What Can Social Media do for Your Business?

We’ve all heard about Social Media, heck seems like the whole world is suddenly talking about it in confident – or less than confident – tones, or claiming to be an expert suddenly.

Yet despite the pain of the recession and the realization, albeit slow, of the huge benefits that can be gathered from Social Media involvement for brands, the vast majority of companies still seem confused about how best to leverage Social Media for business, and of the ones who have been brave enough to jump in, most are still only dipping their toes in the Social Media water

Firstly then, for the technophobes amongst us, here’s a quick gallop through the current Social Media landscape, by which we don’t just mean Facebook or Twitter.

The big four in the West are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Blogs play a huge part in raising company profiles online, in fact it is fairly difficult to coordinate a Social Media marketing campaign without one, and in addition there are thousands of smaller and/or more niche sites across the Internet.

Add to that the bookmarking sites – Digg, Stumbled, Delicious – and then all the other myriad forums and special interest sites where you can chat, connect and interact with…er… other human beings, who would like to know about you and what you do, need what you are doing or producing, already know and like what you like.

The biggest rises in social media usage and participation over the last 18 months has been amongst the 35+ professionals and these are likely to be your customers (or potential customers). So how many people are we talking here?

Twitter – 23 million unique visitors per day; 3 million tweets per day

YouTube – 85 million video views per day

Facebook – 300 million active users; 122 million visits per day

LinkedIn – 43 million members; 13 million daily average visits

Blogs – 133 million currently indexed by Technorati

To put that in to concepts you can grasp easily – if Facebook was a country, measured by population it would be almost the size of the USA according to Facebook‟s stats in 2009. On the 16th September it was announced that Facebook‟s online community had crossed the 300 million threshold; according to US census bureaux there are currently 307 million people living in the US. Which means that Facebook really is fairly large, and the fastest-growing group on Facebook are women aged 40+. Desirable consumers in fact.

So why aren’t more businesses using it?

Many of the company owners I have been talking to this year have given me a range of reasons from the old chestnut “You can’t make money on the internet”, to “Twitter and Facebook are just for kids and students with too much time on their hands”, “My colleague/partner/associate says it doesn’t work”, “No one wants to talk about boring Project Management on Twitter”, to that perennial favourite, which is actually the most valid of the lot, “I don’t have time.”

At the other end of the scale the front runners, such as Dell and Starbucks, who are deeply and broadly engaged in Social Media, are reaping the benefits of increased profits, expanded customer base, enhanced brand recognition and reputation. OK, quite a chasm, but exactly what benefits and to what extent are we talking about?

In June 2009, Dell announced they’d earnt $3 million in revenue from Twitter. Which is pretty impressive by anyone’s standards. So how did they do it? Dell reported they were able to use Twitter to post coupons, announce new products and drive traffic to their Outlet Store.

Obviously this didn’t happen overnight, and in fact it took 18 months for Dell to sell their first  $1 million from Twitter, and although the $3 million is a drop in the bucket given Dell’s $12.3 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2009, it has bolstered Twitter’s case that it can “change businesses‟.

The key to a successful Social Media campaign is to keep it small – small, frequent and focused. Huge creative ideas that make a short massive splash are doomed to fail in this medium, which is the very opposite of traditional advertising, PR and marketing. With a Social Media campaign you need to identify the right platforms to reach the right people, say the right things in the right way, keep the message consistent and frequent, and link everything together to make a cohesive and integrated whole. Here, small is good.

The bad news is that you have to be consistent over a period (from three to 18 months is standard before you get measurable and tangible results) and that means every day, every day, every day, sending a consistent message out that people will like.

That means tracking down the people who want what you are selling and taking it to them – the sheer volume of noise communications on Social Media means you can’t rely on people coming and finding you and then buying from you.

Like, I said, it isn’t traditional media – Social Media is crowd driven and everyone here is equal, so you have to go out and:

• Find your potential purchasers i.e. Your Tribe

• Work out what they need and want

• Tailor what you are selling to fill that need

• Take it to them – which may require changing how you are selling it

• Wash and repeat.

So, simple, yes. Easy, no. But the good news is that:

• You don’t actually have to make time or learn new tricks, there are people who can do it all for you.

• You don‟t have to spend huge amounts of money; a successful Social Media (SM) campaign can be very cost effective and still give an excellent ROI.

• And it certainly isn’t just for the Big Boys – in fact the modest inherit this particular earth a whole heap quicker than the boastful – just watch followers and fans fall away if you bang your own drum too much.

Interestingly, the incorporation of Social Media into the business toolkit has resulted in the playing field being effectively and literally evened because Social Media is about people having conversations about stuff that interests them, baffles them, inspires them, helps them, intrigues them and downright annoys them. And your brand and your services and products will fit right along in there, whatever your size, so long as you remember this is a conversation not a lecture. Engagement is all.

This article is an excerpt from ‘WTF Can Social Media do for Your Business’, published 2009, and this extract was first published in Wikizine, the online magazine of Wikidivorce.
© Claire Burdett 2009.

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