Recently, I was watching a Film Annex interview with a woman who works at an information communication company in Germany (or an IT company to those in America). Her comments were fairly on par with most other interviewees: she is impressed with Film Annex's initiatives in Iraq, she believes that digital communication is necessary for all countries, and so on. However, the thing that most caught my attention was that her company had not yet established a social media presence. According to her, they are still fairly “old-fashioned—just using emails and stuff like that.”
First of all, I think it's amazing that we've reached an age where one can consider email an “old-fashioned” concept. It also got me thinking about the role that social media plays in the business world. In the last few years it has really become essential for businesses to create and promote their presence in the realm of social media in order to remain competitive in the modern global marketplace.
Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ can serve to strengthen a business in several ways:*
- Advertising and brand awareness. This is probably the most traditional service these sites can offer. Businesses can create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to promote themselves to other users and potential customers. Social media users can “Like” a company page on Facebook or “Follow” a company's Twitter account to receive updates and information about new products being offered.
- Customer engagement. With sites like Facebook, companies can integrate things like surveys and games into their online presence, allowing social media users and current customers to interact with their product. As opposed to the passive activity of watching an advertisement, interactive activities makes the user feel included in the brand, and therefore much more likely to purchase it.
- Word of Mouth. Sometimes, a company doesn't have to do anything at all in order to promote themselves. Social media allows customers to comment about recent experiences they've had and share it with their friends. If a company provides an excellent service or product, satisfied customers may share their experience with their circles.
- Problem-solving and prevention. With the positive word of mouth, of course the opposite can also happen. Even if a business strives to please all their customers 100% of the time, inevitably someone will be displeased with his or her experience. Through careful monitoring and critical thinking, businesses can use social media to identify and resolve current problems, as well as extrapolate potential issues from current complaints, thereby preventing dissatisfaction. In a sense, social media allows businesses to look through a spyglass directly at their customers, find where the problems are, and resolve them before the bad publicity has a chance to dig into their reputation.
*This list is inspired by ideas found in Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, by Eric Qualman
These are just some of the benefits that some of the social media sites can offer. Of course, this list doesn't even consider the social media subcategory of user-generated video sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo. Not only can businesses use these sites to showcase commercials of unlimited length without the hassle and expense of purchasing air time, but they can also use infrastructures like YouTube's partner program to add short commercials to the beginning of popular user-generated videos.
Film Annex takes the user-generated/business-sponsored formula to a whole new level. The standards required to post a project to Film Annex are a bit more rigid than YouTube (proper, professional films subject to review only--no thirty second clips of keyboard-playing cats or sneezing pandas allowed). Film Annex serves as a conduit between filmmakers and business sponsors. By placing an ad at the beginning of a film, the filmmaker earns money based on how many times the film is viewed. Therefore, the filmmaker will be promoting the film, which in turn gives the sponsor's product more exposure. To facilitate this process, Film Annex has integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, allowing users to share what they have been watching across multiple social media platforms directly from a single Film Annex page. It is a prime example of word of mouth, both for Film Annex and, by proxy, the businesses that sponsor the film.
An example of the Film Annex model. This is a professionally produced film, with a single ad running in front of it. Some ads can even be interactive, including surveys and clickable content for more information.
Social media is essential for all businesses hoping to make a go of it in the world today. It allows customers to not only learn about a business, but interact with it in the form of reviews, games, or videos. It also lets a business reach out to their customers, providing support and improvements based on the customers' thoughts and feedback. In the case of Film Annex, they provide a format for independent filmmakers to not only showcase their work, but to easily integrate with and promote the businesses that get involved with Film Annex to sponsor these films. In my opinion, that is the truest example of a “win-win” in the social media market today.