Practical Reasons Why Businesses Need Social Media

austenm
Austen Mayor President & Founder, SocioCentral™ Online Incorporated

Posted on April 24th 2011

Practical Reasons Why Businesses Need Social Media

Where are your customers?

Customers in a MallJacob Morgan with Chess Media Group wrote a short but sweet post in mid-March. His approach to convincing potential clients on adopting social media goes like this:

“If I told you that many of your customers and prospects interacted and communicated in the social space would you invest in having a presence there?”

“What if I told you that you would never know you made a single direct dollar off of any of those customers and prospects in the social space, but you knew that they were still there, would you still invest?”

Now step in the executive’s shoes for a moment and imagine how you would react. Would you say, “Yeah, even still, I refuse to go where my customers are.” Of course you wouldn’t and that is why this approach is effective.

There is a sense of urgency within both small and medium sized businesses, but when we look at large companies, they are publishing hugely effective social media campaigns. There’s a disconnect. Small and medium sized businesses don’t usually have PR and Marketing departments. If they do, it’s one or two employees representing each main department. With small businesses, it’s a resource issue, so many times you have executives sitting in their office justifying social media out the window. So what might motivate decision makers, within companies, to integrate social media in their departmental plans?

Executives like numbers

Show executives the potential of social media by using statistics. There was a great post over on the Social Media Club website a couple of days ago, based on the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. That post highlighted the benefits of using social media platforms:

Numbers for Executives

- 72 percent of respondents said social media Increases website traffic

- Improved Search Rankings – (62%)

- New Partnerships – (59%)

- Better Sales – (48%)

- Reduction in Marketing Costs – (59% for self-employed, 58% for small businesses)

- Respondents were twice as likely to increase leads using social media

Let’s face it, executives like numbers. They see the direct affect an action has on the bottom line. Most companies went through a phase where employees went to their director or manager and pointed at social media saying, “Come on, look everyone else is doing it.”, but of course in the beginning they had no numbers to prove it. If you research communications, marketing, public relations and media for years, then follow and research social media as it evolves, you will be convinced that social media is just about the most powerful tool so far in human history. Without numbers and statistics though, arguing this case is difficult. Executives, branch directors and managers are slowly realizing the potential of online communities, likely because we now have over 7 years of wide spread usage of blogs and a handful of years of accumulated usage and sales statistics from online social networks.

Consumer Expectations – An Example

Imagine an advanced software company. There are a few employees at this startup and they are selling custom programs, and yes they have had a few repeat customers, but they find acquiring new clients to be difficult. The executive is wondering why, and the reason is quite simple. Take a look at that bullet list above because the second item highlights the issue in this example. Search rankings are important, but make no mistake about it, those metrics are tied to social media. If I hear about a really interesting product and I google the company or product name, there should be at least a handful of results pointing to their website, but alas, in this case, there is only one related link. What do you imagine a potential customer will think with these results? Maybe, “This is an advanced software company trying to sell me a computer program and it’s hard for me to find them online?

When it comes to information and research, the online world is now more important than our physical world.

Imagine this same software company, but in this next scenario, they have integrated social media into their marketing, PR, SEO and customer service strategies. How different do you think the picture is? The first page of the search results alone will be filled with network accounts and profiles of this company, and even a positive review or two on separate social networks. That is the effects of social media on business. Consumers will expect companies to be engaged in online communities.

Businesses that are not connected to these types of services will either join, or exist as a small mom and pop shop, limited to their own city. Today, that advanced software company would not be able to expand into other cities without using social media. I realize I might be preaching to the choir here on Social Media Today, so let me add some more depth below.

Learning Curve

Many online communities are guilty of deception because they seem to be user-friendly. In fact, there is a hidden learning curve. By that I don’t mean learning the buttons and the interface.

Tap into the deep functionalities of the online communities to accelerate participation and engagement with your followers/fans/friends, ultimately leading to more quality relationships and therefore more sales.

The reality is that on twitter alone, you could search “twitter tips” and you will get thousands upon thousands of blog posts that provide helpful tips. The deep functionalities of every community offers their users accelerated organic connections. You’ll notice this with Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other social sites as well. About once a month I’ll see a blog post outlining tips and tricks, stuff you didn’t know, settings that will change your experience with such and such social network.

 If a company has been on Twitter for 3 years, they will inevitably have more followers than a company that just joined (more like 50 followers). The experienced company has already climbed that “deep functionalities learning curve”, so they are doing what works. Whereas the new company is still figuring out their strategy and positioning, while only sending out tweets about their service. One key point in using social media for business is to engage with clients and consumers, right? Businesses want more quality relationships and of course, increased revenue. The sooner a company starts climbing the deep functionalities learning curve, the sooner their Klout (Online reputation and engagement metric) score will be at a respectable level.

Good Social Media Consultants can provide that crucial guidance, but just be aware that there is a learning curve. If you hire the right consultant or advisor, he or she will help your find those hidden functionalities, to tap into the true potential of each social media website.

The Effects of Social Media

I realize some of you may disagree that social media is “the most powerful tool so far in human history”. If you agree with me, you might already be thinking about Tunisia, Egypt, Libya etc. Or you may be wondering why the top handful of social media websites are being valued about 50 times above their latest revenue reports. Let me go further and point out that I am certainly not alone in this perspective. One scholar at Simon Fraser University is predicting that social media might be bigger than the industrial revolution in terms of societal effects. Now, let that sink in before going to the next paragraph!

Avoiding social media and not integrating it into your multi-departmental strategies is a dangerous decision because consumers expect it and despite the deceptive nature of some of the popular social platforms, there is a learning curve to climb.

Surfer catching a waveI believe some of us can see the crest of the oncoming social media wave, but like a great surfer, you might want to swim towards it to get that great reward before it’s behind us when social media has evolved into a completely different system.

austenm

Austen Mayor

President & Founder, SocioCentral™ Online Incorporated

I was training clients in web-conferencing before MSN Messenger was popular back in 2004. I hold a BA in Communications and a love for affecting culture by building web technologies. I’m the founder of SocioCentral Online Incorporated, developing free websites through our subsidiary http://www.FWSGL.com, delivering objectives mapping, training services and hosting a database of social networks ready to be discovered.

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Comments

Austen, You just hit. excellent article. I need to add more to it though.

It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

I hope my awesomize.me can  accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

Elias
CEO & Founder
http://awesomize.me

This is a great article. One of the bset I have ever read. I know this because I wish I wrote it.

Great job, Austen. 

Wow, thanks2 Andy!

—A

Business need it more to gain more potential clients and consumer interaction.  Since almost everyone is using social media, business must broaden and venture into incorporating it in their strategies.  It is also a fast and easy way to engage with present customers.

 

 

It's tough for us artsy and communications types to think quantitatively but, as the article points out, sometimes this is important.

I agree Ruth, those of us with Comms backgrounds need to constantly refocus on numbers, stats and web-analytics!

—A

What's also important to note about the benefit of social media for businesses, is not just capturing the new/first time buyer but keeping repeat business growing through product/service follow-ups that would be difficult to accurately maintain & publicly document through other, more archaic web channels such as email.

When Domino's started asking their customers to tell them how they were doing, one channel Domino's used to engage existing clients to ask such a question, was YouTube, although the campaign could have easily worked on many other social media sites with video sharing capabilities (such as Facebook, Vimeo, etc.). 

The dedication to ongoing customer satisfaction beyond initial sales can speak volumes in the social space, as the consumer is infinitely more apt to like and suggest products or services with which they feel their feedback is being directly & immediately addressed by a firm's decision makers, strategists and quality experts.

Really good blog.  Execs have a nice little phrase - 'what gets measured gets done' so impress them with the numbers!

While I certainly agree that social media is part of a revolutionary time for communication and connection for individuals today, I do not agree that all your metrics are equally important nor clearly defined.

The fact that information is unfolding at a quickened pace can often instantly negate all that has come before it. For instance, your 2011 study cited brings up general questions about what marketers are looking for which is great to see, but the newly released study by Forrester Research and GSI Commerce, analyzed data captured from real online retailers between November 12 and December 20, 2010 and showed little net results from social media activities. The research shows that social media RARELY leads directly to purchases online — data indicates that less than 2% of orders were the result of shoppers coming from a social network.

Strategy is important, as is measurement--but there is no conclusive evidence that states a Klout score is exact influence. In fact, there are those that argue it only proves engagement. The Quantity over Quality arguement will continue, and I find it hard to believe when marketers jump on to the Klout measurement bandwagaon as a panacea for actual reliable engagement vs. ret-tweets and more "push" marketing.

From Aaron Sachs site: RAAK performed a study on Klout where there were four Twitter bots with no profile information or pictures that tweeted on a set schedule (1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, and 30 minutes respectively).  After 80 days of collecting data, RAAK found out that the bot that tweeted the most had the highest Klout score. Would you like to engage a bot with influence? If you blindly engage a Klout score--you just might be.

There are few absolutes in social media. There are no experts, only those that are advancing the conversation based upon the results of an emerging technology and those that are actively engaged and monitoring their results. Yes, brands big and small should develop their own social media plans, but absolutist articles like this one aren't advancing that cause, they're only providing more fodder to be over-turned later.

Finding the right partner is important for any brand large or small. Brands need to engage and analyize the social media landscape to better determine where your brand can exist and grow. Brands need to build their key messages and develop a strong plan that organically engages your constituents and provides shareable content and information. Sheer numbers do not decree influence nor do they ensure success. Those brands with the resources of a marketing, public relations or advertising agency should pool their resources and decide who should lead and which assets to integrate onto the right platforms. Smaller brands and companies have their work cut out for them to read online and attend the right forums. Articles such as this are a terrific starting point.

Glenn Johnson

www.evins.com

www.twitter.com/EvinsPR

www.twitter.com/glennlux

 

Great article, posted up on my biz fanpage, and I also tweeted it. It goes along perfectly with what we teach our clients. It also echoes of the book I just finished by Gary Vaynerchuck called "The Thank You Economy". Thanks!

 

There are those naysayers who want to say that social media is a temporary trend, but those of us immersed in it daily for work realize it is by far a passing fad. I see these social media sites growing by leaps and bounds - that tells me this won't be ending anytime soon. If one is to stay valid in today's business world they MUST embrace social media! I think it is very interesting and deep to consider this:  One scholar at Simon Fraser University is predicting that social media might be bigger than the industrial revolution in terms of societal effects. 

 

That's a pretty big effect on society as a whole. Great post! 

 

J. Souza 

SocialMediaMagic.Com

Great post, Austen. Sometimes it's difficult to express to those not immersed in social media why it's essential to any marketing strategy--especially since for us, it's so obvious that social media marketing is an indispensable tool! Thanks for taking it back to square one and showing the basics of why every business needs a social media presence.

Love this. I think, Before a business engages in social media, you should plan out how you will use it. How can social media support your business goals?

And now, almost a year later, it's all about Pinterest! I do my own SEo for my law firm and I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be active on Pinterest. Get on it!