To be or not to be
A recent statistic has opened my eyes. While I still somehow assumed to be an early adopter of social media in its still early days a Forrester Research study has shown that 80% of US Internet users use social media in one or more ways. While most of them are lurkers which is no surprise a large amount of the people actually contribute in an active manner. Social media in Europe is not as popular yet but the trend is clear.
While pondering the results it dawned on me that most of the businesses I encounter are far behind.
While most of Internet users are using social media many businesses still fail to do so.
Business owners still frown upon the fuzzy ROI of social media or the lack of control over what people write, both on the inside, the employees, as well as the outside, the customers and the general public.
In business you either adapt or you get swept away. The business owners who embraced social media like Dell, Blender or Naked Pizza are success stories and they earn real revenue directly from social media sites.
For business owners who are not yet suicidal the question is not whether to embrace social media but how.
How not to act on social media
In the past many small business owners tended to just blatantly self promote themselves on social media sites that do not accept self promotion. Today we have tools that facilitate a social media engagement the easy and less obnoxious way. Twitter is the best example of not only allowing businesses to join in and take part in the conversation but actively seeking business users to participate.
Participation is the key to social media success. Participation is not promotion.
You don’t sell on social media unless you are Dell and everybody expects you to do so.
Then you can offer bargains or special offers. In case you are not Dell or a similar sizes company you should try to listen first, contribute next and promote yourself as a last step if at all. The best type of promotion online like in real life is being recommended by others not throwing slogans at people.
How to act on social media
So how do you approach the amorphous thing called social media? You don’t have to in most cases. Social media has already approached you or your industry at least. You just need to search for yourself, your brand or your products and to listen and participate right there where you find the conversation about them.
This is not enough though. You need of course a place where you can voice your opinions and reply to false claims by others:
- a Twitter account
- a blog or a community
- or both
More than a third of US Internet users engage with social media as so called critics. While this category is not to be taken literally as social media critics not only criticize these people are crucial for most businesses: They write reviews about you. They talk about you. In case you don’t listen they might get angry. Then they will rather bash you.
Nowadays I’m quite used to the fact that whenever I complain on Twitter I get an instant reply by a representative of the respective company. So when corporate execs ask what the ROI of social media is one of the most obvious replies is: You lose less money. At first you won’t earn money but at least your participation will make you lose less of it.
In many cases the actual lack of response shows a brand in a worse light than the accusation itself.
When you tackle the issues the problem often dissolves. When you leave them rot they stink the more. So think twice before becoming the Last of the Mohicans. You might be brave, but “progress” or whatever you call that evolving business landscape on the Web does not care about those not willing to stay afloat.