Most marketers know that social media is big, but not every company can launch a blog or create a Facebook page. Nor should they. But even if your company doesn't have the resources for a dedicated social media strategy, here are five social media sites and tools you can't afford to ignore.

1. Twitter

First it was MySpace, then YouTube, then Facebook, now Twitter is the "hot" social site that everyone is buzzing about. Twitter can be a difficult tool to explain if you've never used it. Think of it as being similar to IM (instant messaging), but instead of talking to just one person you can talk to many people at once. So it's similar to IM in functionality, but also has elements of a chat room, albeit with more control over whose messages you see.

Why you should care: Twitter enables your customers to leave almost real-time communication. That means if your site suddenly goes down your customers will probably be using Twitter to discuss it. If you aren't there to address their concerns about why the site is down, they could also be discussing that. Think of Twitter as "Word of mouth on steroids." It is an excellent tool for facilitating real-time communication and letting people share ideas and collaborate. Which can be good, or bad, for your company.

What you should do NOW: Start monitoring Twitter just as you are (hopefully) monitoring blog mentions about your company and your industry. Start watching how your customers are using Twitter to interact with each other and what they are discussing. Earlier this year, at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, I was showing an attendee how to monitor Twitter for company mentions. We discovered that someone had recently tweeted that they were upset with the service they had received from the company and had asked whether there were alternatives. A competitor had seen the tweet and reached out to the customer. If the company had been monitoring Twitter, it could have quickly reached out to the unhappy customer and tried to remedy the situation.

2. Google Sidewiki

Sidewiki is a just-launched add-on for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers that lets you comment on or leave information associated with any Web page. Basically, it makes every website social. Even your website. If people don't like the customer service you provided when you shipped them their Dell laptop, they can leave a comment directly on your homepage stating so. Likewise, if you gave them excellent customer service, they can say that as well. And after you add your comment, you can then share it via link, email, Twitter, or Facebook.

Since this tool just launched, there will no doubt be many tools and applications created shortly that play off of the functionality of Sidewiki. But, needless to say, this add-on holds powerful implications for any company that creates online content, and you need to make yourself aware of the tool now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier