Social Media For Businesses

Why are some companies still afraid of social media?

This is very good question. A large part of the answer lies in the fact that social media for businesses is a part of a technological explosion which has been changing the way companies think about marketing, brand implementation and communication! The traditional forms of advertising and marketing have been relatively unchanged for decades now apart from the addition of a “digital” department for larger companies. And I need to make this quite clear – social media does not replace advertising and marketing. It is an extremely powerful addition and needs to operate in synergy with the business marketing strategy.

Social media for businesses

Here are some of the key reasons why companies are reluctant to join the social revolution:

  • If I put our brand on social media sites people may criticize or say bad things about our brand
  • No one can convince me that all of that time spent on social media brings any tangible ROI results
  • We have already banned staff use of social media during work hours – how can we then allow some individuals in our organization to spend time on these same sites
  • Social media is a “flavour of the month” fad that will wear out it’s welcome
  • We are not prepared to employ a social media manager – we already have a marketing department
  • These sites are where kids share photos of parties, and are full of baby and pet photos

Does your company fall into any or all of these categories?

Here are a few truths about business and the power of social media!

First up, guess what! People are already criticizing your brand!

By not being on social media sites you are losing the opportunity to put complaints right. You are missing the opportunity to build a relationship with your customers and to create a human aspect to your company. Social Media is a very powerful way to manage your online reputation. The biggest companies in the world have whole departments dedicated to monitoring social media sites looking for any mention of the brand – good or bad – and these specialists respond quickly to make certain that any complaints are not able to become viral and damaging to the company’s online brand. They also respond to those who are saying good things about the company or products with a friendly reply. This has the very real potential to build thousands of passionate brand ambassadors who share their enthusiasm for your company with their own online communities.

This is the real power of social media and it is one that is often overlooked.

Let’s talk about tangible ROI on social media investment. There are a multitude of very accurate tools available to monitor social media performance. There are online measurement tools such as Klout which gives a score out of 100 for your social media authority. There are also tools such as Google Analytics or Facebook Insights to drill down on data and statistics. And there are many more ways to measure the amount of interaction your company is seeing online. If you were to examine ROI from the offline version of advertising and marketing what is the measurement of effectiveness of branding related media ads? Are you able to measure how the brand is perceived by consumers as a direct result of the campaign? Are you able to measure whether your brand is higher in the consciousness of the demographics you are targeting? Apart from employing market research specialists to find out for you how effective a campaign has been there is really no way to track the results.

We should be aware that social media is NOT about selling to your customers and many businesses make the mistake of thinking that if they sell directly via social media platforms this is where the growth will come. The big international brands are aware of this and use social media accordingly. They post fun things, they post photos of their staff in social situations, they run competitions to get their customers to contribute their thoughts to the conversation, but you will not see them saying “Buy our stuff, for a limited time”! Hard sell is a major turn-off in social media and effectively alienates your customers.

Companies that ban the use of social media by employees during work hours are missing the point. The best case scenario is to train the staff to use social media in a positive manner which will enrich the company’s online profile by teaching correct etiquette and the right way to promote the brand via their own networks. This takes a very focused strategy but the rewards are great in that the employees are part of the social process and part of the human face of the brand.

Social Media is “flavour of the month”? This is interesting! Yes there are still many conservative businesses who hope that this whole bandwagon will wear out it’s welcome and disappear! Well the reality is quite different! Social business is in a massive growth phase and the technology associated with it is evolving at an incredible rate. Just look at events in the Middle East – smart phones and social media are allowing millions of people to share information in real time and to organize and make real change for the first time. Is it any wonder that China is so nervous about social media?

How does that relate to business use?

Think of it this way. The speed of connectivity in people’s networks, the sheer weight of numbers of participants, the rapid sharing of information in a viral manner all mean that a smart business can tap into this stream of information and establish a presence very quickly. The ability to communicate with thousands, and for some larger brands, millions of consumers on a daily basis is not something to be ignored.

Facebook has 750 million users – almost saturation point in Western economies! Twitter has 250 million users and is growing at a rapid rate. Google+ has taken a matter of weeks to get to 25 million users in Beta mode – this is invited “early adopters” only. Google will be launching Google+ for brands before the end of the year!

Savvy business owners have anticipated the power that these platforms can bring to brand awareness and there have been some incredibly innovative social media campaigns launched around the globe! Creativity and innovation are rewarded in this arena big-time!

For businesses that are reluctant to pay a social media marketing specialist or to employ a respected social media consultant the option of adding social media management to an already overworked intern is a very dangerous choice. Companies who say to a relatively inexperienced employee “Young people know about Facebook and all that social media stuff! Can you do Facebook and Twitter when you get a minute?” are taking a very real risk.

The person who is posting, tweeting, circling and updating has to be extremely well-versed in a number of key areas!

It is essential that they have:

  • an understanding of an overall strategic view of the company’s brand and philosophies
  • a sound knowledge of social media etiquette – what actions get the best results and which actions to avoid at all costs
  • an understanding of what the company voice should be – and this varies substantially – always warm and human but the degrees of posture will vary depending on customer demographics
  • a clear picture of what is appropriate on each of the different social media sites, when it is OK to share the same material on different platforms and how to utilize a network of sites for strategic advantage
  • an understanding of the optimum level of interaction with fans or followers
  • knowledge and experience in online relationship building

This is a very specialized area of expertise – handled incorrectly it can be catastrophic to a brand in a very short period of time. The speed and viral nature of Twitter is a force to be reckoned with!  Handled correctly the scope to grow a committed audience of real brand advocates is hard to imagine!

Do you still think that social media is solely where kids post party photos or where people share baby and pet photos?

Are you prepared to be one of those companies that ignores the potential available via the effective use of the most powerful addition to the marketer’s arsenal in many decades.

This is one business revolution you can not afford to be complacent about!