You have to be living in a remote village in the tropical rainforest devoid of all technology in order not to have noticed the social media revolution. Even if you are one of those people whose catchphrase has become “no – I don’t do Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/LinkedIn (delete as appropriate)” the buzz about social media and its potential for improving business cannot have escaped you. The most crucial conversation every business owners should be having today is the one that goes “should I or shouldn’t I be using social media in my business and if yes, with who, about what and how?”
Despite what you may have heard, social media is not the new cure all pill for business woes. What’s more it is definitely not a quick fix. So put aside any hope of signing up for a new Twitter account today and watching the sales register ring up hundreds of dollars in new business the next day. If it makes it easier to understand; substitute the words “social media” for “online networking”. Like off-line networking, social media’s primary purpose is building lasting relationships. The sort of relationships that result in friends, advocates and supporters that share your message, connecting you to the “right” people for your business and provide you with a window into the problems aspirations issues and needs of your tribe.
Networking is just one tool in your marketing tool kit. Just as you wouldn’t rely solely on off-line networking to market your business successful business owners shouldn’t rely exclusively on social media to create brand awareness and reach customers. Consequently if you are yet to take the plunge into social media, before you sign your business up to the various social media platforms, pause for a moment and reflect on the following questions. The answers to them will help clarify how social media can benefit your company and where to focus your attention.
- Are your community/potential customers on-line using social media? Even though you’ve decided to get your social media stripes; your customers or potential customers may not be online. Unless the people you want to reach are reachable via social media you are in effect wasting your time talking to yourself.
- Do you have strong advocates and rely on word of mouth to promote your products and services? If a large proportion of your business currently comes via customer referrals; creating a social media profile for your organization will make it easier for your advocates and customers who make referrals to disseminate their recommendations to their wider community using the social share facilities common on all platforms.
- Are you launching something new or can you repackage your existing service as new and improved? Social media is great for making announcements and raising awareness about new development. The Internet is always hungry for new content and so launches and new products are particularly good commodities for sharing. Also if you make frequent changes, it is easier to keep your community up to speed by posting information on your blog.
- Do you have a story to share? The operative word in the term “social media” is “social” not “media”. One of the ways human beings are social is through storytelling. Stories connect people to experiences and create a shared understanding. Using social media to tell your story is a great way of engaging your community. If you don’t have a story to share, just a product to sell, you will get far less engagement and consequently less sharing. The power of social media is sharing; if you have nothing to share it loses its power! Stories bring clarity to who we are and what we are about. The best stories are engaging and take people with you on a journey. If you want to be effective in social media you need to be prepared to share your authentic story. Which means having a two-way conversation and opening yourself up to scrutiny.
- Are you prepared to listen? Social media requires you to listen as well as talk. If you have questions to ask your community that’s a start, however listening is also about allowing others to set the agenda. [pullquote]In the words of Dr Steve R Covey: seek first understand before you seek to be understood.[/pullquote] Remember, listening takes time, resources and a willingness to act (where appropriate) on the message received.
If you want to add social media to your marketing tool kit, answering these questions will ensure that you approach it with your eyes wide open. You will be clear about its potential benefits as well as the contribution your organisation will need to make in order to recoup them.
It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list; there are many other considerations. How are you using social media effectively? Please do leave a comment and share your tip tips.
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