A few weeks back, I was asked to deliver a social media presentation to local businesses. The title was Social Media and the Online Revolution. It’s not the first time I’ve advised in this way, and I’m sure it won’t be the last but, each and every time, there’s a real division in the room.
Generally, it splits three ways: those who get social media and do; those who sort of get it but haven’t yet engaged and those who don’t get it, have absolutely no intention of getting it and are so stuck in their ways I wonder why they bothered to come along in the first place.
If you’re in the first group, great – please do read on and, if you can add something, please leave a comment or two… we’re always thrilled to hear new ideas.
If you’re in the second group, that’s great too – this is really for your benefit. If you still have questions at the end, ask away and we’ll do our best to get you up and running.
If you’re in the third group, you have a choice. You clicked on this for a reason, so I’m guessing part of you is at least a little bit curious… so, you can either read on and see if you might be willing to change your mind, or you can click that little cross at the top of your screen and go back to whatever you were doing. If you really have no intention of using social media, or learning why it’s important to your business, I don’t want to waste your time.
So, groups one, two and whatever’s left of group three, here, in bite-sized chunks, are my top six reasons why social media is important to your business.
1) Moving from campaigns to conversations
There’s been a fundamental shift in the way consumers want to do business. People don’t want to be sold to – they want to be treated like individuals, they want to be engaged, they want to believe in a brand, product or service before they give their money away – they want to TRUST in YOU. The most popular brands in the social media arena are those who talk less about their products, and more about things that help their customers get to know them and get a feel of their company. You can use social media to show your expertise, to show there are real people behind your brand, and to build relationships with people – potential customers – you wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with.
2) Staying ahead of the game and generating leads
Using social media gives you a two-way stream – you can find out what people are saying about your brand, your competitors and your area of business, and you can respond to those comments. And you don’t need to spend all day online – there are plenty of downloads out there to help you track keywords and specific areas of interest. Apps such as Tweetdeck allow you to set up multiple searches and you can browse the results at your leisure – just imagine being able to see every comment mentioning your area of business and being able to respond, directly and positively.
Be personable and be savvy when using the leads you find; ask if you can help, give advice, start a dialogue, engage, and don’t criticise your competitors, or get caught in arguments. Keep it clean, helpful and above board – that way, people will appreciate you and recommend you to their friends.
3) Being seen to be available – everywhere
In this day and age, it’s no longer enough to have an email address and phone number on your website (you do have a website, right?) – people want to be able to link through to your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, whatever their chosen means of communication. On a personal note, if I want to know more about a company, I often check out Twitter first… it often gives a snapshot of their ethos and I can very quickly discern whether they communicate with their customers.
And it’s not just about being available – think about it – every time someone follows you on Twitter or signs up to your Facebook page, you’re building your database and building the potential to connect with more and more people.
Of course, if you have the time available (and not many of us have!) you can take social media even further. Think about your customers. Think about where they hang out in the virtual world and build a presence there. You can make use of all the social media channels available to you – not just the big three, but relevant forums and chat rooms, Wikipedia, YouTube, the list is endless…
4) Encouraging ‘world of mouth’
It’s a sweeping statement, but people don’t search for products and services in the same way they used to – word of mouth is the biggest advertisement, and the internet has given us ‘world of mouth’. It’s not unusual to see people using social media channels to ask for advice and recommendations when looking to make a purchase, and you can be sure they’ll check out the recommended options first. Look at Amazon and LateRooms, for instance – they make good use of customer reviews and, if you’ve used those sites, you’ve probably checked out those reviews before you’ve made your decision. Those reviews are a form of social media in their own right, and Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et all are all brilliant forums for encouraging people to talk about YOUR brand. If someone’s been happy with the service you’ve provided, don’t be afraid to ask them to tell their friends and family. If they use social media, ask if they’d mind posting a brief testimonial – if they’re genuinely impressed with you, most people will be happy to help spread the word. And don’t forget to use the testimonials area on LinkedIn – it’s easy to use; just link up with all those people you’ve done business with and use the built-in tool to ask for endorsement. Ready made testimonials are just a few clicks away… and remember, you can use ‘em wherever you like!
5) A level playing field for companies of all sizes
Sometimes it can feel difficult to compete with the big chains, right? They can throw millions of pounds at swish advertising on TV and in glossy magazines, everyone’s heard of them… how on earth can you match that? Well, just switch that around for a moment… how good is their customer service? Can people build relationships with the same person every time they go back with repeat business? If they use Twitter, for instance, will they able be to respond promptly and positively? In the past, if we had a positive, or negative, experience, it could take weeks to spread the word through friends, family and peers – now, it’s instant, and the level of response from the company in question is vitally important. Of course, PR and advertising still have their place, but social media levels the playing field and provides you with a massive, global broadcasting network at your fingertips – it’s not merely about how much you throw at advertising, it’s about communicating with people at a very human level, making sure concerns are addressed swiftly and positively and that people have faith in your offering. That’s where you might just have the upper hand on some of the bigger players!
6) Identifying and building connections with key players
This is where social media, used properly, can be amazing. Think about your product or service and think about key players who might be good advocates for your brand. Do they have a Facebook page? Are they on Twitter? Twitter is usually best in this regard, as you’ll often find real people at the end of the account. Remember, every time you build a valuable relationship with someone, you’re visible to their followers as well. Building relationships – with anyone, regardless of popularity – takes time; don’t expect to barge in cold and be best buddies. Spend time reading their tweets, find out what they’re interested in and take note of when they’re online. Watch the conversations and chip in when you can genuinely add something. Don’t bombard them, but don’t give up straight away. Remember, some of the people you might want to reach could have thousands of people trying to contact them and they may not even see your tweet straight away; be polite, be patient and, above all else, be a person.
I hope this has been helpful to you and, as always, please do get in touch if you’d like to find out more. If you get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask. See you online!