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Social Media: What’s the Big Deal?

11. April 2016 12:25

Social Media:  What’s the Big Deal? 

By: Iris Montague, Research Forester: USDA Forest Service; Kathryn Arano, Associate Professor of Forest Resources Management: West Virginia University and Jan Wiedenbeck, Team Leader/Research Forest Products Technologis: USDA Forest Service

 During the past two decades, the technology advances have greatly exceeded imagination. A world that once depended largely on printed material has become heavily digitalized. These technologies allow companies and consumers to be more productive and efficient in everyday activities. Companies are no longer dependent solely on newspapers, magazines, billboards, or mass mailings to market products or distribute company information. Individuals can gather information about favorite products and keep in touch with friends, family, and colleagues all at the same time. Many studies have shown that companies that are early adopters of new technology frequently are more successful in business applications. However, with the current economic climate, many companies must be careful in their capital allocation. Yet, one technological advance, the Internet, may help companies market their products and improve business functions with very little expense to them.

Internet usage has grown exponentially since it was introduced for commercial use in the early 1990’s (All About Market Research 2010). Within 5 years of its introduction, the number of users increased from 16 million to 248 million. Today, according to Internet World Stats (November, 2015), there are almost 3.4 billion Internet users world-wide – 46 percent of the World’s population.  In North America, 88 percent of the population uses the Internet.  According to a recent study, 80 percent of Americans 18 years or older use the Internet and they spend an average of 13 hours per week online at home. The Internet also has had a great impact on companies globally. It is at once a world-wide broadcasting mechanism, a channel for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location (Internet Society 2012).

A new Internet trend, social media networking, has had an even greater impact on the development and maintenance of social relationships. Social media can be defined as any online tool that allows social interaction between groups of people through the sharing of content, profiles, opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives. These tools may include message boards, podcasts, blogs, micro blogs, lifestreams, bookmarks, networks, communities, wikis, and vlogs. Currently, there are hundreds of social media network sites available online that cover a wide range of interests (e.g., business, politics, dating, cooking, fashion) and cater to just about every demographic group. Although the social networking services Twitter and Facebook have garnered a lot of attention in the entertainment world, these sites also have been successful in business applications. Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social media sites, provide businesses the mechanism to develop social relationships with their customers. These social media sites have allowed businesses to have “up close and personal” relationships with countless consumers, a connection that was not possible before the introduction of the Internet and social media.

Companies all over the world have responded to the strategic and operational benefits attributed to using social media as a marketing tool. Some of these benefits include gaining comprehensions into consumer behavior and preferences; urging consumers to share the brand’s message as word of mouth to their peers; increasing brand message exposure; connecting to consumers for research and development; building and increasing brand awareness; increasing brand equity; improving search engine rankings; and driving traffic to corporate websites (Trusov et al. 2009; Palmer and Koenig-Lewis 2009; Lebherz 2011). The forest products industry has thrived on communicating with and strengthening bonds within a specifically defined community (Koenig 2009). Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social media sites, provide businesses the mechanism to further develop social relationships with their customers. These close relationships were harder to cultivate with dozens to thousands of customers before the introduction of the Internet and social media. There is an opportunity, so far largely untapped, for the forest products industry to benefit from the enhanced relationships these tools create.

Join us at IWF 2016 Education Conference  for our sessions, "Social Media Tips and Trends for the Forest Product Industry" as we share information with you on how you can improve your social media game plan to achieve your business and marketing goals more effectively.

All About Market Research. 2010. Internet Growth and Stats: Today's Road to eCommerce and Global Trade. http://www.allaboutmarketresearch.com/Internet.htm

Internet Society. 2012. http://www.Internetsociety.org/Internet/Internet-51/history-Internet/briefhistory-Internet

Internet World Stats. 2015. Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics.


Koenig, D. 2009. Lumber dealers cautious about social media. Hardwood Matters December: 8–10.

Palmer, A. and N. Koenig-Lewis. 2009. An experiential, social network based approach to direct marketing. Direct Mark. Int. J. 3(3):162–176.

Trusov, M., R. E. Bucklin, and K. H. Pauwels. 2009. Effects of word of mouth versus traditional marketing: Findings from an Internet Social Networking Site. J. Mark. 73(5):90–102.

Lebherz, P. R. 2011. Relevant factors for the impact of social media marketing strategies: empirical study of the internet travel sector. B.S. Thesis. Karlsruher Institut für Technologie. 119 p.


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