Recently a client of mine told me their webmaster said, social media (Facebook in particular) was a waste of time unless you were going to advertise. I have heard arguments for a long time on the pluses and minuses of social media. So what is the real answer to the question, “Does social media work for my company?”
1. Are we talking about the same thing?
Let’s make sure we are on the same page about social media. Primarily, when we talk about social media for business we are referring to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and blogging. There are other media platforms out there and I am not saying that they don’t have a voice because they certainly do, but let’s just use these for this discussion.
Within this discussion there is always the idea of businesses to consumers (B2C) verses business to businesses (B2B) and with social media this is where the real difference shows itself. Your target market is definitely going to be a factor, but let’s think about what we are trying to do with social media.
2. Why are you using social media?
What are you trying to accomplish through social media? The term social media sticks because it pretty clearly defines what it is, a media platform designed to be social. Unfortunately many businesses want it to be a marketing or advertising platform and it can really fall short if it is not done properly.
Businesses are generally thought of as places where you make money, making and selling products and services. Crossroads Consultants has a tag line: “Because All Business is Personal!” This fits this discussion perfectly. There is also a saying: “people will buy from those that they know, like and trust.” Social media will help any company to improve “know, like and trust” when it is utilized properly. However, if you don’t, it can backfire on you and hurt your business. Bad reviews and complaints are where businesses will start to complain about social media.
The better the relationship that you have with your prospects and customers then the easier it will be to use social media. That does not mean that a B2B company doesn’t need to use social media. “Public Relations” has taught us long before social media came along that building trust with the general public is always a good thing. It is important to develop a positive relationship with people for your business no matter who you are. The question is what social media platform works best for you?
3. Which platform is right for you?
Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses. You have to use the one that works best for your situation. LinkedIn and Facebook are the two biggest and very different social media platforms that are used by businesses and will help to illustrate this point. Facebook goes out to your friends or in the case of business your fans. But LinkedIn is more of a personal directory of business professionals. There is a listing of past work experience, companies worked for and skills. It is much closer to an online networking event than Facebook. They are very different and you have to use them differently.
If you sell industrial products to manufacturers you still have individuals that you need to work with. Sales representatives, purchasing agents, department heads, various managers and even vendors are people, and relationships need to be developed. LinkedIn is perfect for professionals in that situation. If you learn how to use that social media platform it can be very valuable to you. But if you don’t learn how to use it properly, it can also cost you.
Facebook is great for working with the general public. You can help them to see that you and your company employees are real people with an understanding of life and care about others. You can share funny, or information that is enjoyed, but not always about your products or service. Some has said that you should share only 20% product and service and the other 80% human interest. Don’t treat the platform as only a sales media, instead of social media, you will start to turn people off and the impression you will leave is that you only want people’s money. That is not a person that they will trust.
4. Who should use social media?
It doesn’t matter if you are in a B2C or a B2B business, social media can play a very important part of your overall marketing and public relations program. There are so many different platforms to choose from, your goal is to identify your target audience and find the media that will most likely reach your market. Then ask yourself how am I going to get their attention?
Anyone can use social media. But only if you have the right attitude about social media, a good plan, and an effective implementation of that plan will you find your investment providing you with the return that you want. Social media is not as simple as putting an ad in the newspaper or creating a quick flyer. It requires thought, time and effort. Most business people don’t have the time, knowledge or skills necessary to really use social media effectively.
Social media works, if you work it properly. It isn’t the silver bullet that some people want to make it out to be. But it is an excellent platform that every business should use effectively for them. It isn’t a question of “if” you should use social media; the real question is, “how?”
5. How do you make your social media profitable?
The idea of building relationship so that people get to know you, like you, and trust you is a great idea, but how do you make your social media profitable? It is a matter of using basic business principles. Business is a matter of value exchange and working with a provider that you like and trust can be a huge value by itself. But you need more.
Nurturing your prospects usually requires that you understand them better and they understand you and your offering better. To do this you provide information to them at their pace and based on their needs and wants. You must provide information about your products and services, but you must also share with them something about you. In order to do that effectively you have to get their permission to provide them information. That is done through a Lead Capture and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program. This will enable you to exchange information they want and you need to help your prospects along in their search for the right products and services.
Think about how you go through the process of deciding to make a purchase. Unless it is an impulse buy, you spend time learning and comparing products, companies and offerings. Add to that the trust factor of the relationship between buyer and seller. However, as a business owner you don’t want your prospect to acquire, interpret and draw conclusions on their own without your help or with the help of competitors, because they may not see key points of information, or unknowingly compare apples to oranges.
Social media is a great marketing tool that must be used properly. It also must include some form of lead capture and a CRM program so that you can learn more, help more, sell more and enjoy your business more. Lead Capture and CRM programs will enable you to see the real results that you get from Social Media and to be able to also see the real return on your investment.