What is Social Media for Business?
I’ve spent a few evenings and Saturday mornings at MeetUps and other seminars trying to figure out what Social media is and how to apply it to business. As with all things seemingly infinitely complex once you get it you wonder why it was so baffling before.
Facebook (or social media in general) is like sitting in a stadium watching television on fifteen giant screens at once along with ten thousand other people with interests somehow vaguely related to your interests. Each person (including you) has a remote that controls the channel on one of the big screens, the sound is off but all the screens are subtitled – not with the subtitle of the video feed – it’s the text of the conversations going on at the snack bar and in the restrooms.
Combine it all into a single computer or smart phone screen, spread the spectators and remotes out across the world and connect them using the internet and you’ve got a chaotic avalanche of bits and blurbs called social media that now engages the average citizen for one to five hours out of every day.
Savvy businesses are promoting to this audience with a combination of free content, product placements, and paid advertising bits and blurbs that pop up sometimes no matter what button anyone in the audience chooses.
Facebook (or social media in general) is the direct marketing arena of the mobile generation. U.S. Postal advertising mail volumes plummeted as advertisers shifted from physical mailings to e-mail campaigns and robocalling phone marketing plummeted with the advent of do-not-call lists.
Facebook and Skype (the leader in computer to computer, device or phone conversation technology for consumers) recently joined forces and facebook has their own mobile phone system in the works. The text, status update and tweet are all beginning to blur into a single entity as users automatically feed each into the others. Transcribers and readers are popping up to convert your voice mail into text or vice-versa.
It’s not clear how the blurring and melding of communication will play out, but it is clear that having a big list of followers will provide advertisers with more diverse targets as it does.
This analogy also points out an important consideration for any marketing efforts you attempt using social media – think for a moment about the public’s opinion of junk mail and telemarketers – then design your efforts accordingly.
Why Should I Get My Business on Social Media?
Every expert presentation I’ve been to on the topic of Social media starts with the same clever intro. The social media professional presenter says “I have people coming to me every day saying they need to be on facebook.” He then asks them “Why?” and relates that the answer is always the same, “because everyone tells me it’s important.”
That’s not a very good reason.
Out of all the Social Media professionals I’ve heard speak and met with none of them have revealed the truth about how facebook works for businesses. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t understand it, they’re keeping it secret because telling the truth would be bad for business (if you think about it they need facebook to be a mystery so they can get paid for solving it).
It’s a source of traffic. Just like google and youtube. You don’t try to get visitors on the search results page of google, you try to get them on your page.
Like nowhere else on the web, growth on facebook creates more growth; the act of growing is your main opportunity for exposure. When someone likes your page, video, status update or photo album all of their friends see that they like it – this is their friend’s chance to like it too. That’s the most important thing there is to know about facebook and should shape all of your social media strategy.
Signal to noise
Google search – noise = other search results, AdWords, categories, images
Facebook – noise = almost everything
People are using this stuff. I signed up for del.ico.us and did a test “bookmark” to one of my pages only to find that apparently sixteen other people had beaten me to it.
You have to have the right model for you. Local hobby shop that can thrive on a small core of repeat clients will have a very different approach than Patagonia (although it’s interesting to explore the idea of Patagonia as a bunch of little locals…)
What Do I Say About or For My Business?
Don’t think you have anything interesting to say. Admittedly it would be great if you could invent the next mega-popular Social media app like “home decorating – bug your friends to give you color swatches until you earn enough to trade them for a couch and lamp” but even if you aren’t that creative you’ve probably got something that will get you in the door.
The good news is that you’re competing with things like farmville (where faces enjoy countless hours of planting and harvesting virtual rutabagas) and profile updates like “I’m headed to the shower”, “my shoes feel tight”, and “Whaaaaaas Uppppp dude”
If you already have a blog, occasional YouTube video post, or a photo album then Social Media can be used like a magnifying glass to increase your exposure.
If you really can’t think of anything to say there are hundreds of companies who specialize in managing social media portfolios for businesses. For a price most of them will even come up with “expert” content for you as well as the strategy and implementation.
Where Should I Focus My Efforts?
If you’re like us you have work to do and can’t spend all your time maintaining your company’s social status.
By far the biggest “set it and forget it” benefits will come from facebook. You can set it up in an hour, hook in the most important feeds in another hour, and maintain it in less than an hour a week.
The most important aspect of facebook is the multiplicative nature of the exposure and potential for exponential growth.
Simply put your page updates and posts appear on the news feed of each of the people who like you and if they take some action on your post – “like” it (thumbs up), comment on it or add a review or fan photo – then that action shows up on all of their friends news feeds. If three people with a hundred friends each give you a thumbs up then 300 new people see your page update and have a chance to like your page.
How To Create Your Own Social Media Presence
If you have room in your marketing budget you can simply ask your website designer or marketing professional to add a social media campaign, but for smaller businesses it’s relatively easy to do it yourself.
Is that Really What Social Media Is?
If you want proof that my naïve, non-expert analysis coincidentally cuts straight to the heart of social media all you need do is take a look at the facebook control panel. facebook has created the most chaotic, un-intuitive and nearly non-functional user interface imaginable. Tying to accomplish a task is nearly impossible; in fact in some cases it is actually non-functional. Once you hide someone from your feed apparently there is no function to add them back if you change your mind. It drives developers and marketers around the bend.
So how does that prove my characterization of Social media? Facebook would never survive as a normal web based application because it’s impossible to take control and find or do anything. Can you imagine trying to find a movie on NetFlix if two hundred of your “friends” kept switching the review to their favorite or what they were watching. Facebook and other social media thrive precisely because they are designed to make it difficult for the users to do anything; only the community can do it.