Social Media for Business: Is it Just for Conversing with Customers?


Is the Only Business Purpose for Social Media Conversing with Customers?

I was at Borders Bookstore the other night and I picked up a book titled “The Social Media Management Handbook” by Nick Smith and Robert Wollan with Catherine Zhou. These individuals work for the consulting firm, Accenture.

In the book the authors discuss the importance of organizations facing the reality that Social Media is not just a passing fad. Remember that lack of acknowledgement has been a recurring theme for anything new for as long as man has existed.

Do you recall the naysayers when the first micro computers were introduced and how they were identified as a “toy”, a passing fad, and nothing serious? Initially businesses gave them little attention; but we soon realized that was a mistake as we watched multi-billion dollar businesses sprout up around the technology and large companies that discounted or choose to ignore the technology fail as a result.

The same scenario is developing for Social Media as we see multi-billion dollar industries sprouting up; while again people, and many businesses especially, chose to ignore what is happening. Can you really afford to put your head in the sand?

Social Media Is for Conversing with Your Customers

In the book the authors spend their time talking about how advertising is changing. They emphasize the increasing importance of Social Media and how people are again getting their referrals and recommendations through word-of-mouth only this time it is from Social Media posts.

Do not get me wrong; I believe what the authors are saying. In fact I believe that in the next twelve to twenty-four months if businesses are not showing their Facebook “Likes” or other indications on Social Media that people are paying attention to their business; those businesses will be in deep trouble!

I also believe that Social Media, like the micro-computer technologies of the mid to late 70s, cannot be pigeon-holed to a single function. People will continually find new ways to apply the technology and that is where I believe the authors missed the boat. They were almost singular in their approach to the usage of Social Media, but the reality is there are many, probably unlimited, possibilities; as we let our minds explore the options.

Social Media Offers Opportunities for Internal Collaboration, Process Improvement, and Greater Efficiency

Scenario 1: Social Media can be a collaborative tool. I consulted for a large multi-national organization a few years ago. I watched as their different IT groups used the same computer technology in different locations. As new updates to the their operating systems and/or applications were released; each group would independently test and validate the updates.

I had a difficult time understanding why they were not using a Center of Excellence (CoE) to coordinate the effort and share what they learned. In fact, one of my recommendations was that they create a CoE and assign each location to test specific components of the software updates and then share the results with the other groups to make the process more efficient?

Although a great idea at the time; the collaborative capabilities of Social Media today would make this an even easier and more efficient process. In today’s Social Media environment assignments could be carved out, results could be posted, findings discussed, questions asked like “What Ifs”, and the list again goes on. Maybe you make the process even more informative and collaborative by bringing in the vendor or other experts in to contribute to the discussion. The possibilities are endless and Social Media can make it happen.

Scenario 2: Long ago I worked for IBM and when our Division released new hardware and application software we would hear rumors of what others were experiencing. Some would report a terrible experience that simply did not work and they would put out an alarm or warning; at the same time others would report the same application to be the cat’s meow. The problem was that the people having difficulty had no way to talk to their counterparts that had it working well. Social Media could have easily fixed that.

IBM/MIT Study Identifies $948 Value for Each Collaborator

In 2009, IBM and MIT released a joint study where they determined that each collaborator on a project added $948 in value to the overall project. It was determined that the quality of the solution improved, the efficiency of the process increased, and the project life-cycle was shortened because of collaboration and this was only using email. Imagine how Social Media could have had an even greater impact!

Emails can be lost or some people may not receive them; when you move to Social Media many of those problems are mitigated by the method of distribution. Social Media can improve the speed of delivery and response. Social Media is a dialog, not a monologue or series of monologues. Social Media can be a virtual real-time process.

Social Media Summary

Businesses must recognize that Social Media is not a passing fad. Social Media is here and what we see today, however sophisticated some may think, is still in its infancy. Business owners and executives must be getting involved today or they and their organizations will be left behind when tomorrow arrives.

Yes, there are concerns and issues that must be figured out; but the solution to figuring them out is not ignoring the existence of the technology.
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Tom Staskiewicz speaks and coaches on structuring Social Media and Professional Networking to help businesses, organizations, and individuals establish and manage their Social Media presence to increase efficiency, improve decisions, and respond to your audiences. Your Social Media presence doesn’t just happen and will not take care of itself. Tom helps you with those processes so your Social Media efforts will work for you.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can apply Social Media within your business you can download our Top Fifteen List of Business Uses for Social Media or email Tom for information.

STOP! Before You Take a Step Forward on Your Social Marketing – Read This!


Social Media Marketing Reality

First, do not get me wrong; I am a proponent of Social Media Marketing and I encourage the behavior. The problem is that it is being sold to you incorrectly. Social Networking Consultants, Specialists, Experts, or whatever you want to call them are not telling you the truth!

Social Media Marketing Is Not a Rainmaker Proposition

Social Media Marketing has the potential to drive business, and, yes, even massive business through your doors. The caveat is that it takes work; lots of work. It takes commitment; lots of commitment. It takes time; lots of time.

There is no getting around it; Social Media Marketing is not for the faint of heart.

Case in Point

Earlier this year I was talking to a friend about Social Media Marketing and the opportunities that it offers a business. While I am firmly committed to that statement; I have since come to realize that most business owners do not have the level of commitment necessary to make it successful.

This friend changed the website; it was not necessarily for the better. In fact, the old site, to me, was far more aesthetically pleasing. The content from the old page to the new page is not significantly different, but they can say things have changed.

As part of the new look they created a blog. Blogs are great but again they require commitment and dedication. This is not a stop-start proposition; this is a commitment and your audience is expecting regular postings. This friend created three or four articles over the span of four or five days in February and has done nothing since.

The truth is they should pull down the blog. This minimal effort gives the impression that there is no follow through within the organization and does not help them and, in fact, does more damage. It is like jumping into the deep part of the lake and making a big splash and then not coming back to the surface because you were not prepared and had not made the prior commitment to learn how to swim.

Social Media Marketing Requires Commitment

It is not that these owners are not committed to their business; it is the commitment to Social Media Marketing that is lacking. Not surprisingly business owners have many other day-to-day tasks that occupy their time and it is hard to think about Social Media Marketing when your biggest customer is getting ready to bail on you or your top salesperson is considering a new opportunity.

Obviously those situations loom larger and their immediate impact on the business is far more important and the effect is far more quickly realized and felt. The truth is that most business owners and managers do not have the time available to put into Social Media Marketing.

Before You Jump In; Ask Yourself If You Are Ready to Follow Through

Do not just stick your toe into the water to determine the temperature. This is a situation where you make the commitment, jump in, and stay there for the long-haul.

Next Time I Will Talk About Trying To Do Too Much

Social Media Consultants talk about using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Mashable, Websites, Blogs, Digg, Del-i-cious, YouTube, and others. The truth is that it takes an entire department or staff to monitor all of those sites and a tremendous commitment. Trying to do too much; too fast will leave you frustrated and unsatisfied. Do not do it!

Social Media – Can We Learn from Restaurants


We Can Learn from Restaurants

I believe there are social media lessons to be learned from restaurants. The other day, after finishing a meal at the Olive Garden, I started thinking about what does my business and the businesses of my customers have in common with a restaurant. What can we learn?

I started thinking about the entire sequence of a meal and how that affects the customer.

The first thing that the restaurant owners decide is what type of restaurant do they want. Will they be fast food or full service? Will they be inexpensive, moderate priced, or expensive? What type of food will they offer: a wide variety of foods, a particular specialty, or a specific ethnicity.

Where will they locate the restaurant? Who will be their target market or customer?

Once you move beyond fast food, most restaurants understand that they need to get the food moving to the patron. There is nothing worse, than a table full of people just sitting and waiting. Restaurant owners have learned that you need to get the customer or patron involved immediately.

In the past they would immediately serve you water, but today they start by taking your drink order. Why? Because it is quick and easy. People decide quickly on what they will have to drink. The next question is whether you want an appetizer; again these are food choices that are quick to assemble and get to the table. After the appetizers are ordered and before they are served your main course order is taken. This takes longer to prepare, but you have your drinks and your appetizers to keep you occupied.

So What Does This Have To Do With Social Media?

How are you doing at deciding the questions to be asked for your business? What are the parameters for your choices and decisions? Why are you doing what you are doing? What are your goals and objectives?

10 -15 years ago businesses began creating web sites. The question I ask is why? The answer for many was that they were told if they did not have a web site; then they were not serious about their business. A few years later the question was whether they were using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and keywords; because, if they were not, then they were not serious about their business. Today the question is whether the business is using Social Media; because if they are not then they are not serious about their business.

The problem I see with all of these options is that the reasons were often incorrect. Instead of doing the methodical process that a restaurant or any business, for that matter, follows; businesses rushed into web sites, SEO, and now they are rushing into Social Media.

Choosing to Participate in Social Media

A business’s participation in Social Media should be thought out.

  • What is the goal?
  • What is the expectation?
  • What is the expected benefit?
  • What is expected of the visitor?
  • Who is the expected visitor?
  • How do you want the visitor to respond?
  • Are you going to capture visitor information?
  • What information do you want to capture?
  • How are you going to capture the information?
  • What do you have to offer in exchange for this information?

If you are not asking and answering these questions; it will be like driving without a destination. You will not:

  1. Know where you are going.
  2. You will not know whether you are heading in the correct direction.
  3. You will not know when you get there or if you get there.
  4. You will never be able to correct your course.

Social Media is not something you put on auto-pilot and then leave it alone. The great thing is that it is easy to change course, but only if you know the course you are taking.