October 11th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Do you remember when the only people who used Facebook were students? And the only people who used chatrooms were balding older men pretending to be nubile young ladies? Then Twitter came along. By allowing you to follow and interact with anyone in the world, no matter whether you knew them or not, Twitter really paved the way for the masses to interact online.
With this explosion in social media it’s no wonder businesses are getting in on the action. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter you’re a captive audience. You’re shown adverts and brand messages, told to follow people for discounts or to enter competitions, and if you convert into a sale somewhere down the line it’s been worth it for the business involved.
Just as we’ve seen massive growth in the SEO industry over the last 4-5 years, I think we’ll see similar growth in the social media industry over the next 1-2. Already, you can outsource your social media to a specialist agency to handle, and “social media executive” is an in-house job title that wouldn’t have existed just a few years ago. Social is the current Big Thing, and as long as there’s money in it (or people think there is), it will continue to grow. As much as some companies do it really well however, I’d argue that it’s not a bandwagon we should all be jumping on.
Let’s think about this. Social media, historically, is a place where people get together to talk about their lives. What they’re doing, what they’re planning, what funny video they’ve just watched on YouTube. If you can interact with your customers when they’re in this mode, that’s great! But not all companies can engage, or even find their customers this way.
As a business you should be asking yourself 3 things:
Where do your customers hang out?
I may be a decision-maker at a widget company, but when I’m on Twitter I don’t want to talk about widgets. If I’m at work, you can find me on widgetforum.com, and if you’re really lucky you might catch me on LinkedIn, networking with other widget makers.
If your customers aren’t on social media, or aren’t there in a professional capacity (and let’s face it, a lot of people like to keep their work and home life separate), there’s no point investing a lot of time and money trying to crack it. You’re flogging a dead horse. Either find the particular industry-related social platform they use, or stick to more traditional means like the trade magazine they subscribe to, or the offline event they attend.
What do you sell?
Social media works for a lot of products. From clothing to car insurance, it’s a great way to push your products and support your customers. If you sell something boring, complicated, or embarrassing however, you might not have too much success getting people to interact with you publicly. You can use social media to spread the word about your brand, but don’t expect people to friend you when you sell suppositories.
Can you maintain your accounts?
Before you even think about opening a company account on Twitter, Facebook or your platform of choice, be honest about the time you can give to it. It’s worse to open an account and ignore people, than never to have an account at all. If you have a social media presence, people will see it as a primary contact medium (whether you mean it to be or not), so failing to respond is a sure fire way to piss people off. Not only that, but having a social account invites contact – do you have a plan to respond to customer service issues that are now taking place in public?
As much as social media can be of huge benefit to business, I think people sometimes miss the point that it really isn’t for everyone. As a business, your goal on the internet is to find potential customers, convert them to sales, and keep them coming back as repeat business. If social media falls down at any of these hurdles, it’s time to take a long hard look at your justification for doing it in the first place.
Zoe Piper is an Online Marketer and trainee Masseuse, currently residing in the pleasant village of Boston Spa.