Twitter has taken over. After nearly five years of existence, Twitter has become something more than an outlet for celebs to talk about the fabulous lives they lead, or a platform for political activists and citizen journalists around the world.
Today, big companies are eager to become involved. And in the process they're creating a whole new occupation for techno-savvy workers.
"It's transforming the way we do business," said Arik Flanders, social media program manager and Internet marketing program manager for Texas Instruments.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr allow businesses the chance to connect with their audiences on a deeper level. No longer limited by television commercials and radio ads, advertising is a two-way dialogue. Businesses are eager to bridge the digital divide. More and more jobs are being created to help older companies adapt to newer technology.
It's not all fun and games, however. Social media jobs require an open mind, creativity, and thick skin.
"It takes a lot of maturity to speak on behalf of a brand," said Neiman Marcus Social Media Managing Editor Jean Scheidnes. "Especially to handle the criticism and customer service issues that may arise."
The ability to write well is also a must according to Scheidnes. Conversational skills, a strong work ethic and a sense of urgency are necessary to work in the social media field.
"To get involved in the social media space, you really have to enjoy it," Flanders said. "You've got to enjoy the tools and be an early adaptor to technology."
In the past, push marketing was the go-to strategy among elite businesses. Companies decided what products consumers needed to buy and when they needed to buy them.
Today, this isn't the case. Social media has created a two-way communication channel, one that helps consumers find their voice.
"Now that consumers have a way to talk to you as a business, you better be listening," said Cynthia Smoot, marketing strategist and social media director for Gangway Advertising in Dallas.
It's not just about creating a dialogue.
Social Media helps companies boost their search optimization, giving more attention to their brand. Google recently created a search engine powered by social media recommendations. Google Social Search helps users discover relevant content from social media connections. Through Twitter followers, Facebook links and favored blogs, Google recommends things of interest based on things users already like.
"Social media has a one to one relationship," Flanders said. "Google is constantly changing their algorithms, but they always index pages that are constantly updated."
Five years ago, Twitter didn't exist and Facebook was mostly used among college students as a way to connect with their friends and classmates.
Today, Facebook has more than 500 million active users and Twitter reported in April 2010 that new users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day.
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