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Why social media is important for businesses

The evolution of the Web has led companies to consider other strategies of communication – ones more flexible than traditional media, enabling them to reach wider audiences and different groups of stakeholders.

Due to the evolution of Web 2.0, we are witnessing a higher rate of information sharing, and an increased spread of tools such as blogs, wikis, social networks, and media platforms. The new generation of these applications is often called Rich Internet Applications (RIA), and they are created by using sophisticated technologies such as Macromedia Flash, Flex, and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). Web 2.0 currently plays a significant role in stakeholder engagement, generating an explosion of information through the Internet and new applications, formulating new ways of building relationships among “always online” users. It offers a set of dynamic tools allowing open dialogue, participation, co-creation, crowdsourcing, allowing improved communication between companies and their stakeholders.

Social media offer numerous opportunities to interact with a wide range of stakeholders, and some companies have taken advantage of this by encouraging their customers, suppliers, and other interested parties to engage through different social networks. Web 2.0 can increase productivity, cooperation, and innovation in a cost-effective manner - that is why it has been adopted by companies worldwide over the last decade.

Current trends include establishing a brand community in social media. Research shows that brand communities - made up of members and their relationships created by the sharing of different content - in social media positively affect brand loyalty. Brand loyalty has a key role in stakeholder engagement, fostering it will lead to the enhancement of the company`s relationships.

According to a study conducted in 2010, most public relations professionals stress the importance of social media tools for their organizations. More concretely, 77% of respondents felt Facebook and LinkedIn were important; 65% of respondents reported microblogging sites like Twitter as important; while 65% felt video sharing platforms such as YouTube were important. 

Today, as sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting is gaining momentum on the global level, an increased number of companies are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram to share information about their social and environmental performance.

The graph below shows the usage of social media in the 500 fastest-growing corporations in the U.S. While LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter maintained their leading positions from the previous year, blogging (8%), Pinterest (15%) and YouTube (20%) showed considerable growth. Similar findings were obtained in research on Eurozone companies, where 78% of the largest companies were using LinkedIn and 44% posted on an official corporate YouTube channel.**




Due to the rapidly changing digital landscape, it is likely that the use of social media has changed even further from the results above, with new applications including Snapchat and Vine growing in momentum. The social media landscape is constantly changing, with new applications and networks launched almost on a daily basis. The only thing that is certain is that social media usage is going to grow in importance for businesses.

Business Communication and Social Media provides a useful overview of social media functionalities and strategies for marketing and corporate dialogue. Students can gain practical insights into how to plan, implement, and monitor social media  effectively in a business context.

  * Barnes and Lescault (2014)

**(Bonsón and Bednárová, 2013)