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Last month at Lithium's Network Conference, Lyle Fong, Lithium's co-founder, reiterated how we have to start to look differently at how businesses use social media for marketing and support.

In order to be successful, the four "gears" of acquisition, engagement, enlistment, and monetization have to all spin equally. But in order to get there, you have to get them moving in a specific order depending on your purpose.

Marketing and social media

In the case of marketing, users need to be enticed to come (acquisition). The next step is to harness the passion of your customers as that will help drive purchases and buzz. If you move out of order or try to monetize too fast, then your marketing will fail.

For example, Fox TV determined their business drivers as offering better programming and having the best scheduling based on what their community needs. So it is changing its focus on distribution and servicing to incorporate more interaction with customers.

In fact, American Idol's community leader said they built the community to make money. But the money didn't come first. First, it met the needs of a loyal community including integrating their feedback into the next week's programming. The rest followed.

Using social media and community for support

For support, you need to reverse this. Users come to you with a purpose, and their expertise is most valued especially when they become part of your community. This will drive down the cost of service and will help build a better experience for all of your customers.

Skype, for instance, has 247 million connected users per month. Each year these users make 300 billion minutes of voice and video calls with 40 million users online at peak times.

With this many people using Skype's service, online support is important though that has not always been the case. Since 2010, when Skype put community at its core, there has been a fundamental shift in online support. There are now 155 million online interactions per year support.skype.com, 30 million community visits per year community.skype.com and 1.5 million chat and email conversations per year with the average response time under 40 seconds.

By enabling the community and providing more of the support through influencers rather than one on one, Skype's online support has become more successful. As Skype is now proactive about support and harnesses the expertise of users, Skype's users are now impacting every part of the business and are influencing the product being developed.

So when you are looking at social media and how it works within your business, it is important to determine your end goal. By moving too fast or too soon, your efforts may be wasted and your business may suffer as a result.

Heather Taylor

Published 1 June, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

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