As any petfood professional knows, success takes an investment of time, money and effort. Social media is quickly becoming a new cornerstone for branding, sales growth and PR, but what exactly is the real value of social media (Figure 1)? What your company needs are insights on how to develop and maintain a strong social presence on the internet, using its various platforms.

A majority of companies are using at least one social media channel to promote their brands. Adoption of multichannel social media strategies is on the rise as businesses begin to realize how to leverage one social media channel, such as Twitter, to promote engagement with another channel, such as a company blog, according to Social media is simply a communications medium that provides interaction. This can be anything from sharing links, adding friends, joining groups and discussions, and uploading photos and videos.

How can such simple online interaction between businesses and consumers impact your company and its brands (Figure 2)? According to the Society for New Communications Research, 75% of people make purchase decisions based on customer comments they find online. But in the grand scheme of things, we have yet to realize the full potential of these new communication channels.

Implementing a social media strategy for your business requires skill to integrate multimedia and marketing and, although many tools are free, a budget to implement your plan. Once your plan is in place, it's time to focus on what you'd like to accomplish with your newly established online presence. According to Julie Lenzer Kirk of Path Forward International, the corporate uses of social media are:

  1. Building your brand.  Share industry information, customer testimonials and highlight community events. This is a chance to really personalize your company.
  2. Keeping in touch with current customers.  Communicate news, promote specials, solicit feedback and research your market!
  3. Monitoring what people are saying about your company and products.  Answer questions consumers have about your products and keep track of complaints. Social media provides you with the ability to respond.
The potential to influence purchasing decisions, drive new customers to your websites and engage stakeholders in an open dialog are all benefits of implementing a social media plan. Social media is a powerful business tool as long as you have equipped your company with the knowledge to use it.

Online presentations!

Check out all of Julie Lenzer Kirk’s Virtual Petfood Forum presentation, "Innovation in marketing: exploring social and online media" and's "The Bloody Truth About Social Media."