Today, I spoke with Tamar Weinberg, who is the community manager at  Mashable, and author of the new book The New Community Rules. She also just had a baby! In this interview, Tamar discusses social media tools for business purposes, blogging and microblogging, explains how important it is for companies to join the conversation online and much more.

Which social media tool is the least effective for brand awareness: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook,
YouTube, Digg, Flickr or Delicious?

All of the aforementioned tools are effective for brand awareness, but it depends on your actual goals. Are you looking to build a personal brand or a larger corporate brand? I suppose what comes to mind is really LinkedIn in terms of limiting how you really can build that larger brand. When I look at LinkedIn, I consider it to be a great tool for personal branding since it essentially works as an online resume and can establish the individual as a powerful expert in his/her specific subject matter. For larger brands, you should consider another alternative, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Flickr, or Delicious, all of which can work in your favor if you leverage the communities and tools effectively.

How important are honesty and transparency when building a community for a business?

Honesty and transparency are critical. Nowadays, information is becoming increasingly more public and people are easily able to share their dissatisfaction about companies by starting a blog or by writing a Tweet. It’s easy to publish any content online, and these messages can spread like wildfire. Your reputation is at stake here, and it’s really easy for that empire you’ve been trying to build for decades to topple down after a public relations fiasco that you simply didn’t manage properly.

Do you think blogging will fade out and microblogging will completely replace it in 2 years?

Nope – I don’t. I think that there will still be plenty of thought leaders who will continue to build their personal brands and names by writing long, lengthy articles that can be referenced in the future both online and in print.

I certainly understand that 140 characters is easier for many, but I think it’s a bad idea to only Tweet and not maintain your blog. With Oprah’s foray into Twitter, most of us are lost in a sea of folks who use Twitter to network and chat with friends, but I’d love to read more than 140 character thoughts from some of these folks who have instead decided to choose Twitter over their really powerful blogs. If you have something to say in more than 140 characters, don’t turn it into a 280-character Tweet instead; use your blog. 🙂

Do you have a case study where a company was successful using social media for marketing?

I sure do, but you’ll have to read Chapter 4 of the book to find out! 😉 Small and large businesses can benefit from social media marketing and I strongly encourage all businesses to seek out the various opportunities available to them.

Actually, if you really do want a case study, I found one via Guy Kawasaki on the OPEN Forum blog (a blog that I strongly recommend for small to mid size business folks). In a nutshell, Mayo Clinic involved themselves in podcasting, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, the latter three which cost $0. They also invested in a Flip Video camera and created three customized blogs, all of which cost less than $200.

The bottom line is that social media marketing is an affordable tactic to market your business — and if you understand and leverage the communities efficiently, you really can harness and unless the power to get people to start talking about your brand and build a strong following behind your product or service.

Should every company get into the social media game? If a company refuses to, where will they
be left?

I would say that there is absolutely no reason for companies NOT to get into the social media game. The big issue for most companies is giving up control of the message. I argue that people are already talking about you in social media channels, and it’s best for you to get involved with social media to nurture the mindset of the community. You can’t always change how people are thinking but you can respond favorably and help build strong relationships that can last for the long term. You certainly can help improve negative perceptions, but you must be willing to try.

I’m hoping that all companies involve themselves in social media over the next few months or years. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone sits on the sidelines and hopes that this technology goes away. I firmly believe that social media is here to stay; people prefer to foster relationships with other folks who have similar interests, and there are online communities on just about every corner of the web that make this happen. People are always asking about baby products on baby forums; carpenters are always looking for the latest and greatest tools or services on their woodworking forums. Many conversations go back to how individuals can use real-life tangible goods and services to benefit themselves; it’s important to tap into these communities or you’d be missing out on powerful opportunities to establish yourself. Those who don’t involve themselves are likely not going to see long term growth because the word of mouth marketing that occurs so easily online is simply not there.

Tamar Weinberg is a freelance writer who specializes in social media consulting and strategy, blogger outreach, reputation management, and search engine marketing (SEO, link building, and Pay Per Click Marketing). She has been involved in the Internet since the early 90s and has dabbled in social online interactions for more than fifteen years. Tamar has been working nearly exclusively with Internet Marketing side since 2006, though she also has experience with web hosting and technical support and can handle complicated WordPress installations and configurations with ease. She provides consulting in internet marketing and blogs for numerous online publications, most notably Real Simple Magazine, Lateral Action, and Mashable. She is also a former Lifehacker and Search Engine Roundtable contributor. Tamar is also the author of The New Community Rules, which is scheduled to be released in June 2009.