What’s the Social Currency of Social Media?

400 M people use Facebook, and about 50% of users log in daily.  It has 70 languages.  Twitter is growing at 65%.  A recent record was broken for Twitter (3,000 tweets per second) and YouTube (24 hours of video uploaded per minute).  But how much noise is out there?  How powerful is social media, really?

Joey Shepp, founder of Earthsite, a self-described new media company for sustainable brands, spoke on the subject at the LOHAS conference.  Engagement is the basic strategy of social currency.  Companies must 1) respond, 2) participate, 3) share and thank their communities.  These strategies lead to user-generated content (UGC), which is one of the main objectives of any social media campaign.

It’s so powerful, says Shepp, that if you engage your customers in this way, you can turn your entire brand (and company) around.  When Intuit, for example, went online in the social media sphere, 80% of comments were negative.   It was a function of the fact that many of their customers had felt they were not being listened to.  Within 3 months, they were not only able to turn it around, they were able to improve their product in many ways with feedback they’d received.

Having customers feel more ownership over your brand gives it more stability.  Figure this:  if they like you, and someone else attacks you (whether it’s on a Yelp review or your Facebook page), it’s like that person is attacking them.  And, as Shepp says, “You’ll start to see people defending you…you won’t even have to respond.”

In the media world, there’s four basic outlets for small companies:  earned media (PR), owned media (website), advertising (paid), and social media (community).  As a small company with a limited ad budget, it makes an active engagement in social media a pretty strong case.

As Shepp likes to add, though, social media can be quite a sustainable option.  There’s reduced travel, many to many communications, reduced paper use, and perhaps most importantly, it helps to hold the feet of companies to the fire….secrets are getting harder and harder to keep.

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.