“…in every war, they kill you in a new way.”
— Will Rogers (1879-1935)

There was a time not so very long ago when all the media (by which I mean journalistic-based news sources) anyone needed was the local newspaper, a favorite general magazine or two, the evening news on TV and news updates on the radio, and, oh yes, trade magazines like this one (which, by the by, has been brought to fleet owners free of charge for over 80 years now).

Oh but how we now live in a brave new world dominated by hyper-marketing to “communities of users” that is enabled by all sorts of instant electronic-based media (by which I mean the delivering of “content,” not necessarily journalism). Having endless and endlessly variable streams of information pouring at use from everywhere from bbc.com to tmz.com, from the sublime to the ridiculous, is not inherently a bad thing. The potential for good is indeed enormous: Just consider how much further the pro-democracy forces within Iran — mainly made up of college students, as were the proponents of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 — advanced this year, thanks to their emails, Internet postings and “tweets” compared to 1989 when the protests of Chinese dissidents dissolved in massacre at Tiananmen Square.

To be sure, many of the online groups of “friends, fans and followers” being formed by the big social media standouts of right now — Facebook and Twitter — may well change the world for the better in many ways, one digital village at a time.

Of course, using the Internet as a social tool — be it for pleasure or business — is not new. If my internal memory serves, the World Wide Web was stitched together in the first place so scientists could share data. Next came email, intranets and the so-called blogosphere of “citizen journalism.” And then came Myspace.com, which has retained a more or less juvenile focus, followed by Facebook and Twitter, which have gained enormous adult followings. I've no way of knowing if the creators of Facebook or Twitter ever viewed them as having commercial applications, but I do know that any business operators who ignore this possibility risk putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

So what's a fleet owner to do? Get online for starters and join facebook.com and twitter.com so you can see what is being said and, perhaps most of all, not being said about your operation by your current and prospective customers and employees. Chances are the bigger your fleet is, the more of the good, the bad and the ugly is being shared about it on Facebook “pages” and via Twitter “tweets.”

On Facebook, it is incredibly easy to join in on the fun, either by posting to existing pages started by individuals or groups or, better still, by also creating your own company page and inviting those you want to reach to become a “friend” or “fan.” A fleet could create many such pages — one could be aimed at brand-building, another at customer outreach, another at communicating with company and leased drivers, and still another aimed at attracting new hires.

Twitter is the home of the tweet — short comments that are blasted out automatically to “followers.” The two can be managed together by a staffer assigned to social media. For example, a tweet might direct drivers following you on Twitter to head over to your Facebook page or web site to find out about a new opportunity or policy change. By the same token, customers can be alerted to whatever news you have to share with them.

That's the gist of it, but it is up to you to get social. Or get killed by the competition in a new way.