Implementing a social media strategy in your organisation will dramatically change the way you do business.

If you want to connect with your customers and discover what they think about your brand, social media will help. If you want to change perceptions about your company, or improve your customer service, social media will help. If you want to find out who the influencers and advocates are and get them to broadcast your message on your behalf, then social media will identify the key people in your network whom you should engage with. For you as an individual, if you want to be strategic in your networking goals and you intend to extend your connections by meeting more people, social media will help you reach more people than you ever thought was possible.

With social media in your business, you have a great opportunity to learn more from those around you and discover new information from your extended network. In the right social networks you could discover what you’re missing out on in your career, and could create an opening to broaden your perspectives and job prospects. This massive extended virtual network gives you the chance to progress in your professional life using a wider set of connections. You can find a business mentor, advertise your presence or build the relationship to close that deal.

Using social software inside an organisation will also help you achieve an increase in productivity and a reduction in your long term costs.

Companies have spent large sums of money on collaboration software, and yet they don’t utilise their investment effectively. There are still multiple islands of data stored in huge storage area networks, which are effectively dead data. Without an effective search mechanism inside a company, without updates, audit notifications and user interaction, this data ages, becomes obsolete and dies. With software providing effective collaboration and interaction securely inside companies, this data has the potential to remain dynamic, engaging and an asset to the company. This social computing environment can then benefit teams, organisations and positively impact the company’s customers.

So what does the phenomenal growth in social media interaction mean for your business? With iPod application downloads hitting an astonishing 1 billion in 9 months, what does that mean for Apple’s business? What could this mean for your future revenue stream? What potential can you tap into by using this new way of communicating to your advantage?

There have been many articles and discussions about social media and social networking and the potential opportunities they can bring to companies. There are myriad benefits for corporations that choose to leverage this form of communication and use the conversation as a digital marketing tool to help them with community engagement or to present the opportunity to increase revenue and market share.

One of the cardinal rules of social networking is that it’s all about giving rather than receiving.

You contribute to the greater sum of knowledge by adding your perspective, know-how, advice, anecdotal stories or links to other sources of knowledge. And there are myriad ways that you can share this information. There are so many tools with odd names that define the term ‘social media‘. Among them are blogs, moblogging, wikis, tagging, bookmarking, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), tweets, podcasts, screencasting, vlogs, video, videoblogging, phlogs, video uploads, video sharing, status updates and virtual worlds (I‘ll explain all of these terms later). Where on earth do you start? Which mechanism is right for your corporate social strategy and which do you need to avoid? What is the process to use for a successful strategy? Where is your plan?

There are several steps to think of in order to achieve success with social networking both inside and outside the organisation.

These steps are not meant to be used in isolation if a successful strategy is to be followed.

Digital engagement allows us to solve a specific business problem, to connect more effectively with our customers, to listen to their challenges, to help them and to gain advocates who are brand evangelists. Knowing what challenges you want to overcome helps you to set the first part of your strategy in motion, and having a clear plan in place for your business helps you on the first few steps on your journey.