Many brands feel the need to be on Social Media. Competitors do it. Other successful enterprises do it. Everybody does it. Whenever I meet with brands, they tend to think they HAVE to be on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. They should have a blog and start developing ideas for Google+.
An armada of consultants and agencies tap into the culture of fear: If you’re not part of the Social Web, you’ll be forgotten soon. Why wouldn’t you be on Facebook, the third biggest country in the world? Is there a reason you don’t think about Google+, the platform with the fastest adoption rate of new users across all social platforms? Or better: If you’re not on Twitter, you don’t have a business. If you don’t have a blog and create content, you’re not alive.
Don’t make it about numbers. Make it about your audience.
It makes sense why consultants peddle Social Media stats: It builds an impressive case for Social Media. However, it builds an impressive case for generic Social Media. Sure, Google+ has millions of users and Facebook will reach 1 billion customers soon.
The problem is: your customers are not stats or pure number. They are individuals.
The case for individuals.
It’s a common media practice to segment people. You make determinations in advance of who will be your most likely customer: Baby boomers with 4 grandchildren, teenagers with their first car, parents with newborns.
Still, your segments are just a bunch of individuals all grouped together.
How do you know millions of teenagers driving their first car will love your product? What about the 100,000 baby boomers you expect to buy your service?
As human beings, we’re not that predictable. Why are we approaching our business that way, assuming people are extremely predictable? Just because these amazing numbers (3 trillions on Facebook!) blind us?
Think like a customer. Walk in their shoes.
You have a small restaurant. Do you think some generic blog will attract new customers?
You run a plumbing business. Do you think a Facebook page filled with renters that live close to your shop will get you new customers?
Here’s the truth: a solid and well-defined social presence will get you new customers. But you have to do a lot of research, define your new customers and find ways to reach them. You could reach a gazillion customers on social platforms but you only need the ones that will drive new business.
Social Media is not easy. It’s not some magical potion. Otherwise the world would be flooded with case studies of businesses making a lot of money through their application of social platforms.
Social Media is not the aspirin for your marketing ills.
It’s not a quick fix or some magic that a consultant will deliver on a silver platter. You need to dig in and get your hands dirty:
- Research: Find out where your audience/prospects are active participants: message boards, Twitter, review sites, LinkedIn, etc. Are they open to listen to you on these platforms or do they want to be left alone?
- Plan: Once you know where they are and you feel they wouldn’t mind having you join the party, make sure you understand the culture of the platform and evaluate how others are trying to approach their customers/prospects.
- Strategy: You clearly don’t want to sell coffee to a tea drinker or the newest iPhone accessory to a rotary phone user: Look at the research and all the data you accumulated over time and make a determination how you can apply this information to develop various strategies and promotions.
- Experiment: Don’t think one strategy is the only way to go. Start small, scale up once it works or come up with new ideas when it doesn’t.
It’s not that complicated but many business owners are overwhelmed just running their business and now we added more to their workload. That’s where agencies and consultants come in. They have experience developing roadmaps, initial plans and strategies, can help you with guidelines and even execute everything for you. There are some fabulous marketers out there (Plug, plug) that understand marketing and how social platforms can complement your overall marketing initiatives. Just like you do with all your vendors: make sure to align with a good, battle tested partner.
You’ve developed your business over time because you were smart and made the right decisions. Why would you change that path just because somebody tells you there are gigazillions of people on social platforms? As far as I know, there’s no law requiring your business to be on Facebook.
You should participate on the Social Web when it can help you to reach new customers, help promote a new service/product or help you to aggregate information. Or you’re just wasting your time and taking a placebo with no effect.