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Generally, social media tools give you the power to connect to people, organizations, and companies that you want to follow or support, but it is usually impersonal, not face-to-face and you can create relationships without ever meeting. Some people believe that social media is much too computer based and it takes away from meeting people the “old-fashioned” way.

The Swedish mobile software and design firm, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), is attempting to bridge this gap with a new facial recognition application available for Android phones that will allow you to take pictures of individuals on your phone and through your app you can search which social networking sites that individual is participating on and gain access to their information.

The new app is called Recognizr. There is a lot of controversy over privacy issues and opposition to this application, but according to TAT, it can only work if both parties have subscribed to the service and you can set specific privacy levels. Privacy concerns also bring up the issue that if you do not want people in social media networks or the Internet to have access to information posted, you should not post it at all.

How does this relate to organizations? Well, Recognizr is available for cell phone manufacturers and cell service providers to buy and distribute to their users; meaning this can generate better user experiences for their customers. You can also, when meeting people in person, take a picture of them and directly to connect to them on their networks. So whether you make a new friend or you are at a business meeting with a guest speaker, you can instantly begin your social media relationship.

Popsci explains how it works with augmented identity, but the video below seems to be the best visual demonstration.

Facebook is also using a similar application using facial recognition where it will search your friends and your networks for pictures with you in them and will tag them for you. It will also tag pictures of your friends and find “unknowns” in your network. This application is called Photo Finder; it follows the privacy settings already set to your Facebook page and also only allows people to see the auto-tagged pictures if they are using the application as well.

Do this mean that, if not now, that our future employers can search our name and see all of the pictures that have been “untagged” if our privacy settings are not as tight as they should be?

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You could have a very successful business, but being unaware of what not to do could end up tarnishing your reputation or destroying your company all together.

Along with Burger King, there were other instances of failure by companies attempting to use social media innovatively. Skittles for example changed their website homepage to their Twitter feed. It was a constant update of other people opinions but it was passive and not engaging – most importantly, they forgot about their audience and the need to reach out to them to establish the relationship, not the other way around.

This already breaks most of the guidelines I’ve shared before…. They led with a tool. There was no push to create a sense of community with added value in their social media tactics,  or to show interest not only in what your audience says but respond to them – generate a lasting connection deeper than brand recognition. They didn’t show you are listening, or build trust. Another element Skittle’s tactic is missing is transparency; it’s not a look into the company as a whole or into the life of the CEO – there’s no face, no value to the Twitter feed, when they aren’t interacting as well.

What you need to avoid when using social media to build relationships with stakeholders… Even if you aren’t going to implement a social media strategy, you want to listen to what your audience is saying; they are going to talk about you no matter what, avoiding it would only be a missed opportunity. Secondly, if you are going to respond to your audiences’ comments and interact, don’t be fake- you need to be a real person, with real intentions of establishing a relationship. However, you don’t want to be too “real” as to overstep the boundaries of the already established guidelines of these online communities – be an informed user. You also want to avoid thinking of this relationship as a short-term goal or a means to a sale. This means that you should not be thinking in terms of selling your product, but instead, understanding your audience so they make the decision to invest, buy, or follow your brand. Also, your company needs to approach social media together as one; avoid different teams using different media and sending different messages. Lastly, do not forget that you are trying to accomplish a goal with your social media presence; therefore you must have a way to measure your progress.

But it is most important to remember- you’re biggest mistake is fearing the use of social media. Yes, it does take time, experience, and extra responsibility and yes, it does put the power in the hands of your audience.  The risks do not outweigh the benefits. The value of transparency and more intimate relationships is greater than be afraid to allow your employees too much access to the internet during work hours. The negative criticisms are important feedback to work with in terms of bettering your company. A law suit is little to be afraid of if everyone has the right training on social media etiquette and as long as your guidelines for social media interaction reflect those already in place in your organization, the power to have a voice won’t be abused.

Skittles has since changed their website, full of YouTube videos, links to their Facebook and Twitter, eye-catching pictures and invitation to interact. This is a more successful way to engage your customers – plus, it’s an experience where you can almost “Taste the Rainbow!”

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As we all know by now, social media opens up new doors for businesses large and small; but who is pushing the limits and creating their own opportunities and becoming a “Big Brand” in the new world of social media?

Blendtec’s “Will it Blend?” campaign promotes its blender and similar products on YouTube as a way to market in low cost manner. Tom Dickinson, the CEO, attempts to blend objects such as an iPhone, 50 marbles, an air soft gun with bee bees, all of which end up as dust. These videos are short, silly portrayals of how this blender will work with anything you throw into it. Blendtec’s YouTube videos, also Facebook and Twitter pages,  were successful in setting their products apart from others like it in a creative and innovative way using social media that resulted in positive feedback and increased business.

Burger King is another company that has been testing the waters of social media, and marketing in general for that matter. I’m sure you all have seen the string of “Whopper Virgin” commercials on TV and perhaps even visited the website; well, following this campaign they began a Facebook application where you could sacrifice 10 friends by removing them from your friends list, to win a free whopper. The application quickly gained over 20,000 users who sacrificed over 200,000 friends. However, because of privacy issues, Facebook had to take away the application. Burger King did use a different concept than social network users are used to though, because instead of inviting friends to the app or gaining new friends, which is what these networking sites are intended for, they had you delete friends to promote the legendary Whopper.

Another great example of testing social media is Ford when promoting their new Fiesta. They gave 100 people, in their twenties, each models of the car in hopes that they would share their experiences with it over a six month period. None of their volunteers had any experience with advertising and this tactic was especially more risky than those of Blendtec and Burger King, because they were not sending the messages, their customers were. This I think is the true nature of social media, allowing the audience to have control of the messages. Ford could have received a great amount of backlash and a huge tarnish on their reputation, but in this economy and struggling times, they sought to start from the bottom, let the people do the talking for them and hope for the best. It was complete transparency into their flaws and into the true “Ford experience.”

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Social media is imperative in building relationships with your stakeholders; the success of your social media strategies depend on how well you know your audience and the “face” behind the organization that wants to get to know them better.

Once you realize that the reason to use social media is because that where your audience is, you can then ask yourself “What is the best technology to reach them?”

You can understand the necessity of utilizing social media tools to grow as an organization in today’s society, but understanding your audience is key – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn may all be great outlets, but unless your audience is there, you won’t have much success.

Relevant Social Media (video below) tells us that Generations X, Y, and Z are all prevalent on social media networking sites as well as the Baby Boomers, and the World War II generation- that’s all ages ranging from around 13 to 65 and over. The trick is to locate them; target audiences are not only divided by age but interests, professions, location etc.

We all want to create relationships with people who are interested in us as much as we are interested in them – it is no different for an organization. The age of the one-to-many communication is over, organizations must be inviting and engage their audience on a personal level.

The goal of social media is to create a sense of community by providing added value through your social media tactics and build trust with your stakeholders to establish a foundation for a relationship. Relationships with your audience will keep customers or employees coming back, generate word of mouth, and allow the audience to interact with the organization – through this, they are the ones to build your brand.

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