This week we had the first blast of winter snow in our area. The ground was covered in a light dusting of the white stuff for roughly 24 hours. Not anything to worry about when it comes to driving but we were still glad our snow tires had been put on our cars just a few days before. Especially, after our experience last year of panicking when the snow hit because we DIDN'T have snow tires on. We felt quite smug this year because we had planned ahead. (How easy it is to forget our earlier foolishness.)
This leads to the point of this article for small business: the importance of planning ahead and the value of not waiting too late before acting on something you have pretty good evidence, anecdotal and/or statistical, will add value to your organization. In this case, social media.
The recognized value of social media to business has been growing for some time. There is both anecdotal evidence and a growing base of data to support the value of including it in our overall business strategy.
The following data from NielsenWire indicates on how people are using social networks to find and share information about products and services:
• 68% Read Consumer Feedback
• 60% Learn About Products
• 58% Get Coupons/Promos
• 54% Give Positive Feedback
• 51% Give Negative Feedback
Nielsen begins it's Social Media Report Q3 2011 with this statement: "Social media's popularity continues to grow, connecting people with just about everything they watch and buy".
When you consider there are roughly 266 Million Internet users in North America (apx. 77% of the population) and more than 172 million of these (apx. 64% of Internet users) are on social media giant Facebook (internetworldstats.com), the percentages and conclusions shared by NielsenWire become even more significant!
Some businesses were early adopters of social media and continue to invest time and resources and see results from their efforts. Some that began with a lot of energy and excitement have exited the scene with barely a whisper. Their Facebook Page may even be intact but the energy needed to achieve not only a launch but lift off and impact never materialized.
The stage we appear to be in at this time is the 'majority adopters' phase. In this phase businesses are hearing about and seeing the stories and the statistics about social media. Most know they need to be in the game and have gotten on board to greater and lesser degrees, or are in the process of doing so. Some understand the process and some have simply signed up for a Facebook and/or Twitter account, hoping this will get them in the game. It won't!
Like most strategies that offer huge upside for long term impact and growth, an investment of time and thought is needed to be successful. A slapped together strategy that doesn't carefully consider those we are trying to reach, what they are looking for and wanting, and isn't consistent and persistent, will likely fail. Social media isn't necessarily about spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to see results. After all, it is 'social' and as the name implies it is far more than a slick advertising campaign that doesn't take the social piece into consideration. In many ways, it helps level the playing field for small business. More important than money is time in the social media equation, time and the ability and willingness to communicate in ways that engage potential clients and fans, on their terms.
Time will tell who the 'late majority' and 'laggards' will be in embracing social media strategies that can enhance and grow their business. Better late than never fits well for this group although the challenges they face will be greater as they will likely be entering a social media field that is far more crowded with players than it is today.