Social media: you know what it is; you’ve probably read the blogs so you know how to approach it in theory; but what do you know about it in practice?
If you live primarily online, as digital marketers do, or if your business revolves around media usage of all kinds then you probably have the basics waxed. If your business is firmly grounded in the real world, like plumbing or dairy farming, then it’s likely that social media has you stumped. This statement is not a sweeping generalization; it’s based on sound research from highly credible sources.
The Harvard Business Review Analytics Services report, The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action, was recently released. It showed that while most businesses (large and small) are aware of the importance of social media, a significantly smaller percentage know how to use it effectively. According to the report, 43% of the companies surveyed believe they don’t use social media properly.
It’s a mistake to assume that large enterprises use social media more effectively than their smaller counterparts. In fact, large companies are often outclassed online by their diminutive peers. One of the reasons for this is that Small businesses are almost by their very nature better able to adapt to changing situations. It’s a survival strategy that has enabled them to remain competitive in cut-throat industries.
Small businesses are more likely to recognize social media’s potential to reach their immediate audience. They are more likely to engage in a personal manner; this is because they are more likely to manage the whole shebang themselves, rather than hire social media experts.
Larger businesses can be complacent about the manner in which they woo their audience. They often fall into the trap of thinking that they’ve never battled to attract custom before, so why should they make more work for themselves now?
If they do take to social media it’s likely to be via a digital marketing company, which is not a bad idea in itself, but if the two don’t work together to ensure that the social media strategy is in line with all other marketing endeavors then it can fall rather short.
There are three important things to bear in mind before embarking on a social media strategy:
1) Planning is vital . Don’t go into it without clear aims, goals and objectives.
2) Don’t assume it is a stand alone solution that will deliver instant results. It supports and is supported by all other marketing and advertising media.
3) Social media is not a monologue but a series of conversations. They will talk back and they will expect a response. Be prepared to engage and interact with your audience.
In a rather scathing attack on those who style themselves social media experts, Peter Shankman manages to raise several noteworthy points. Perhaps the most important of those is that despite social media being the bee’s knees, it won’t do you a blind bit of good if your audience is not online.
Going back to my two examples at the beginning; plumbers and pest control services are likely to benefit from social media because these days most people go online to look for plumbers before they dust off the Yellow Pages. At first glance, dairy farmers might find the whole exercise a waste of time.
On closer inspection, however, it could be said that they would benefit from engaging with other farmers. The plan wouldn’t necessarily be one of business but of engagement; the goals would be to broaden perspectives and be introduced to new methods, ideas and schools of thought.
So, can businesses afford to ignore social media?
Only at their peril.
This is a guest post by Sandy Cosser, if you want to guest post check out the guidelines
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