Early adopters of any new media outlet always seem to fight the growing pains that come with the success of popular websites. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are perfect examples. It is generally inevitable that rapidly growing websites will be embraced (and sometimes expoilted by) by businesses seeking to leverage the user base to sell their products and services. Traditional media has been no different over the past decades. Newspapers, TV, etc. all exist to share information. Gradually, as the readership/viewership grows a gradual influx of commercialization happens (i.e. selling advertising).
This is exactly what we see with the use of social media sites and Web 2.0 interaction. Traditional media and the web use to be “read only” platforms. Now, users can interact, share information, etc. in real time. As I refer to commercialization in this context, I am not even talking about the actual revenue models of these sites. That is a whole other topic. For example, when Facebook started posting advertising there was an immediate backlash from some users. Many are still not that comfortable with it? Why? In my opinion if a user doesn’t care for the advertising they should simply ignore it…no big deal. People seem to forget that when sites like Facebook were created the idea was to some day make money with them, or sell them to a company (for a huge valuation) that would implement various revenue streams (i.e. selling advertising).
When speaking about commercialization, I am referring to how users interact with these sites in order to communicate a message. Social media marketing exists as a strategy to use social networks and rich media on the web to communicate a brand message and eventually gain a following of customers. As social sites like Twitter grow (the user base grew well over 1000% in the last 12 months), it is inevitable that people will use them to promote their companies…or themselves. That is simple a historical fact. If this were not the case, these sites would not be experiencing the growth they are used to. We are social creatures and it is our nature to communicate. It is also our nature to utlize the resource around us to succeed.
Social networks and online social communities are all about value and communication. For someone seeking to use social media as a marketing strategy, one must understand the rules and respect the purpose for which the community exists. For example, a site like Twitter was not designed to promote any given service or product. Therefore, one must respect that reality and gain a trusted following by actually providing value to the community before sending a “commercial” message. There are endless tips and “how to’s” out there about how to be a good Tweeter but the basics are very simple. Show respect and respect will be shown to you.