Over the years I have come across many businesses that want to “tap into Social Media tools” like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. At the same time these businesses are avoiding some of the obvious and more pragmatic actions they could be taking to improve business.
As a successful business owner, I find this very unfocused. What’s more frightening for me as a web professional with years of experience, is the businesses think this is “thee” answer to engaging their audiences; much like Google Ads is the answer to increased sales.
Don’t get me wrong, Social Media has a place and can work very well in certain circumstances. But for most companies in this boat, they are avoiding the fundamentals of what makes a businesses successful and gazing through the Social Media window. I can only assume they think this is easier or much more fun.
Success is related to a number of specific things inside our own Business Strategy:
1. Relationships & trust.
2. Managing the business efficiently.
3. The processes in place to govern this.
4. The knowledge of our team to know what they need to do.
5. Delivering what we promised, on time and within budget.
6. Being easy to work with. (under rated and highly effective!)
Despite being a virtual company that has no employees and no official company office or shop front, we still operate like a traditional business in what we do. We are all about serving our customers.
None of our business success comes from promotion within the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linked-In. Minor connections yes, but seldom actual quantifiable business.
We could use these tools more but we would also need to support them, much like a website. This would require plenty of attention to maximize any benefit. And any benefit we do get is likely to be in very specific ways. We would also have to assume that we needed more business than we currently get and that we could cope with the increase. And if we are busy, why would we do it otherwise? Maybe to please Google with SEO? So we are seen to be doing what is right by ticking boxes so we comply online.
In our business we avoid Social Media for many reasons. This is mainly to do with what is right for us and not what is seen to be right by others. In this business, we focus more on farming what we already have so that we keep those we serve happy. Their experience of our company and it’s services is where our new business comes from and has done for 18 years.
Most businesses who raise the topic of Social Media with us, generally do not have their company website or even Intranet running optimally. Mostly because there is a lack of resource, which is our observation. However, the real reason most start looking at Social Media is because they want to do some cool stuff. There is a buzz of something new and are instantly attracted or convinced about this because .. “everyone is doing this now Dean”.
Caution !! Just because another company is doing Social Media, it does not mean its actually working for them. In most cases it is not. Do they measure it? What are the inputs and outputs? Do they stack up? Most of the time it doesn’t.
Good Social Media strategy requires a good Social Media expert or service, with a long term target and focus. Not someone who uses Facebook and thinks they understand Social Media. However, Social Media can also be used as a cheap avenue for engaging audiences without needing loads of experience with it. Like supporting an existing website for customer service enquiries on products or services for example. This is one very specific use where it could drive users online to Facebook to engage and ask questions with the company. But this also requires resource or it fails. I personally use this type of interaction myself regularly on several company services such as Banks, Airlines and Restaurants. This can work very well because someone is manning these and responds quite quickly. I like this and it is often faster for a customer. However it means well managed and planned resource.
Does an employee really care about engaging with a Facebook profile for work? Unless its a social event like a fun run? Or maybe to get some reward for doing so to help encourage new employees or relationships? Why else would they bother? Business managers tend to think that the average employee is happy to make efforts and be involved in some company Social Media initiative. Wake up! Most employees care primarily about two things, getting paid and going home at 5pm. Reward drives employees. Most managers have reward built into their packages, so they care more for obvious reasons.
Why would I personally want to follow a company on Twitter for example? Maybe for company stocks if I am an investor. Or to follow a movie star. Either way, I would have to be keen and want to read the posts. The company offering this service needs to know its of true value to me and.. wait for it… have allocated the resource! The average company has no place on Twitter, especially when they do not have the resource to manage it. I tried a number of companies on Twitter recently and almost all of them sent out useless unrelated information. One company had 90 followers and has never sent a tweet!! I struggled to find any company sending out useful information and those I did find were often reposting.
Distractions from work cost companies millions of dollars every year and its only getting worse. Most employees use Social Media for personal entertainment, which is understandable. Managers are distracted by the “wow” factor of Social Media tools because they are new and exciting. They also use the word “Potential” when discussing it. Anything in the “Potential” category often means experimental budgets and lots of time or resource.
If you are in-charge of a business, a budget and a website that needs some work, do you waste time with Social Media? Or do you look at more fundamental issues first like these things below:
1. Improving the speed of product or service acquisition
2. Create an easy to use self service website
3. Improve the service delivery by streamlining processes
4. Reduce overheads – remove clutter and simplify offerings
5. Allocate resource and reward those for making the above happen
No rocket science here.
Linked-In is a business social network which I believe has a more founded case to be used for our business. Although when I looked at it closely while writing this article, I questioned even this for us. You see, I have a personal profile but iIseldom use it. When I think about it, I don’t actually see how it will help me much unless I spend a lot of time on it. And more to the point as I raised before, could I deal with increased work from it if i used it to promote us? And I have to ask myself the question, am I connected just incase it may!? And for the most part, those I talked to that are linked to my profile could not tell me what direct benefit they get from it either. Outside of those who really use this a lot (and there are a few in my network that do post regular things) I know not one like myself that could tell me any direct benefits. Truth is, few that are connected, benefit from it and yet it’s a dedicated business network tool.
However on the flip side, I know some who do benefit from it. I also know those that do, work on it a lot by posting updates and articles etc regularly. And probably even run a good size network. But you have to use it and focus on it and it has to be part of the business model. This means the resource or the time to make it work, which seems to elude most companies that use it. Resource is time. Time is money.
Our network is offline. Our relationships are in person and over the phone or email. Even Linked-In with its founded business approach does little for businesses like ours. Not to say it couldn’t. The truth is, we have more business lead generation from the current relationships and the constant contact. This is likely to be true for most businesses despite all the digital transformation going on. These days, any business we might be able to drum up by spending a lot of time on Linked-In, we probably could not handle. However, if we did do this, it would mean we were not giving that time to our customers, which I find to be a more powerful proposition for future work.
Social Media has its place, but right now its affecting society more negatively than positively. Not because of the Social Media tools themselves, but because of the people and how they use it. All these tools are making us fat headed. People think it’s cool and use them to avoid personal interaction and try to automate what can not be automated. Some of those that are not using it start because they feel out of place. Joining to conform. Social Media is attracting people in business for all the wrong reasons.
If you are you’re thinking about using Social Media, think about what you could be doing elsewhere in the basics of the business first. And if you can’t help yourself, seek professional advice on a Social Media Strategy from a reputable group who spend their time helping companies like yours.
If you are looking to increase business and or sales my advice is to go back to fundamental business principles that so many companies are forgetting. Then after you have done this well, maybe consider a Social Media strategy.