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How Social Media is more Than Just an Advertising Vehicle for Businesses


Social media is, without a doubt, an important aspect of modern day business. But how important it actually is might surprise you. These days, using social media is no longer as simple as putting a company page on Facebook and asking for likes. It’s become a source of ideas, corporate image rehabilitation, and most surprisingly, competition spying.

By interpreting online conversations, companies can try to correlate those interactions with sales trends and find out how to adjust their marketing. They can also target specific people based on whatever information received from social media. Soliciting those individuals can either increase sales or drive up awareness of the company. Ford Motor Co. is one such company that incorporated this method of utilizing social media to gain an advantage. You’ve doubtless seen or heard of hands-free lift gates that some cars sport. Ford was actually sitting on that feature for a long time while they figured out whether it was wanted enough to be economically viable. They searched their own forums (searching social media giants like Facebook or Twitter for the feasibility of that one specific feature would have yielded too much data to go through in their timespan) for discussions on the feature.

Being able to comb through discussions on a similar topic is a great tool, and also one that was introduced in class. Just as republican blogs tend to lead to other republican blogs and democratic blogs lead to democratic blogs, searching for discussions on a specific feature is relatively simple, given a high-speed server. Once certain keywords are found, references to other talks about the topic are easily accessed. Using appropriate algorithms to do this can give a company invaluable information about their products.

One major aspect of using social media that I found most surprising was that companies use it to find out information about other companies. A company X, can “track the LinkedIn connections” of competitor company Y to find out what specific markets Y is trying to access. Another interesting form of “company spying” is to study their competitor’s customers. If X sees what Y’s customers want and how their social circles feel about specific goods and services, X can jump on specific ideas before Y and control certain markets.

The idea that social media is used by companies is nothing new, but most people would figure that it is used solely for advertising. In this new, fast-paced, online age we’re in, social networks and interactions have proved to be important to a variety of business decisions. Companies now have to adapt to new methods of using social media and networks, not just to gain a competitive advantage, but to even the playing field.


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September 2014