Does Social Media Work for Business?
Ever since Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter started attracting attention, both businesses and individuals have debated whether or not it really helped business and generated in profit. In today’s post, I want to talk about my experiences and those of my clients and hopefully there will be a few takeaways that you can use.
It goes without saying that I am by no means an expert in Social Media. Unless you can claim thousands of hours using Social Media, no one is really an expert. When I started using Social Media, I really didn’t see the value in it for business and to be honest, would NOT have bet anything that it would work or take off. And yet, here we are today with billions of dollars shared in the industry and some people (in fact quite a few) making a real good income from it.
My involvement began with my own use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and dozens of other services. After a few years and daily use (not to mention some great discussions with my neighbour Judy Kucharuk — President of Footprint Management Ltd – A consulting firm) I started offering services to my own clients and built a clientele in both Canada, the United States and South America. I have taught many businesses how to use Social Media and managed programs for them.
The exciting aspect of Social Media is that many people around the globe have embraced it and are active hours each day. For some, its an addiction. I myself can spend days on Pinterest and can thank my daughter for getting me addicted.
Explaining each Social Media type and how they work is information for a future article. My goal today is to share the fact that you can benefit (especially as a small to medium size business) from reaching out and using the tools available. The caveat is a simple one – don’t go in with a single purpose of making money. That will come in time if you wish. What you can do though is develop relationships, share ideas and information on hobbies, likes and dislikes as well as communicate with friends, family and clients.
My first success came in communicating with family. That was followed up with clients and eventually with new followers or referrals from people discussing my “wide” variety of topics. Currently I have about 650 followers and that grows by about 2-3 per day. I maintain pages in both my own name (lets call that personal) as well as company pages (for sharing business information on my company). In some cases, there is cross over and this article probably falls into that category.
When I work with clients, the majority are interested in promoting their brand, geeing the word out and sharing information on their services and a healthy dash of personal information on family and hobbies. Many Facebook fans like the fact they can get to know a person more before they do business. Or they might find they don’t like to do business based on information posted. I know myself, I get annoyed with people who swear on Social Media and I tend not to do business with them if it is a problem. Its not being judgemental (well maybe a bit) but the reality is we simply have choices and business today is done based on relationships.
From a business perspective, I want to say now that many people I meet (both individuals or companies) do not know how Social Media works or how they can benefit from it. It seems so social and simple. But don’t fool yourself, you can do a lot of positive things for your business without coming across as a spammer or idiot.
As businesses starts to develop their campaigns and Social Media presence, its a good idea to research the topic or spend time speaking with someone using it so you can see the many benefits. Educating yourself surprisingly doesn’t take as much time as you think.
Over the past few years, I offered services to clients as needed but I have started to see a trend:
- Many clients / small businesses don’t know how to get started. For some its a waste of time.
- Some businesses are worried about posting the wrong information or hurting their brand. This can happen.
- Most businesses can list a few benefits but tend to miss the very valuable benefits. THey either don’t see them or simply need someone to show them the benefits. They will then engage.
The other issue I run into is companies not knowing WHO should be posting and just what types of posts are acceptable. How personal should they get? Can staff joke or post funny pictures or stories? What is considered personal and not something you would post? You can see why its best to speak with someone who is experienced.
On many occasions, I will sit down, evaluate the business, talk to the management and staff and we will come up with a game plan that offers up direction and a clear strategy on moving ahead into Social Media. I start small and never recommend that you jump in and launch 10 accounts and then figure out how to create posts and content. Starting and them stopping is very bad and its like locking your front doors and leaving town.
Many businesses ask how to deal with negativity or people posting rude comments or criticisms about their business. Egos and human emotion come into play so its best to understand how to deal with the darker side of Social Media. A really good example I run into regularly is people claiming that its their legal right to post what they want ( and say what they want). Americans and Canadians have different rights and so it can get a bit frustrating for some. But these are all issues we discuss BEFORE jumping in with both feet.
So if a company wants to get started but doesn’t know where to start, I recommend they consider hiring a Social Media Manager. This typically is a marketing related position (part-time or full-time) and they can get you setup and posting in a very short period of time. They can also show you when to post or explain how certain tools work that allow you to schedule your Social Media posts. Time of day when you release an announcement is critical to engaging the people following you and your business.
Today, many companies have marketing staff, graphic designers, programmers and coders, management members, HR staff and other positions. A common mistake is to hand them over responsibilities based on the fact that they have a Facebook account or love Pinterest and Twitter. They may not understand the business side and may not have an understanding of what is involved.
Companies need to think of Social Media Managers as team members who can work X hours a week and be a part of their PR and Marketing team. I don’t suggest they hire a full-time person until they focus on what that person / consultant can do. This limits your risk and if they are a contract worker, this saves you money for benefits and salary perks. If it works out then you can hire full-time and integrate this person into your team.
Before I close, I want to say that I recently (3 months ago) started working daily on helping one of my clients develop a Social Media Plan. We started initially just sharing general information and described some of the services and products they offer. But we also posted industry stats and tips to help people. After a few months, we felt comfortable sharing the odd joke or information that we thought might benefit our followers. We also started providing Social Media posts that saved clients money. Announcements for surveys and contests came along and we balance the posts with valuable information. We also discussed how to integrate the posting and collecting of content that we post, with the existing staff. With training programs, we are starting to see some respectable results.
Because my client didn’t abuse the relationship with their followers, Facebook is not sending out our posts to many more people than currently subscribed to our content. And in the coming year, we will pay a small amount each month to supercharge and promote our Facebook “channel” to even more people.
If you are interested in knowing more about Social Media and or Management Servies, I can send you some information that answers your questions.
Disclaimer: My company does providing consulting services and manages programs for a few companies so please understand this post was written not to sell you but to discuss the issue of Social Media in business.
ps. In future posts I will address Software you can use (some that is FREE) to manage Social Media. I will also oat links on what types of Social Media you should start with and what to expect from each kind of Social Media.
pps. Social Media can be an incredible tool for learning more about your clients and their interests. The “Know Your Client Rule” concept was made 100 times easier when Social Media came along!