Is All This Really Necessary?

You’ve just gotten home from work and put your feet up. Then you hear it… scratch, scratch. Louie, the family dog needs to go out. Where are the kids? It’s their job to walk him. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Right now, dog ownership requires more work than you care to give.

Finally, you get up and grab the leash. Louie pulls you out the door.

Joe’s outside with his chocolate lab—Toffee—a superior example of a dog. She heels perfectly, retrieves things for him and holds a stay position when he goes back inside for his cell phone. She even carries her own backpack when they go hiking. She pulls his kids in their sleds. She’s not a dog. She’s a goddess. Louie? He just pulls the leash and poops.

“How do you make her to do all those things,” I ask with envy.

“I don’t make her do them. It’s the relationship we’ve built. It takes time, good strategy, and positive interaction with her.” Joe answers. “But the payoff is worth it.”

It’s not that different with social media use in business. Many small and mid-sized businesses owners are wondering if it’s worth it. They want a social media plan that performs well and does tricks, but they often neglect it or to delegate it to whoever is lowest at the firm. They hear stories of other companies’ success with social media, but for them it seems like an animal they don’t have the time and patience to train.

Social media in business is praised (Social Media Examiner) as a great means to sell products or services, to show yourself as an industry expert, and to provide amazing customer service. But all of this requires time, strategy, and a good flair for interaction.

Time Investment

If your social feeds are nothing more than links to articles (yours or someone else’s), it becomes boring and predictable. It takes time to sift through material and present it in a fresh and engaging way. Monitoring social media for customer service is time consuming as well. If you don’t respond quickly (or at all) to customer’s praise, complaint or query, it is more damaging than having no social presence.

Strategy

The first step in the social media strategy is to understand your audience. Develop an audience profile or persona profiles. Consider who they are, what their most pressing need is, where they get their information and spend their time, and how you can help them. Jason DeMers, writing for Forbes (2013) asks, “What’s the major factor that defines whether what you write is hitting the target? Your audience.”

Strategy also involves assigning social media to someone who is experienced, or hiring a firm to do it for you. It’s the difference between Louie’s performance and Toffee’s. Do you want a dog that works for you or one that you work for?

According to a Smith’s article for Forbes (2014), “An integral part of the sales process is getting to know your prospects and establishing relationships. Social media can help with that.” Get to know their needs through social listening. Engage in conversation. “They [salespeople] need to develop relationships more than they need to develop leads, because good relationships will turn into leads,” says Janet Fouts, social media coach.

Dog with NewspaperInteraction

People go to Facebook to look at pictures of their grandkids and check in on what their friends have been up to. They’re not really in a buying mode when they’re on social media. They’re looking for interaction, not a product or service. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s useless for businesses.

Adroit Theory Brewing is a great example. Mark Osborne and his wife started a nano brewery to focus on small batches of really interesting beers available for private tastings and direct sales in their tap room. They wanted to generate interest before they’d even started. So, they created a Facebook page for the Brewery in November of 2011. They had updates and posts, paid for specific ads and boosts to their posts and had 5,500 likes before they’d even sold one ounce of beer. By the time they opened their brewery in January of 2014, they already had a strong, enthusiastic group of followers.

American Express Open is the B2B portion of their company, focused on helping small businesses succeed. They’ve created a website called Open Forum targeted at small business success and have several social media accounts linked to it. Their goal is to offer valuable information, insights, and resources for small businesses. If their goal had been to sell more credit cards to businesses it wouldn’t be as successful. They have relevant articles for small business owner, a forum for advice, events, and contests.

Maersk is a container shipping company. Since 2011 they’ve been active on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr and a blog. According to Maersk:

“Social media is about communication, not marketing. It’s about engaging, not pushing…In fact, social media is a mindset, a way of thinking and working together. It’s based on the fact that we are social animals, and that means we can only benefit from sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other.”

The target market, whether consumers or companies, is always going to be people. And people relate better to people than to corporate entities (Search Engine Land). Social media helps establish a relationship that makes people view companies as people they can know, trust, and relate to. It also allows companies to be part of the conversations going on. It results in the earned links that Google views as authoritative. Social media gives a human face to your business and people want to buy from people.