Social media is forging a new era in business transparency and engagement, creating both new challenges and opportunities. Gone are the days when companies could rely on carefully crafted press releases or flashy ad campaigns to communicate with their customers, often in an attempt to convince people that their products are the best in the field.

1. From selling to making connections

Jeff Swartz, who is the President and CEO of the Timberland Company, is a great example of this. Swartz uses his Twitter account to show his personality by tweeting about his life and the social issues he is passionate about, rather than the shoes his company makes. He also links from his Twitter bio to Timberland’s Earthkeeper project that supports environmental awareness, rather than to the company homepage, in an effort to make a connection with people around something that goes beyond just the products Timberland sells.

2.  From large campaigns to small acts

With sites like Facebook and Twitter, we all essentially have our own broadcasting network, and businesses are beginning to see that rather than spending millions of dollars on traditional ad campaigns, small acts can be more valuable because people will inevitably share such experiences through the social web.

3. Being Ourselves

Of course companies need to have employee policies, and there is such a thing as bad press, but look at the most popular companies in the era of social media, and you’ll generally find the ones that give their employees freedom to be themselves in online spaces. The goal should no longer be to create a very controlled and polished image that everyone in a company tries to reinforce, but rather to give employees the means necessary to be human beings that can put a friendly face on the corporation.

4. Omnipresence

To engage with customers, it is no longer enough to have an email address and customer service number on one’s website. Today, people want to interact with and engage businesses via their chosen means of communication, whether that is Twitter, Facebook, discussion forums, or a feedback site like Get Satisfaction


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