Humans have been communicating for millennia using a variety of tools and platforms which have developed over the years into ever more sophisticated arenas, culminating in where we find ourselves now with the advent of mass communication and engagement.
To me the term "social media" really refers to a mindset and a set of software tools and applications that allow groups and individuals to engage in two way conversations.
So whats stopping you from getting involved?
Traditionally, business has been about broadcasting a message rather than one of listening and engaging with the end user.
The biggest road block to SME buy in to social media is one of fear and a lack of understanding. The skepticism that I have come across over the last year can broadly be covered by the following, some of which you will, I am sure, be familiar with:
1. There is no measurable ROI (return on investment).
It IS harder to measure the ROI of social media but certainly not impossible. How many times have you had a conversation with a friend about a product that has led to you buying it? Is that conversation truly measurable by the vendor? No, all they are aware of is that they have made a sale, not how it was marketed. So does that mean a business shouldnt try to develop a WOM (word of mouth) strategy just because it is harder to quantify the ROI? Of course not and the same has to be said for social media. All you need to do is define your targets and objectives and build the measuring capability to allow you to report that success (or not as the case might be!).
2. My target customers don't use it.
Have you actually asked them or are you making the biggest mistake in assuming that everyone is like you? 81% of adults with an internet connection use some sort of social media....are you trying to tell me that within that 81% you have NO customers or potential customers? Are you also making the mistake of not selling through your 1st level contacts and customers? Remember that they have connections which can be invaluable to you if leveraged properly.
3. It's going to be too time consuming.
Anything that isn't done properly or without a plan can be time consuming. Does that mean it isnt worth working on a plan that can make it less time consuming and more sustainable? As with any new marketing or sales strategy, the results can be slow to realize, but that doesn't make them any less effective or worth investing the time and effort into and discovering the myriad of tools available to you to make your social media experience far more efficient and therefore enjoyable.
4. The consumer has too much control.
There is a perception that by participating in social media, a business is giving up control of it's brand and handing it to the consumer........ Of course, in this open society where crowdsourcing is common place people are inevitably going to be talking about your brand whether its good or bad but surely that is going to happen either with or without your participation? Wouldn't it be better to be a part of the conversation to look after your brand from the outset so that you are ideally placed to put your best foot forward?
5. I don't like Facebook, Twitter et al.
Just because you don't like a particular social media platform, or social media as a whole, doesn't mean you shouldn't be active on it. Go where your clients and customers are...create as many valuable and sustainable touch points as possible so that you're not excluding potential business.
6. Nobody is talking about you online.
Firstly, I doubt that is ever the case, but if it were, personally, I would look at that as a HUGE opportunity to get the conversation started....You may be surprised at where it takes you!
7. We dont have a plan and we dont know how to start.
All businesses need a variety of plans, financial, sales and business to name but 3 and marketing (which social media is a part of) is no different as it defines the strategy of how you as a business go about finding new customers...that's why you're in business isn't it? Social media and marketing require a good plan that is kept updated frequently so that all stakeholders are aware of the roadmap - this doesnt just happen and needs to be worked on.
So, which of the above have you been using to avoid getting involved? Do any of them really ring true now? Perhaps you've got one that isnt listed above, if so I would love to hear about it in the comments.
With the increase in the use of social media, a fundamental shift in the way businesses need to think and how they connect with existing as well as new customers is emerging - is this something you're going to be able to take on board and bring into your overall business strategy or are you going to continue playing catch up with your competition who are one step ahead of you?
Just remember just because you're not listening or participating, doesn't mean that others aren't talking about you - would you rather be able to participate and benefit from it or dig your head the sand?
So, what are the obstacles stopping you?
coming soonKarl Whittaker from Employee Benefits Collective