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Small Companies Who Get Social Can Play with the Big Boys

Corporate giants are losing power to communities of consumers–and your company can benefit

When it comes to the evolution of the Web and of social media, keeping up seems like an impossible task for most business executives.  Nonetheless, keeping up is critically important in order to remain relevant.  The good news that I take away from a recent study by Forrester Research, is that the evolution of the "social Web" will help level the marketing playing field between large and small organizations.  The report was written by a Forrester senior analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, who is, not so coincidentally, has a terrific blog, Web Strategy.

In the past, large companies had all the cards.  They had lots of money, lots of people and lots of intrusive but effective messaging.  In the old era of in-your-face marketing, corporate giants could control results in many cases by simply outspending smaller rivals.

evolution of social web forrester researchTimes have changed.  Consumers are now a surging control via a wisdom of the crowds phenomenon.  That is, buyers now find it easy to aggregate around common interests thanks to social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

This fundamental power shift increases the impact of word-of-mouth marketing by orders of magnitude.  Shared consumer experiences are no longer limited to neighborhoods or local communities.  Rather, they have gone global.  This is good news for companies who provide great products and great customer experiences.  And, it is especially good news for small marketers can take advantage of what Forrester Research calls the new "social Web”.

Here is what Forrester Research says about the “Social Web”—from the Executive Summary of their report:

Today’s social experience is disjointed because consumers have separate identities in each social network they visit. A simple set of technologies that enable a portable identity will soon empower consumers to bring their identities with them — transforming marketing, eCommerce, CRM, and advertising. IDs are just the beginning of this transformation, in which the Web will evolve step by step from separate social sites into a shared social experience. Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate. Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM systems; eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products.

Here’s the key point: “Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM systems.” In other words, all the money and all the resources in the world won’t grab power back from the consumer.

Therefore, as a small business, you can leverage the power of the social Web to accelerate acceptance of your company and of your products and services. It’s vital that you begin to think like a social media marketer.  That begins with your blog and extends to a core set of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

One thing for sure: Having a great website is essential.  But it’s just the beginning of an effective social media strategy.  To understand why, I think you’ll find these recent posts helpful:

Learn more about the Forrester Research report in an excellent article from CRM.com: Social Media: The Five-Year Forecast, which includes extensive excerpts from an interview with Jeremiah. They emphasize the rapid and disconcerting pace of change, “Slow to gain momentum, social networking has increased dramatically in recent years and Owyang sees it continuing along a "hockey-[stick]" growth rate. "Innovation is matching adoption," he says, "and it’s going to happen very rapidly in the next few years."

In other words, fasten your social media seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. 

But, for those small businesses who can figure out how to leverage the new social Web, they will find themselves much better able to compete with even the biggest of the big boys. 

More Stories By Newt Barrett

Newt is a leading thinker on the new discipline of content marketing. He urges marketers to think like publishers by delivering essential, relevant, and timely information that makes customers smarter and wiser–and much more likely to become buyers. Newt is a successful publishing executive with more than 25 years of experience as both a manager and business owner. He has launched profitable publications in the high tech arena for both CMP and Ziff-Davis. He was an early player on the web in 1996 as Publishing Director of an early Yahoo competitor, NetGuideLive. As an entrepreneur, he launched Southwest Florida Business and BusinessNewsNow.com in the late nineties, later selling them to Gulfshore Media. His publication still thrives under its new name, Gulfshore Business. In addition to his sales and marketing skills, Newt is a published writer for Business Currents and Gulfshore Business magazines. He writes on topics as diverse as healthcare, education, public policy, growth, business best practices, and technology. He knows how to build great brands that serve client marketing needs. He is comfortable driving dramatic market-driven changes. Newt is recognized as a leader with the ability to move teams in new, unexplored directions. He is effective in high level sales and marketing conversations with senior executives in client organizations of all sizes. He delivers successful consulting engagements to improve products, people, and processes.