Social Media have caught many businesses off guard. And it seems that for, as many that are advocating their business benefits, there are those who are underwhelmed by both their social and business impacts. The bottom line is that most businesses are still on the fence with regard to how to manage these types of platforms.
Although many business owners see social media as being oppilative in nature, when harnessed correctly, they can actually bring about amazing results and, in some cases, can yield greater ROI than other online marketing channels. Now, I am not trying to change your mind about social media; I am rather—and warily, I might add—trying to change the way you think about them. Not every business owner will become a social media magnate; however, like all areas in business, this needs to be approached in a meaningful and objective way.
In business, it would be odd to sit around a boardroom and make random decisions that aren’t intended to meet some sort of objective. However, as an assessor of clients that engage with social media regularly, I can tell you that most approach social engagement in an ad hock and incongruent fashion. Having a large potential customer basin, if coupled with mere wishful thinking, will not pay the piper. Only the adoption of a clever, congruent strategy will bring about the types of results you need to justify your social media presence.
Business only exists due to the transaction of products and services, and as that the general populace makes up their target, we should rejoice for having other types of platforms by which we can engage with it. Social media platforms enable us to raise the profile of our business to potential customers, while, at the same time, offering support to our existing ones through customer service and exclusive offers; not to mention reaffirming our business positioning through customer reviews and testimonials. This should be a godsend, right? Well, if so, why are businesses ‘tweeting’ about how ineffective social media are?
The way social media are generally integrated into a company’s marketing campaign is usually as smooth as a pig on stilts. All areas of your business need to be thought of strategically. To use some military rhetoric for a moment, let’s look at the structure like this: your business strategy is the General of your business; in fact, I often tell business owners that they are working for the General. Even though they may own the business, the strategy dictates every decision they make, where they spend and allocate capital, who they target and so on. Therefore, if you think you are working for yourself, this is a wakeup call. Your strategy is actually in charge.
Thus, if your business strategy is the General, your individual business departments (finance, marketing, sales, etc.) are the Captains. They lead each area, but their actions are always based on the ultimate mission that the General (business strategy) has decided upon. Therefore if a Captain is making decisions that are not informed by the overall business objectives, any result will be futile.
The Captains then send out all their Privates (TV, press, radio, and social media) to achieve two things; not only the marketing objectives, but the overall business ones, which dictate what marketing does anyway. I suppose that what I am getting at is this: we need to have a stern talking to with our social media so that it knows its rank and position in the overall scheme of things. Too often, the tail is wagging the dog, and we are adjusting our strategy based on what social media we use. Ask yourself, would a General change his strategy after seeking counsel from a Private? Unlikely! Then why do we put up with it in business?
As business owners, we need to dictate how social media are used. We need to understand the platforms, and how our target group uses them. We also need to somewhat lower our expectations about the impact social media may have on our sales. Too often, business owners fixate on to the reach (the potential people we can talk to), but seem to glaze over the psychology that sits behind social media usage.
Let’s put it in a social arena, which may make the logic easier to follow. Say I sell insurance. If someone is looking for insurance online, they will go to Google, Yahoo, or Bing and type in a search term. This is called ‘pull’ marketing. This is the equivalent of someone knocking on your door and saying “Hey, I heard you sell insurance, can we discuss further?” Social Media or ‘push’ marketing is the equivalent of me gatecrashing the neighbours’ party and yelling at the top of my voice “I sell insurance. Who is interested?” I am crashing a social event to talk about my products and services. Can you see where the problem is? The same message will not work because one requires filling a request, while the other requires creating a need. Therefore a passive approach will not work on social media; a disruptive one is needed, otherwise your impact will be nominal at best.
The takeaway from all this is that businesses need to align all social media back to their strategies. Understanding the nature of social media means that you will adjust the way you message on the various channels. However, the platform will never change your strategy, it will just reinforce it.
Social Media Expert
Contact: @rtartaglia – firstname.lastname@example.org