Erik Qualmann, author of Socialnomics, answers tough questions on social media in an interview with IDuniversity. Speed summary (and our take) of the top six questions and answers here.

Q1: Isn’t Social Media just for kids?
A: The evidence doesn’t support this view – only 11% of twitter users are “kids” (12-17), and fastest growing segment on Facebook is females 55+.

Q2: Isn’t Social Media just a B2C tool?
A: On the contrary, social media is a relationship building tool – and in B2B relationships are paramount. Additionally, social media is a great market research tool for B2B, listening to industry issues, pain-points, trends and opportunities.

Q3: Why Do So Many Companies Fail at Social Media?
A: Two things.  Firstly they adopt a broadcast mass media approach. It doesn’t work, social media works with an an ‘outward-in’, not and ‘inward-out’ strategy [social media marketing is based on responding, not telling]. Secondly, they make heavy upfront investments in unproven initiatives (Coke built a white elephant pavilion in Second Life and received just 30 visitors), instead of making light and agile investments and then building on what works.  Stay agile by keeping social media initiatives in [perpetual] “beta” – and you can also write them off for tax purposes as investment.

Q4: Have companies figured out how to monetize social media?
A: Dell sells $3m+ on Twitter.  You can also correlate sales dynamics to social media activity.  Softer measures include traffic from social media – quantity and quality, and impact on brand awareness (vs. other media).

Q5:  Is there a role for brand building in social media that is simply reputation building?
A: Yes, social media can build brand awareness, brand preference, and brand advocacy. Ben & Jerry’s increased Facebook followers by 100,000 in one day (from 200,000 to 300,000) by promoting their election day free ice cream cone offer.

Q6: How can companies deal with the threat in social media of losing control of the conversation/brand?
A: Understand that organizations can’t enable social media, social media conversations will take place with or without you – so you might as well have a piece in the conversation and be part of the conversation.  You also need to realize that ‘brand control’ is illusory [your brand is influenced more by what other people say about you, than what you say about yourself].