Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don't be anti-social

Any business who does not have social media as a part of their marketing plan today is quite possibly committing professional suicide. 
I know it is a strong statement.  But think about it for a minute.  Social media is not the next big thing, it is the here and now.  Face it, we live in a social media world.  It is not the future, it is today.  
Social media provides entrepreneurs and businesses with an opportunity to communicate and engage with existing customers like we have never had before.  It also provides us with a way to meet and attract new customers all at the same time. 
Statistics don't lie, according to www.mashable.com  online users spend 22.7% of their time on social networking sites.  That’s twice as much time as we spend on any other online activity.  Consider where people are getting their news today.  More and more, it’s not through direct sources like USA TodayThe New York Times, or TV broadcasts, but through social networks.  True for me, I learned about the BP Oil Spill, the death of Steinbrenner and Michael Jackson all from Facebook first.
Face it, we live in a social media world.   So why shouldn't social media and a strategic plan to use it be a part of everyone's marketing plan today?   Industry is social.  In the future, every company, no matter how small or how big, will be influenced and impacted by social media internally or externally.  
The Internet represents one of the biggest shifts in how we do business and social media provided an additional movement.   An entrepreneur or business should be working to create and develop a personal brand regardless of how you deliver it.  It can be done through various ways - online, blogging, tweeting, posting ... but one thing to keep in mind is consistency.  Show up the same way in all ways.
Another thing to consider when developing your online brand especially on social networking sites like Facebook is to show up as a person first and sell second.  If you want to sell wine, teach people how to select it, buy it, and serve it first.  Provide value and you will build customer loyalty. 
Success in social media is about how you build relationships.   Same rules apply online as they do in "real life" .  The way you "show up" on Facebook for example should be the same way you would act in the office or at that mixer you go to once a month. 
For a business to gain credibility in social media - it requires a degree of sweat equity.  You need to put the time in to interact with others online.  Build rapport that leads to relationships.  Be dedicated to the process.  The interesting thing about social media especially Facebook is that it provides a valuable marketing opportunity.  It is a tool in your kit to continue conversations on line with the people you meet in the real world who with time can become valued customers.  It allows you to be where the people are.   In this case, there is something to be said for the statement, "Everybody's doing it".   Facebook alone has over 540 million registered users, chances are the people you want to do business with are there too, right?
During the workshops I teach regarding social media sites like Facebook, I talk about the importance of using these sites to deepen professional relationships.  However, I caution you to maintain a balance of time when networking online.  You want to use social media to support your marketing efforts not sabotage your productivity.  And it should never replace the importance of face to face marketing and networking.  A business can not be developed and grown by never leaving your office.

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