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Social media gives us all -- you, me, your customers -- the ability to create and publish content, for free. So why does that matter to you and your company?

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I read a very interesting post from Karl at Experience Curve on Amazon's decision to sell 2 million MP3s DRM-free. In the post, Karl offers commentary on the service, and he also details the process of purchasing and downloading an album from Amazon.
Now think for a minute how social media has changed Karl's ability to write about Amazon adding DRM-free MP3s. If this had happened say 5 years ago, Karl's best option might be to comment on the service on a message board and/or chat rooms, and review the service maybe on a site such as epinions. In other words, Karl would have to go through someone else to create and publish content.
But today, Karl can publish commentary and a review of the service, complete with screenshots of him purchasing and downloading an album, all on his blog. Social media has given Karl the ability to freely create and publish content. Then after posting to his blog, Karl can go to Twitter and promote his new post. Karl posted to Twitter earlier today: "Bought my first DRM free MP3 album from Amazon, the results were very good," and included a link to his blog post.
But what if you are thinking "I still don't get how this impacts my company"?
It impacts your company because now your customers can create, distribute, and promote their own content via their own channels. What they say about your company is no longer a cyber needle in a cyber haystack buried on an obscure online forum or in a chat room. Your customers are gradually morphing into online publishers.
Take Experience Curve for example. Karl's Feedburner widget displays that the blog was accessed by over 2,000 readers yesterday. That puts Karl's monthly readership just from feed subscribers at over 60,000.
Is your company's website getting 60,000 monthly visitors?
Clay Shirky was interviewed by The Gothamist in 2004, and when asked where blogging was heading, offered this:

"So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this -- the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast."

Which is exactly why you should care about social media.

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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