You’re not alone…Welcome to social media guilt. It’s all around us. We can’t escape from those dreaded two words (SOCIAL MEDIA). They appear on the cover of magazines, newspapers, our favorite TV shows are on twitter and have Facebook pages, our friends and family talk about the funny videos they recently saw on YouTube. No, social media isn’t going away. But I’m here to tell you that you no longer need to feel guilty.
I would much rather see many businesses focus on the fundamentals of the business before they think about social media. Namely, business model.
Social media is in many ways changing many business models. I only need to look at my husband’s industry to see a great example of this. Michael was a head hunter for 20+ years. Now, approximately 90% of all employers use social media to find and attract employees. The headhunting business model needs to be significantly revised.
I can say the same for associations. I’ve been a member of a number of industry associations and they all hung their hat on Networking and Education. Here’s the problem with that value model. I can now network with more people, across the globe, without ever leaving my office. Instead of being in a room with a handful of people – many of them not my potential customers – I can now use keywords online to find the right prospects for my business, find out about their fears & frustrations, needs & desires, contact them, build a relationship and offer a solution all before I ever meet them in person. Oh, and as for education, well at the click of a mouse I can find the answer to virtually any question I have. I can sign up for a growing list of webinars, read industry blogs, participate in wikis, converse in Twitter chats, and the list goes on. Associations need to revisit their business model.
If you’re business model is unremarkable, you’ll likely be unremarkable online.
Spend the time getting to know the space before jumping in to anything. Listen. Find examples of companies you think are doing a great job and identify where their success comes from. Find companies that are doing a terrible job and ask yourself why. Listen to your target market online and find out what their needs are so you can create a compelling solution. Don’t get bamboozled into being everywhere just because everyone else tells you that you need to be there. Be where it makes sense to put your business to connect with your audience.
We all have limited time and resources, yet we all have limitless opportunities. Smart businesses do only what they can be exceptional at. Why divide your time between 10 different social media sites, when you can be exceptional on 1. Imagine the value to your brand when people recognize you stand for incredible insights & expertise.
The next time someone tells you that you just have to check out that new social media tool, tell them that you’re too busy being exceptional.
Never underestimate the power of a vision so simple that it will fit in a 140 character tweet.
To create a third place between work & home . CEO, Howard Shultz, on his vision for Starbucks
To sell tools that unleash human potential . CEO, Steve Jobs, on his vision for Apple
Human connections that change the way we live, work, play and learn . CEO, John Chambers, on his vision for Cisco
All of these visions have some things in common. They’re focused. They’re emotive (and, not descriptive of products or services). They’re unbelievably easy to remember. To create a vision so simple is anything but easy. But it is powerful.
Welcome to Week 1 of READY2SPARK’s ‘Social Media Starter Kit’. As a brand strategist and a sales & marketing consultant, it’s my responsibility to ensure that my clients are making the right decisions for their business and standing apart from the crowd. This series will be dedicated to getting smart about social media.
But first let me tell you a short story…
A number of years ago I was working on a brand design project for a line of weight loss products. To better understand the industry, I flew out to Ohio, where a weight loss conference was taking place. While in town I decided to fit in a few trips to local Walmart stores so I could see how customers shopped the category. Pretending to be engrossed by the various bottles of weight loss elixirs, I lurked the aisle to see who was buying and what products caught their attention. One extremely overweight couple, carts overflowing with chips, pop and other packaged goods (made from ingredients I can’t pronounce), made their way down the aisle. They stopped in front of the diet pills and proceeded to debate which one to put in their cart. Aaah, the quest for the silver bullet. Forget about the proven solution (good diet + exercise). It’s human nature to try and find the quickest route to our end destination.
So, why did I tell this story?
Because we see the same problem in Social Media. There are a tonne of companies who believe that the silver bullet answer to creating thousands of friends, followers and prospects is to have a Facebook page, Twitter account or blog. Like magic, potential-customers will flock to these sites to listen to Company XYZ pontificate about how great they are. “We just launched our new blog!”, “We just won an award!”, “We just signed a new client!”, blah, blah, blah. Listen to what we’ve done, look at what we’ve seen, oh enough about us…what do you think about us? Here’s the problem with this silver bullet theory: People are time starved and information overloaded. If they feel that you’re wasting their time by providing information that’s not relevant or meaningful to them, they’ll say good-bye. And that, my friends, is the beauty of social media. Unlike TV ads, magazine ads and radio ads, they’re not forced to listen to your message. If they don’t like what they hear they’ll dismiss you without a second thought. Add to this challenge that unlike traditional media, ‘He who has the deepest pockets’ doesn’t win. After all, social media is free. This means that you have more competition than ever before. To cut through the clutter, simply participating isn’t enough…you have to be clever.
So for now, I’ll leave you with these thoughts & welcome your feedback. If there are any topics you’d like to hear about, please contact me and let me know.
Until next week!
One of the simplest rules of business is this: You have 2 options for your business strategy, but you have to choose one:
The largest retailer in the world, Walmart, uses this strategy very successfully. Their single-minded goal is to be the lowest price leader in every community they serve, negating the need for special sales…thus their tagline, “every day low prices”. Many businesses scoff at the competitor who consistently beats them on pricing. But please keep in mind that being the lowest cost provider is a solid strategy (just chew on this recent research published on Marketingprofs called ‘Consumer Frugality is Here to Stay‘) . If you are not the lowest priced in your category you only have one other choice…
If you don’t have the lowest prices in your market, you better darn well have a really good reason why people should do business with you. Unfortunately, a lot of companies simply exist and don’t think through this challenge. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Why would they want to stop doing business with their incumbent and do business with you?
Value differentiation requires you to be unique in the marketplace and meaningful to your target. Just take a look at the values these infamous brands provide:
To define your value proposition, ask yourself:
So which option did you choose?
Social media is often the subject of ‘shiny object syndrome’. People gravitate to its newness, its promises of success and its buzz. Problem is most of these people don’t get the results they’re looking for. A recent study by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland reports that social media adoption by U.S. small businesses doubled from 12% in 2008 to 24% in 2009. However, over one-quarter (26%) of users say it has fallen short of expectations. One-half (50%) of small business users say it has used up more time than expected. Some 17% say it has resulted in allowing people to criticize their business. All of these challenges can be addressed by having a strategy. A strategy ensures you know what you’re looking to achieve, who you’re looking to speak to and where and how they spend their time online, what potential risks are and how you can mitigate them.
The word ‘media‘ is misleading as it’s associated with instruments of mass advertising (i.e. television, newspapers, magazines), considered marketing channels. In fact, social media touches virtually every department of an organization. People use social media to talk about what they love, hate, desire, what they’re experiencing, reading, watching (etc). Customers interact with your business on many different levels – they call in and speak with your receptionist, they receive invoices from your accounting department, they interact with your installation crew, and so on. None of these fall under marketing. Yet, these may be the very things your customers talk about when they mention your business online. From IT to CEO to PR, everyone in the organization needs to be ready for social media.
Alright, if you screamed in delight at the thought of moving your advertising budget over to social media and saving your business tens of thousands, think again. Yes, it can cost nothing to be successful in social media. Heck, Blendtec went viral with an initial investment of $50. But time + resources = money (and you need both to be successful).
In order for social media to be successful in an organization, it has to be readily embraced by the organization’s leaders. Social media is a mindset, it’s a cultural shift…it’s more than just an activity. Ensure executives not only know what social media is, but what it needs to be successful, that it’s a long-term initiative, that it requires investment of time and resources and that it will likely require their contribution.
Go directly to jail. If you’re looking for a new tool to provide updates about your company, social media is not for you. Unlike ‘traditional’ forms of media – television, newspaper, magazine, radio, billboard, etc – which interrupt consumers, social media is opt-in. People choose whether or not to connect with you. That means that the only way you can reach a consumer is to offer something of value that they want to hear. The moment you continually spam people with you-centric information is the moment people stop listening. Social media harkens a new age of communications. One that requires…gasp…dialogue.
This is a controversial point. There are an overwhelming number of companies that still ban their employees from using Facebook and other sites at work. Their fears – that employees will waste away the day playing with their friends and that, while representing work, they will say something inappropriate about work. Organizations need to clearly outline social media policies. Just like you have policies for dress code, ethics and interactions with other employees, social media requires guidelines and expectations. Another consideration is training. Many successful company incorporate social media in their employee training processes. Setting a tone of trust with a framework is necessary to encourage positive social media interactions.
Social media is one of the best ways to gather customer insights. By participating, you’re inviting feedback – positive, negative and everything in between. This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses to understand why their customers buy from them, why prospective customers don’t and what problems and solutions sets your business apart from the crowd. Why flounder this opportunity by not preparing your business to listen to and implement changes from feedback? I encourage companies to go back to point #2 and involve all facets of the organization in social media preparedness. Feedback should be collected and reviewed with an open mind. Two companies who are the gold standard in feedback implementation are Starbucks and Comcast.
Join me at Events Asia 2010 in Boracay, Philippines, April 28-30th!
I’m very excited to be a part of this great event. I’ll be joining some fantastic speakers including Max Lenderman, author of Experience the Message. The event will be held at the beautiful Boracay Ecovillage Resort & Convention Center (you may recognize the name from the Miss Earth 2009 competition). For more information, visit the official event website. I hope to see you there!