Marathon in April 2012, a young, fit lady call Claire Squires collapsed and never regained consciousness. Her page on the “JustGiving” charity website said “I’m running the London marathon for the Samaritans because they continuously support others”. Her message to friends was “It’s a fab opportunity to raise money for my charity, the Samaritans. If everyone I know could donate £5 that would be a great help and change lives”. She is thought to have been hoping to raise £500

In addition to news bulletins on TV and radio, news of Claire spread very quickly on social media and donations began to pour in from every continent. By 22nd May there had been over 80,000 donations (many of them anonymous), raising more than £930,000. Her “JustGiving” page is now full of tributes and has become an online shrine which is moving and inspiring.

So what does this have to do with business? The most significant aspects of this story are:

  • News can spread very rapidly on social media because a message in the hands of a single user can be passed on to their network of friends or contacts in an instant.
  • Social media do not have to be limited to dealing with trivia.

The most vocal critics of social media are often those who have never experimented with them and have an innate prejudice against them. Their most common points are:

  • “I don’t want to hear what everybody has had for their lunch”
  • “I haven’t got time to spend all day on Twitter and Facebook”

Intelligent businesses are beginning to realise that adding social media to their marketing mix is a sensible, easy and valuable thing to do. If you already have a few methods of getting business and they work, our advice is to keep using them, but experiment with some other marketing channels as well.

Social media, handled correctly, could be a sensible, inexpensive and very effective addition to your marketing activity.