Social media has been sold to the masses as a revolutionary tool for the owners of small and medium-sized businesses. After all, it allows business owners and marketing departments to reach the masses with a few simple key strokes-and at virtually no cost. Most social media sites are easy to use and don’t require much, if any, knowledge of code to get started like complicated websites. Customers can be update instantly and owners aren’t at the mercy of the media to publish “their story.” They can publish their own stories, directly to their customers when they like and message it exactly the way they see it. What a breakthrough!
At CES, I had the opportunity to speak with representatives of companies like NASA and Play Station. Alone, NASA hosts more than 200 twitter accounts and Play Station is huge into gaming. During a panel discussion, speakers echoed a sentiment I too often counsel clients: Content is King. Provide good content to stimulate engage among audience members.
A portion of the discussion can be viewed here:
But after the discussion, I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a few of the panelists. The question on my mind? Content is great to KEEP people on your social media sites, but how do you drive people to your site if you’re not NASA or Play Station? I was met time and time again with dead silence. No surprise.
The panelists weren’t ignorant. The difference is they work with iconic brands. When consumers see a NASA logo, or hear someone mention the organization, they immediately make associations. They have familiarity. If a Facebook user sees that his friend is connected to NASA, or a friend suggestion appears, they may decide to become associated with the page without ever looking at it. “Oh. I know NASA. Yup. They’re cool. We should be friends.”
That’s not usually the case with small to medium sized businesses. They have to do a lot of serious leg work in addition to keeping their social media channels filled with great content and engaging their audiences. They have to actively recruit consumers and lobby to attract fans. Certainly, having a loyal customer base who will help spread the word makes this process a lot easier. I often compare this to the question back in the late 1990s business owners asked: How do I drive traffic to my website?
And while nobody wants to talk about it, as I call it Social Media’s Dark Dirty Secret, techniques for driving traffic to social media channels is done in very much the same way as the same business owners worked to let consumers know they had a website (Remember, back in the days before it was assumed EVERY business could be found on the web?). And it takes time. Just because there are people on Facebook doesn’t mean they will seek you out and scream about your business from their pulpit.
Retailers can post signage in their shops and print “Find Us on Facebook’ on their store receipts. Professional service companies may opt to list their Twitter icon on their ad in Crain’s Detroit Business and add their handle to their business card. Word-of-Mouth marketing is still one of the most potent tools to let people know about your company.
I’ve spoken with many business owners who wanted to achieve rock star status on Facebook or Twitter over night. “How do we get to 10,000 followers by tomorrow?”
Just as a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step, so does the building of a social media audience. You can have 10,00 followers by tomorrow, but 99.9 percent of them won’t care about your message and be even remotely likely to act upon it. 10 relevant followers would win every time. One conversation at a time, one relationship at a time. Business owners have been misled into thinking social media works well for all types of businesses and for all sizes of business. Small/medium companies certainly can achieve success through social media, but it takes time. It grows along with their brand.
Social media can be a viable tool in the marketing tool box of small and medium-sized businesses. It’s just important to understand how the tools function and have expectations realistically inline when forging into the territory.