It seems that everyone has a presence on Social Media. But is it right for your business or is it a waste of time?
A few years ago, every marketer from Timbuktu to Narnia was flogging social media as the future of business engagement with their customers and prospects. Your business was going to shrivel and die if you were not fully loaded with Face-tweets and Linked-tube-agrams. So, what are you to do about social media? Everyone is at it, so it must be the correct thing to do. Right?
In my opinion, the answer has to be… it depends. For many businesses, it has proved to be a very effective way to reach a lot of potential customers. However, it may not be for everyone. So, what needs to be taken into consideration when making that decision?
So many different platforms
In every business activity, there are different tools for different jobs. The list of platforms available has grown over time… Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linked In, Instagram… the list goes on. Whether you employ one or more will depend on what you are trying to achieve, how much time and resource you can afford and whether you have the knowledge and skills to get the best out of the platforms you choose.
Is it appropriate?
Some platforms may be more appropriate than others. For instance, a client of mine often needs to advise his customers on the installation of the equipment they have purchased from his company, and the best fit was achieved with a series of informative YouTube videos. However, another client sells products used in blood-grouping and they found that their Twitter and Facebook profiles had been ‘invaded’ by teenage vampires, horror fans and a few others I dare not mention. In the end, they had to ditch their accounts.
Designed for engagement
It is worth remembering that these platforms were designed for personal engagement. They were not designed for commerce or for advertising. They are all about person to person interactions. They may have a place in spreading your message, as long as your message is worth spreading. Too often, I see social media sites being overloaded with hard-sell content. What a switch-off!
A Story to tell
Social media works best when you have a story to tell. This is often about the profile of the company, or an individual who is key to the company (think Richard Branson) – rather than the individual products or services. However, if the products or services are truly ‘remarkable’ – that is, worthy of remark – then social media platforms can be excellent places to tell your story.
Does it fit with the rest of your marketing strategy?
Are you prepared to engage? Are you up for defending yourself against criticism? Are you prepared to enter the lion’s den? Have you got the time to do it properly? Is it where your customers or prospects are? Are there better alternatives? Are you going to find yourself, scrambling for things to tweet about, and just tweeting for the sake of tweeting? Does it all fit with your culture – who you actually are – and does it make sense in the context of everything else your marketing is trying to achieve?
Start with the punchline
It’s how every good comedian writes their jokes. Start with the punchline and work backwards. And the same is just as applicable when considering entering the social media fray. What is it you are trying to achieve? How do you actually make your money? What needs to happen in order for someone to want to pay you for your products and services? If you start there and work backwards, you might make a better assessment of the platforms you are considering. Will the platform serve that end, or will it simply prove to be a time-consuming distraction from the message you need to communicate?
So, what is the right thing to do?
Who knows. It all depends on so many factors. It is a decision that is unique to every business. What you must avoid is simply doing it because you think everybody else is doing it. They are not. The savvy operators are choosing the right platforms and avoiding the wrong ones. And some are staying clear of it completely. Personally, I am becoming more sceptical of Facebook as a business platform. The others have their place. Personally, I believe that YouTube can a very inexpensive and useful platform for many small businesses. But, in the end, it depends.
Inevitably, things have changed in recent years. For FMCG businesses, social media is very much part of the commercial landscape. The large companies do it well, most of the time. But that is not always true for smaller businesses. Have a look at your competitors, but don’t feel that you have to follow what they are doing. Remember, they may have got it wrong. And do not be afraid to say ‘No’ to all of them if they are simply not appropriate. Social media platforms were never designed for commerce in the first place and for many small businesses, they can be more trouble than they are worth.
If you would like advice on whether social media should be part of your communications strategy, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to give you some pointers. I offer free marketing audits for small companies anyway. It’s all part of the service.