Erik Qualman, MBA ’99, spent 15 years building the online marketing strategies of leading brands, including Yahoo and Earthlink. As someone who has always valued the possibilities of the Internet in business, he’s kept a close watch on how avenues of social media have exploded in recent years. The result of his work and research on the topic is “Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business” (Wiley 2009).
From a business perspective, social media has demonstrated an ability to influence how products are marketed and sold. But Qualman suggests it also can eliminate inefficient marketing middlemen, making better products that are cheaper for the consumers.
He suggests businesses begin their social media strategies by making use of free tools: creating a Facebook fan page, opening a Twitter account or creating a company Wikipedia page.
“The key during this discovery phase is to listen to the customer,” he says. “They will tell you how they use these channels and what they expect from you and your products and services.”
The dynamics of business and customer interaction are changing fundamentally, with consumers using social media channels to offer feedback on products and indicate preferences in real time, Qualman says. The companies that will win the “socialnomics” revolution, Qualman says, are those that are responsive to this feedback and allow customers to take ownership of and catalyze change for their brands.
“Don’t try and recreate the wheel. Look at what some of the more progressive companies are doing and see if you can apply it to your business,” he says. “Build light beta pieces and see what works rather than building out glorious and complicated pieces that you hope will work. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—that is the best way to learn.”
— Behnaz Abolmaali