A lot of people have been talking about social media for quite a while now. You keep hearing about Twitter and LinkedIn. You may have your own Facebook account, and even browsed through Pinterest. You can see how some of it would be interesting. But still, is there anything in all of that stuff for your company? Can social media do anything for you and your customers?
Yes, it can. Consider this. If your eyes are the window to your soul, then social media is the window to your company’s soul. People can peer in to see what’s going on inside and gain a better understanding of what makes you tick. They’ll be better able to decide whether or not they like and trust you… and want to do business with you. There’s nothing trivial about social media.
There’s more though. Just as important but often overlooked is that fact that, like any window in your office, social media lets people look in, but also lets you look out. You can learn a lot about the people who would otherwise just stroll by. If they’re on social media you can also see inside their worlds and understand their likes and dislikes. Eventually, if you’re doing it well, you can even build relationships and nurture long-term loyalties that go way beyond anything companies ever thought would be possible before social media came along.
Should you wait until you’re completely ready?
Given the importance of all this looking and learning and sharing and showing, social media is not something you want to ignore any longer. Depending upon your type and size of business and the skills you already have in-house, you may even find social media is not that big a step away from your normal communication style. The same principles of listening and responding hold true, although there will certainly be many elements and techniques to be mastered before you make the most of social media. But you certainly don’t need to know all those before you start. In fact, if you try to be “good” before you get out there, you’ll probably never reach the point where you’ll feel ready to make the leap, because the entire structure of social media is constantly changing. We’re all learning and evolving with each passing day, and that holds true for everyone from the industry experts to the smallest corner store, and the person with just one Facebook account.
When you’re starting though, be sure to resist the temptation to hand the new work down to whoever seems to have the most time to spare. Your posts and tweets will almost certainly be seen by more people than anything your executive team writes or says. Whether you really thought of it this way or not, their words will become your words in the public’s eyes. And while it’s important for you to review major initiatives and promotions, you’ll crush the momentum of your social media activity if you say you need to approve every post and tweet that goes out. You need a trusted voice that intimately understands your corporate vision. Don’t let the new kid in your office be the voice of your brand.
How much time or cost will be required?
Unfortunately there are no set guidelines. For example, a call center will often compete head-to-head with centers around the world. If a business in New York or San Francisco wants to outsource its customer service calls, it may look for possible providers on Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other channel as part of their research. Within seconds they’ll be able to find plenty of centers in India, the Philippines, Latin America, and every corner of North America, as well as others within an hour’s drive of their office. In that kind of marketplace, strategic social media and SEO can turn an unknown company into one of the ones that are more easily seen, for significantly less cost than any traditional global marketing campaign could have cost. However, the level of effort required will of course be far higher than that needed for a bicycle store in St. John’s or a restaurant in Halifax.
Are there any companies that won’t derive any value from social media? Yes, certainly. For example, a corner store in a small community, with a very finite population base to serve and few or no competitors, is not likely to bring in much new local business through social media. But that’s a pretty extreme example of course. For most businesses, social media will open up new ways to build customer loyalty, bring in new customers, identify new operational and marketing ideas from other companies, and quite possibly even create opportunities to expand into new markets or market segments. Even the remote corner store mentioned previously may well find that social media will open doors for them to start exploring new markets, whether through online orders or establishing a name for themselves in new territories, just to mention two possibilities. The opportunities are as boundless as the imagination and aspirations of each business owner or employee.
Does your company need social media? It all comes down to whether or not your company wants to grow, in every sense of the word.