Soldierfit, a military-style physical fitness program in Frederick, uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate with its “troops” or members, giving them information on classes, weather-related cancellations, and upcoming events.
As a new member to Soldierfit, having a Facebook page or Twitter account is an asset. Not only does every new “Battle Buddy” member get a special welcome on Facebook, but they get a wealth of fitness information, said Chris Anderson, a salesman with Soldierfit in Frederick.
“It’s a way to communicate with them,” Anderson said. “It’s amazing how social media does work.”
Social media may be a recent phenomenon, but they are becoming increasingly vital for companies to effectively do business.
Businesses that traditionally used a website, newspaper or radio to market their company, are now using social media to reach more people faster. No longer a passing trend, it has become a popular way to do business in today’s competitive climate.
According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 94 percent of all businesses with a marketing department used social media. Of that, 58 percent of businesses that have used social media marketing over three years reported an increase in sales over that same time frame.
Social Media Examiner, an online social media magazine, surveyed 3,800 businesses nationwide for its industry report last year.
Sites such as Facebook, launched in 2004 to communicate with friends; Twitter, created in 2006 to enable users to send and read text message called “Tweets”; LinkedIn, formed in 2003 as a networking site for professionals; and YouTube, which debuted in 2005 as a video-sharing website, have all become commonplace in the business world.
“Social networking and social media is more important than ever,” said Dawn Meade, a marketing and media coordinator with Net-AV, a company in Hampstead that provides audiovisual and technology help to businesses.
“Facebook is the largest social network with over 1 billion active monthly users. ... LinkedIn is a great way to get out your personal message. It’s the Facebook for companies,” Meade said.
Meade, who has 20 years of experience in marketing, advertising and web design, spoke at the fifth annual New Media & Technology Conference at Frederick Community College on Feb. 22. The all-day conference was sponsored by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.
Lauren Hagan, the chamber’s communications director, said about 100 people attended the conference, representing various companies from throughout the county.
“It’s a real indication that they want to use social media,” Hagan said. “I would say that using social media is becoming a real part of the conversation.”
To prepare for the conference, the chamber conducted a survey asking companies in the county how they use social media. Participants were asked 13 questions, ranging from how often they use computers and smartphone devices, to whether they are permitted to use social media at their jobs.
The results of the survey were not immediately available.
Meade, who was one of several speakers, told the audience of business professionals that learning to use social media and having immediate results takes time.
“You can’t do it overnight,” she said. “There is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes hard work.”
Meade said it also may be difficult for companies to use all social media tools — Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — at once.
“Consider your business and who your clients are before trying one of these,” he said. “That is what it is all about, visibility and your brand. It is so important. You want to pay attention and track your marketing and brand.”
Ginger & Spice Marketplace, a small store that sells antique and vintage home furnishings in Walkersville, has been using Facebook since they opened three years ago.
“We find it quite beneficial,” said owner Sherry Loving. “It helps to get the word out.”
As of Friday, the store’s Facebook page had 1,724 “likes,” meaning 1,724 Facebook users visited the site and hit the “like” button when asked if they liked Ginger & Spice.
Soldierfit, which attended the conference, had 3,219 likes as of Friday.
But even with a smorgasbord of new social media tools now coming into play, such as Yelp, Pinterest and Foursquare, none of those digital marvels will take the place of a face-to-face meeting, Meade said.
“Even with all the social media in the world, it will not replace social contact,” she said.