In the 1930s, during The Great Depression, radio surged through households across the United States with news from President Roosevelt to business advertisements. Radio advertising reached a record number, 13.5 million, in 1930 compared to only 75,000 in 1921. What does this mean to us today, in our economy? Some analysts label our economic status as The Great Recession, so we as business people should handle this status as our predecessors did.

Continued use of print media, radio, and newspaper advertising outlets have proven to be effective. But have you measured the value of word-of-mouth marketing as a priority, including the growth of social media? As Facebook added its 500 millionth member last month, are you on the bandwagon with your business? There are rules (unwritten and implied), respect, and loyalty that shines through the 'profile' or 'page' your company represents. Some skeptics believe social media is a fad and will not be prevalent in their business world. Whatever their beliefs, the ways of communication to your customer are ever changing and we must do our best to keep up to the customers' satisfaction. Dan Neely, founder and CEO of Networked Insights states, "Social media and digital marketing have grown up, becoming just as strategic and objective as traditional marketing."

Creating a fan page, or community interest page, allows the establishment of a relationship that no other media outlet has been able to provide in the past. The two way conversations that reach the direct buyer and answer their specific questions immediately has proven to be profitable for several companies. Outlets such as these allow your customers to interact with each other, sharing their experiences and boosting the word-of-mouth marketing.

If you are hesitant in your leap to social media and marketing, hopefully this editorial will ease your mind. has published '13 Rules of Leadership for Communication, Influence and Social Media Strategy', derived from the former U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell's autobiography 'My American Journey'. These rules may not directly apply to your business and are not constant across the network, yet could aid in the effectiveness of your social media outlet.

RULE #1: 'It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.' Oftentimes the pressure to respond to negative posts that customers present is overwhelming, this could make your situation worse. Consider gathering facts or doing research before you post a response - the 'social system' (other customers) may utilize their loyalty and resolve the situation themselves.

RULE #7: 'You can't make someone else's decisions. You should not let someone else make yours.' Lead with facts rather than opinions - your network can provide the trusted opinions to your customers. Gain buy-in from representatives within your industry, their influences are immeasurable.

RULE #9: 'Share credit.' Have a collaborated fundraiser in the upcoming months? Link up with other organizations to increase your fan base while also gaining respect from community supporters and organizers by showing respect and professional courtesy where it is due.

RULE #12: 'Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers.' There is no right or wrong approach to the fast paced social communication we choose to market through. You will not be able to please everyone. However, if you build a solid base with research and facts, it cannot be destroyed by the naysayers.

RULE #13: 'Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.' Chances of success are increased by a positive attitude and outlook. Share the good qualities of your product, event, or community. This optimism could resonate through your customers' relationships and channels that you have yet reached with previous marketing efforts.

Before you take your jump into social media marketing do some research. Find similar products and businesses in your industry to see how their approaches are being embraced by their customers. Remember to stay calm, breathe, and remain active on your pages in this quickly changing world of social networking. Do not let this opportunity pass you or your company by! Would we still be in The Great Depression had our predecessors not jumped aboard the radio bandwagon?

-Amber Williams | Tourism Coordinator | Heart of NC Visitors Bureau