Can Social Media Impact Business?

Back in 2006, how many of us thought Twitter was just a fad? How about Facebook being just for kids? And LinkedIn a nice resume website? Be honest. Most of us thought they were interesting and even entertaining. But could they really impact business? Could they help grow revenues? Are they even viable companies themselves that can generate profits?

Yes. Yes. Yes. We have now come to understand that social media is a means of interaction among people in which they create, share and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Now, take out the word “virtual” and what do you have? The most famous bar and TV show from the 1980s, “where everybody knows your name.” Yes, the concepts and practices we call social media today are similar to “Cheers” and have been practiced for centuries. Social media just makes it a lot faster, more frequent and more forceful….Fortunately without the hangover!

When explaining the power of social media to CEOs today, the best analogy comes from a social media guru wRatings works with, Barbara Gray. She reminds us to think back to 1982 when Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published the bestselling book “In Search of Excellence.” 

In describing the management practices at Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s, the authors coined the term “management by wandering around” (MBWA) to spotlight how leaders made spontaneous visits to find out what’s happening. Today, CEOs can simply read their Twitter feeds or browse their Facebook page to instantly achieve MBWA. Almost all CEOs know the power of MBWA.

Social media impact is not based on the number of Twitter followers or Facebook “likes.” Social media is about creating authentic, transparent and emotional relationships with customers. This occurs in every single interaction your business has.

Who does this well? Zappos is pretty darn good. Starbucks is, too, as well as lululemon (at least until taking transparency to a new level). A company can operate without being authentic and transparent, but in the era of social media the risks to business are high.

Gary A. Williams is founder & CEO for wRatings. For more information go to Also, see Williams’ keynote presentation at the 2013 Retail Executive Summit on June 20 in San Diego, CA.
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