As budget and staff cutbacks spread in companies and government agencies, it can be tempting to put new ideas, such as making greater use of social media, on hold. That is not a good idea. Here’s why.First, regardless of the economy, a growing number of employees and customers are using social media sites to meet with others, get information, and make decisions on products. They aren’t stopping because of the economy and neither should you. In 2008, the largest percentage growth in Facebook users in was in the 35-50 age group.

Second, the basic premise behind social media – engaging with your key audiences instead of selling to them – is more important than ever in these challenging economic times. Everyone, from individual consumers to businesses of all sizes, is keeping a tight grip on their wallets. If you can engage them and participate in their dialogue, you have a chance to set yourself apart from all that competition. Here is an example of what Antioch College is doing to reach the critical student market. You can start slowly with your own website.

I’ve been saying for some time that your homepage must be put to work as social media central for your company. Establishing and maintaining interactive tools on the homepage pays off in many ways. Your website is a place where you can tell your story yourself. It is instantaneous, and material posted there can be used in a variety of other ways as well. The attached links from Horizon Bank and Frontier Bank are examples of organizations that are putting social media to work quickly and cost effectively. I’d be interested in what you are doing. Frontier Bank has recently added sections to their webpage allowing customers to hear from the President/CEO, get answers from Frontier Bank management and view press releases on events such as earnings reports: Frontier Bank Horizon Bank has applied a similar approach, with their “Community Message” feature that they have recently added to their website: