After hearing rumors that the marketing and communications department that she worked in at the EMD Chemicals Inc. facility in Madison would be relocated to New Jersey, Karren Jeske noticed a job posting made by one of her connections on LinkedIn.
Jeske applied for the position at Milwaukee-based Primum Marketing and Communications. Soon thereafter, she was interviewed for the job by Primum president Collin Hutt, who then hired her.
A few days later, EMD Chemicals indeed announced that the communications and marketing department would be relocated to New Jersey. Jeske was offered to keep her job, if she would move to New Jersey. She declined. By finding the job posting on LinkedIn, Jeske was able to remain in Wisconsin as director of public relations at Primum.
Across town, the St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program in Milwaukee had struggled for a long time to attract medical students to its program. Milwaukee-based Catral Doyle Creative Co. helped the organization create a Facebook group strictly dedicated to the residency program.
“The Facebook group allows potential residents to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the program through direct access to educational videos and podcasts that the program offers,” said Erin Jende senior account executive at Catral Doyle. “It also shows them resident posts, blogs, photos and details of the resident sport leagues and a real understanding of the work/life balance the program offers.”
Since the formation of the group and the interaction with the students, St. Joseph’s has been able attract an adequate number of resident doctors.
These are just two examples of how emerging social media web sites are changing the way companies and people conduct business in southeastern Wisconsin.
Social media sites can offer more opportunities, in addition to being a creative resource for recruiting and job searches. Al Krueger, founder of Milwaukee-based Comet Branding, found nearly 90 percent of the guests for his Internet radio show through Twitter. He also was able to find local individuals, through Twitter, to share his office space.
Pam Kassner, owner of Super Pear Strategies LLC, also has gained new business and contacts from social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
Despite the benefits of social networking sites, many businesses have been slow to embrace them. The abundant number of sites, and the relative amount of freedom associated with the public profiles, seems to turn some businesspeople off.
“Structure has historically been a favorable concept in the world of business,” said Laura Monagle, director of public relations at Staples Marketing in Milwaukee. “With social media, there are essentially no rules. It is user dictated. (Users) are determining the rules. Certain industries are still trying to get their brain around it. It is scary when the users are in charge.”
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, You Tube and blogs are popping up all over. They are ever-changing and growing. Monagle likens social media to the emergence of websites in the 1990s, saying social media site usage will eventually become the norm.
Currently, 88 percent of marketers are using social media to market their businesses, but 72 percent of them have been doing it for only a few months or less, according to social media analyst Michael Stelzner.
“A good way for businesses to think about social media outlets is to consider them additional tools that can be used to conduct your business,” Monagle said. “They must fall into the strategic marketing plan. Figuring out how it can fit under the typical constructs of your business might make it a little more structured and more comfortable for a business to grasp onto.”
A company should first identify its underlying strategy for getting involved in one or more of the social media sites and to realize that each site can offer different opportunities, Monagle said.
Depending on the desired objectives, many social networking users agree that listening is a good place for most companies to start.
“Companies need to understand the environment before they can actively participate in any conversation,” said August Ray, managing director of experimental marketing at Milwaukee-based Fullhouse Interactive. “If you start by listening, it may seem like you are not engaged, but what that allows you to do is learn what people are saying and how they are talking about things.”
“The key thing to remember is that there are thousands of people using social media either for their own personal uses or to make business connections,” Krueger said. “Some of those people might be your potential clients. It’s important to realize that there is a conversation going on out there, so businesses can choose to be actively engaged in the conversation, or simply just listening. But either way, it’s going on with or without you.”
Social media outlets can be a great way to market a brand or product, particularly in a down economy. However, businesses should remain cautious about their investment of time in that “free” media, Monagle said.
“Just like anything else, it isn’t going to happen overnight. Individuals should expect to wait a few months to see the benefits of these types of sites,” she said. “And just like anything else, after six months to a year, if those tools haven’t developed, maybe that’s not the right space for the company, and things should be re-evaluated.”
Choosing the right outlet
“What businesses need to realize is that with the advent of social media, what was once a typical one-way conversation between marketers and their customers is now a two-way one,” Krueger said. “People really want to connect with people. Social media is an area where people want to feel like a member of a club. They want to feel connected, and be able to relate to a personality, even if that personality is a company.”
According to Krueger, companies often make the mistake of representing themselves in these avenues as a “faceless gray box.”
Depending on which social media sites companies decide to get involved with, there are varying degrees of personal connectedness that is expected.
“Historically, LinkedIn has been the most accepted by business executives,” Monagle said. “I think because it is the most controlled space, and it’s really not a whole lot unlike the way people do sales and networking anyway. It takes what they already do and puts it in an electronic space.”
“To really leverage the power of LinkedIn, you need to spend an hour or so every week, joining groups, talking to people, getting introduced and being involved in the process,” said Katie Felton, LinkedIn trainer and account manager at Milwaukee-based PatientCare.
Facebook was originally designed as a social networking site for college students, which is why it has a reputation for being too socially-oriented for business purposes, said Sue Spaight Moorhead, director of strategy and planning at Milwaukee-based Jigsaw LLC.
“Not every company should be on Facebook, but it works well for those companies with a large group of brand followers, like Harley-Davidson, or those companies trying to market towards the 18 to 35 age group,” she said.
According to Monagle, companies that offer a consumer product, are art and entertainment related or host a lot of advocacy events can find a great avenue in Facebook.
Twitter, if used correctly, can be a more valuable method of social media, because it allows you to connect with people you don’t personally know, Krueger said.
“LinkedIn works well as an online resume, but within the realm of both LinkedIn and Facebook, you can only connect with people you have either met before or who approve your connect request. Twitter is a lot more open,” Krueger said.
On Twitter, companies should focus on ways they can promote their brand while still offering useful and relevant information to the individuals receiving their “tweets,” Monagle said.
“Think of the brand promotion possibilities for companies with customers on Twitter,” Krueger said. “It offers an incredible opportunity for real-time customer service. Companies will be able to promote their brand in their customers’ chosen medium. The communication opportunities available with these media outlets are endless.”
Top social networking sites
The sites listed in the chart are ranked as the top 25 networking sites for February 2009, according to Nielsen Online. The red numbers indicate a decrease in unique visitors from the last survey conducted in December of 2008. Facebook recently passed MySpace as the No. 1 networking site in both amount of unique visitors as well as the average time spent on the site. Twitter.com is the fastest-growing social networking site moving up from No. 12 on the list in December to No. 6 and increasing its number of unique visitors from 2.5 million to more than 7 million in less than two months.
February of 2009 December of 2008
Site Unique Audience (000s) Time per Person (hh:mm:ss) Unique Audience (000) Time per Person (hh:mm:ss)
Facebook 65,704 2:59:55 55,217 2:07:58
Myspace.com 54,164 1:35:31 58,418 1:40:17
Classmates Online 15,545 0:08:12 15,143 0:07:27
LinkedIn 13,418 0:12:26 11,814 0:13:11
Reunion.com 11,220 0:04:12 11,733 0:04:53
Twitter.com 7,038 0:08:07 2,665 0:07:46
Club Penguin 6,073 0:40:07 6,835 0:37:46
Ning 3,944 0:13:56 3,017 0:13:07
AOL Community 3,637 0:10:29 4,775 0:12:48
Tagged.com 3,488 1:16:33 3,884 0:46:53
Bebo 3,165 0:11:17 2,368 0:09:04
Imeem 2,665 0:06:57 2,545 0:09:52
Flixster 2,520 0:12:30 2,923 0:03:04
Multiply 2,394 0:06:34 n/a n/a
Last.fm 2,262 0:03:41 2,527 0:04:01
MyYearbook 2,248 1:01:17 2,427 1:49:49
Meetup.com 2,216 0:07:33 2,110 0:07:38
Care2.com 2,120 0:03:55 2,002 0:03:30
CarDomain Network 1,627 0:03:00 N/A N/A
Gaia Online 1,544 4:06:10 1,709 2:09:54
Source: Nielsen Online