Sept. 27, 2013 – Marc Gordon gives the lowdown on how to capitalize on social media, but in a natural manner that reaches your audience and gives a return on investment.
Sept. 27, 2013 – How much time do you spend on social media over the course of a week? For many business owners I’ve met, their time spent tweeting, updating their Facebook page, seeking out new LinkedIn connections, and blogging approached 10 hours a week — more than a day’s worth of work.
I have often wondered how business owners find the time to do all this. Don’t they have a business to run? A well known business article site ran a competition in July to see who could contribute the most articles. The winner submitted 95 articles. Second place submitted 94.
That’s more than three articles per day. That’s a huge investment of time for something that doesn’t pay. I believe the only one to benefit from this contest was the site owners, who got tons of new content for free. And yet business people are putting ever more hours into social media, willingly and with passion and enthusiasm.
What concerns me is how excited these business owners are when they describe their social media habits. Their eyes light up when they talk about the number of followers, fans, friends and connections they have, or how many views their newest video got on YouTube.
But in most cases this excitement instantly disappears the moment I ask about their company’s growth and income.
For most business people I speak to, there seems to be a disconnect between social media and sales. They have been convinced by self-proclaimed social media experts and gurus that social media is the most crucial component to the daily routine of running a business.
These experts constantly offer “free” webinars and presentations extolling the importance of keeping on top of your social media campaigns. Scare tactics are often used, where the big question of “what are people saying about you online” comes into play. Horror stories of companies like United Airlines or Starbucks caught off guard by negative Twitter comments are used to illustrate how susceptible any business can be to a few bad posts.
And then comes the sales pitch. Feeding off the insecurities of business owners, courses, webinars, coaching sessions, books, DVDs — an endless supply of fee-based information— is presented to show them how to take control of their brand in a world full of naysayers and angry customers.
Over the course of the last year I have gotten to know many of these “experts” and “gurus” personally. Through speaking events I have participated in, I have shared the stage with a wide range of folks specializing in Facebook, Twitter, blogging, SEO or just social media in general. I have seen audiences of business people eagerly taking notes about the value of Flickr, StumbleUpon and Delicious for growing a business. Each one believing that social media is the golden key that will bring them the success that has eluded them thus far.
The problem is that these experts are not in the business of helping others grow their own. They are in the business of selling information. And while social media can be a wonderful, productive and even profitable medium, at the end of the day it is nothing more than a form of communication. And communication, in any form, is a personal thing. You must be as comfortable sending it as people are receiving it. And to believe a one-size-fits-all strategy will work could put you in a situation where your business suffers because you may not be communicating through channels that your market uses.
I did not write this article to convince you to stop tweeting, blogging, or updating your Facebook page. And I do not want you to think I am dismissing the value of social media. In fact I have many colleagues that have seen a huge growth in their business as the result of social media. As for me, I have made many lucrative deals and been presented with great opportunities not from social media directly, but from personal face-to-face connections I have made as a result of my social media presence.
What’s important to understand here is that social media is sexy, intriguing, mysterious and potentially lucrative. These traits combined with a low barrier to entry makes it easy for virtually anyone to position themselves as an expert, ready to educate crowds of people hungry for “unlimited earning potential” and “passive income”. What I want you to get out of this article is an understanding that you must communicate to your market place in a way that is natural for both you and them.
If Facebook bores you, if you think Twitter is pointless, and if blogging is too time consuming, then don’t do them. And don’t let anyone pressure you into thinking you have to. After all, businesses were succeeding long before social media came along. And many more businesses continue to do so today with barely a web page.
However, should you look forward to communicating with others through Facebook, get a rush from tweeting and blogging is your idea of a good time, then more power to you. If enjoyment is what you’re after then let nothing hold you back. But if you value your time and expect to see an ROI from your social media efforts (remember that ROI is measured in dollars — not followers), then maybe it’s time to stand back and reassess your efforts.
When looking to attract new customers or strengthen relationships with current ones, think about ways of communicating that compliment both your business, budget, and your personal values. And just as important, in ways that your market is ready to pay attention too. Phone calls, hand written thank you notes, promotional gifts, coupons, lunch dates, or just dropping by with coffee can often be equal too — and sometime even more effective — than a day’s worth of blogging.
Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and marketing consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. His firm, Fourword Marketing, specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit www.marcgordon.ca.
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