Many of us are familiar with the quote "If you build it they will come" from the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" with Kevin Costner. While this saying may have held true in the movie, real life doesn't usually work that way!
Just building something ... whether it's a product, a business, a website or a presence on social media ... won't, for most of us, result in people flocking our way to check us out. In the real world, it takes more than building something. It takes advertising and marketing, time and resources - including cash - to make it happen.
Those of us who are in business for ourselves know this first hand! We may have a great product or service ... something that may really help people in their lives ... but that's not enough.
If we aren't able to get our message out, so that people can see the value of our products and/or our services, so that they recognize and trust our brand, then building our business will be an uphill battle.
In 2005, the year after Facebook was launched, Internet users represented:
- 68% of the population or 223 million people in North America
- 8% of those using social networking sites, roughly 18 million people
By the end of 2013, Internet users represented:
- 85% of the population or roughly 300 million people in North America
- 78% of those using social networking sites, roughly 255 million people
(Sources: Internet World Stats and Pew Research)
While Internet use grew from 68% to 85% between 2005 and 2013:
- social media grew from 8% of Internet users to 78% of Internet users, or from roughly 18 million people to 255 million people!
Not surprisingly, as of Fall 2013, 90% of Internet users in the 18 to 29 year age group were users of social networks. A quick look at the Pew Research statistics shown below makes it clear that while the younger generation may be leading the way in the use of social networks, the number of users in the 30 to 49 age group, and those who are older, continues to grow.
So, what does "facing reality" have to do with these social networking statistics? Hopefully, the answer to that question is self-evident: There is a huge audience of people using social networks - and the numbers are growing yearly. And where people are spending time, is usually a good place for business to be as well.
Using Social Media for Business
Many businesses have signed up for a social network, more because it seems to be the 'thing to do' than because they have an understanding of how it works and how it fits into their overall marketing strategy. This approach usually leads to frustration and disappointment.
Social media is one piece of the marketing and communications pie. To be of real value to an organization it needs to be integrated into their overall marketing and communications strategy.
Social media is very different from traditional media and approaching it as if it isn't will leave a business questioning their involvement and "spinning their wheels". (See "How's Your Online Presence" for more on this and for social media basics that can help you get on the right track.)
The Price Tag of Social Media
Social media offers amazing opportunities for business owners. But, it is not a quick fix, a marketing miracle or cost free! There is a price tag tied to social media for business.
The price tag includes both time and money, and the price is likely to increase over time.
Social media takes time to get off the ground, grow and manage. There is no easy way around this investment of time, if you are serious about social media.
So too, because most social networks are public companies with shareholders, there is an expectation they will make money. Social networks have built their networks on the back of a free service to consumers knowing that businesses will (eventually) pay to get in front of those consumers.
Facebook has led the way in making it tougher for businesses to reach those who have liked their Facebook business page, unless they are willing to pay for the privilege. (See "Paying for Facebook" for more on this.) Other social networks will follow suit.
That said, it is still relatively inexpensive to promote content or advertise on networks like Facebook. Businesses should be salivating at the opportunity to find ways to get in front of and 'touch' their target audience on Facebook, assuming their target audience is active there!
As social media matures and as businesses resign themselves to the reality of paying to reach their target audience, the price of social media is likely to rise. Supply and demand will dictate this.
Now is the time for many businesses (not all) to figure out how and where they should incorporate social media into their overall marketing strategy. While it's too late to be an early adopter of social media, it's not too late to seriously consider how social media might help your business and to take appropriate steps to integrate it into your overall marketing and communications strategy.
If you don't do this now, chances are a year or two from now you'll be kicking yourself for not taking action and working hard to try to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, one can never make up for lost time!