In cyberspace nobody need hear you scream: Social Networks for business – don’t be scared, be informed
Category : Social Media
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, came top of the preferred vehicles with the biggest benefits of social networking stated being the abilities to generate leads, keep up with their industry, monitor the online conversations about their business, increase profitability, sustain reputation and empower customers and employees to be brand ambassadors. Key stakeholders, and policymakers in businesses need to wake up to a fundamental shift that is taking place in how customers find businesses communicate using the Internet.
Social media culture and social networking platforms are here to stay and are having a major impact on business communication, practices and processes.
Despite this enormous growth of business presences on social networking sites, there are still many businesses that are reluctant adopters or outright zealots against. Some of this can be due fears about the use and impacts of social media – mostly based on incorrect assumptions about Facebook, Twitter etc. As an early sceptic myself I can understand this reticence. However, while not exactly the beneficiary of a “Road to Damascus” conversion, I can speak from experience when I say that if you just park your fears safely behind a wall for a moment and take some time to properly research some of the companies you respect you will see the irrefutable evidence that Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter et al have become as prevalent as business tools as web sites and emails. The trick to moving from our fears to adoption is to base our decisions not on assumptions but on facts. So….as a reformed sceptic… let me try to help cut through the hype, myths and misinformation about business social media use.
Misconception 1: It’s too hard/risky to do all this at once… Small business owners who said they don’t use social media said it was because their customers don’t use it. So….find where your customers and partners are and the best way to reach them. You’ll probably find many are using LinkedIn, which has a business focus, and is a good place to start for the uninitiated. However the worst thing to do would be to rush to get on Twitter and start tweeting without a plan. Time spent up front doing analysis, research, and goal setting will make a social media plan easier to execute. Why not first act as Puck would say, “an auditor” first and “an actor too” later (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 3, Scene 1) In the parlance of social media, being a “lurker” on different social media platforms to see what’s happening and what people are saying is a wise first step. For example, check out what other companies are doing on Twitter and then assess what you like and don’t like before taking the plunge and tweeting yourself. This is especially true for B2B businesses where more specificity in audience targeting may be required.
Misconception 2: At least we only have to do it once! Absolutely not: don’t expect a case of build it and that’s it. You’ve got to keep it current and promote it actively after building it. Cross promote your website with other pages you set up on social media sites. Integrate these social media sites into your business’ offline activities. For example, a retailer may list their fan page URL and Twitter name along with its company’s web site. However, be realistic – this is just one tool and shouldn’t become an overbearing chore. Time spent on social media efforts depends on the type of business and the goals involved. Distil down your goals to revenue and key performance metrics.
Misconception 3: Nobody is talking about us anyway. SME’s may think that if no one is talking specifically about their company on social networks, they don’t need to be there. This is a mistake… They will at least certainly be talking about subjects or competitors in your field. On the other hand, what if your business is being criticised? Better to be aware of it and address it directly on those platforms. Customers nowadays expect to be able to converse with you, and social media makes it easier for them.
Misconception 4: Social Media is only for broadcasting. No- Treating social media as a one-way communication channel is doomed to fail. Checking in regularly with followers and asking for feedback and responding to questions and comments means building personable relationships with customers. “It’s a constant conversational dialogue,” (Warren Sukernek – Social Media Guru).
Misconception 5: Just look at the rubbish it produces! Look only at the articles in daily tabloids or surf the public personal pages on Facebook or Twitter and you may be left with this impression. However – like any facility it can be used in many ways. For business users it is possible to design your use of these tools to operate in the business community and need not be affected by the wider social chatter.
Misconception 6: My staff will spend all day wasting time! Again…like any business tool or facility offered to staff – its proper use or misuse will depend on clearly stated policies, standards and practices; intelligent technical content/access safeguards in place and of course proper policing of these policies. Follow this course and social media need be no more a risk than emails or phone calls (both of which were initially resisted by many due to fears of timewasting).
- Get feedback
- Create demand
- Build links
- Get publicity
- Watch the competition
- Build brand loyalty
- Establish a community relative to your business
- Create value
- Get clients
- Debunk mistruths about your business
- Market new offerings
- Forge relationships
So, if you still need convincing don’t start by looking at public Facebook and Twitter traffic where your assumptions may be reinforced by seeing the predominantly personal social users’ content (although later you may want to leverage the business users communities on these platforms).Start looking at the business users’ applications of these new and (sorry General Ludd) inevitable additions to the business toolkit. Linkedin is probably the most useful and appropriate business application of ‘social networking’ and thoroughly recommended as a start point for the new user. Be bold, be open and in a few months you will be advocating that these applications are essential and beneficial tools for thriving businesses today.