I have often observed that companies, especially small and medium businesses, are wary of social media activities even today when we hear about Facebook having more traffic than Google. A closer look reveals that the reason more often seems to be lack of time to invest or lack of knowledge and expertise, than a lack of a belief that social media may not be relevant to their business or will not fit in the ROI requirements.
I am convinced that there is no business on this planet that has nothing to gain from social media marketing efforts. I say this because the planet is still inhabited by humans and humans, by their fundamental genetic and mental structure, are social.
Let me restrict the sample size to companies I have worked with either as my employers or as clients. I was fortunate enough to get exposed to diverse range of companies because of the diversity of profiles I worked in. These range from an old time Indian textile manufacturers to US based telecom services provider to a “don’t-know-what-to-do” start up to a fast growing medium business.
When I asked entrepreneurs about their social media efforts, the answers seemed more of “how-social-media-is-not-for-me” than “what-am-I-missing-by-not-doing-social-media”.
Here is the paradigm shift I am talking about.
Some ideologies towards the end of 20th century and the start of 21st century, point out the inevitability of globalization. Whether business liked it or not, understood it or not, reacted to it for not, globalization affected them in a profound way. Some survived, some thrived and others died (euphemistically). The tide went sweeping every business that wasn’t prepared.
According to me, the case with social media is similar. Whether business like it or not, see profit in it or not, understand it or not, act on it or not, social media is bound to profoundly affect them. Business owners, here is a message for you. People are talking about their experience with you all over the web!
Social media is not only about being able to upload your hiking photos and videos on Facebook and YouTube before you reach home. Neither it is only about recommending restaurants to friends. Social Media is a way collective human consciousness came alive like never before in history.
Here are some new ways to look at Social Media activities that will help businesses to crossover from being “present” to being “social”.
1) Being where the customer are Vs following industry trends: Investing time and resources(both human and monetary) in social media marketing activities because all companies in your industry are doing it, is only a partial reason. The real reason is because your customers or clients are on social networks and you want to be where they are. So don’t create a Facebook page for your product because the competitor’s brand created a Facebook fan page, but create it because you genuinely believe that your customers want to be your fans.
2) Two way communication channels Vs a single broadcasting point: I have seen many companies using their Twitter account of Facebook Fan page to announce promotions and holiday discounts. Although social networks can be used for such announcements, businesses should think of social networks as a two way communication channel to have a dialogue with customers rather than a broadcasting point.
3) Using “loyal supporters” to pull “prospects” Vs chasing existing customers to dump information: Some companies often innovate on acquiring more email addresses. They also try Facebook for doing that. No wonder then, that they find it difficult and when the actual mailer goes out, the bounce rate is high and a large chunk is classified as spam. The era of outbound marketing is gone. Here comes the age of inbound marketing, where content is king! Businesses shouldn’t think of social media websites to gain access to customers so that more information can be dumped on them. Instead, chart out activities such that your loyal customers positively converse about your products or services and help you pull in more prospective customers.
4) Building social relationships Vs deleting negative comments on blog: When companies open the business to people on social platforms, a certain percentage of unhappy customers always take the opportunity to launch their complaints. I have seen external bloggers posting comments on company blogs that the content team doesn’t like or cannot handle. The easier thing to do is to delete that comment hoping that no one watching. The harder thing to do is acknowledge that there are problems with the business process or customer service reps are lazy or products have faults. It is harder to acknowledge that there is a need to solve the issue or at least escalate it. Remember that there is freedom of expression and once some content is live on the web, you never know who saw it. The point it that businesses should look at social media or blogging as a means to build relationships with customers and collect valuable feedback from them so that relevant changes can be made inside the company.
5) Create a platform for people to interact Vs standard website Q&A: Most companies have FAQs and Q&A sections. This static content is hardly any crowd puller. Creating a set of 20 questions and answers and putting them on the website is defeatist. Surely, there are more than 20 customers for your business and they have more than 20 questions. A more challenging job is to have a dynamic Q&A forum. Here is where the authenticity of your content and your intention is tested. A rewarding scenario would be customers posting questions and customers answering them, (if that is allowed).
6) Driving traffic to relevant content Vs merely having an extra link: We all know the leading search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing put a high weight to high quality inbound links from high traffic sources. Social network tend to be such websites and it is indeed good to have links to your website from them to rank higher in the search ranking. Having said that, having valuable links is not the only objective. A higher aim is to guide visitors to relevant content on your website and informing them on social networks about the great new idea you are working on. After all, you want your customers to know more about you so that they can make purchase decision in your favor. In my opinion, from a users’ perspective “guiding traffic to relevant content” is more valuable than “driving traffic to your website”.
I guess, it is time to end this rather long blog post. I hope I have made the point.