23 Dec 5 Reasons Why Your Business Should Be Using Social Media (and 5 Reasons It Shouldn’t)
Of all the possible tactics for promoting your small business online, its social media which is arguably the least understood.
Some businesses throw themselves headlong into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest. Others avoid any kind of social media like the plague. But most sit somewhere in the middle; unsure of the benefits of social media, and how best to leverage it for their business (if at all).
If this is you then read on to discover a balanced view of whether or not you should be using social media to promote yourself – and how to do it right.
Why You Should Be Using Social Media
It might not cost anything to build a Facebook page or set up a Twitter account, but social media is never going to be free. You’ll pay, one way or the other. Maybe you’ll pay with cash – advertising to grow your following. Or maybe you’ll pay with your time – the time spent posting interesting status updates. Whatever the case, social media is an investment – no two ways about it.
So why should you be willing to put that time and effort in?
The first benefit of social media from a business perspective is that it allows you to gain better brand awareness with your target market. If you’re a dog grooming parlour you can use social media to help dog owners in your local area become more aware of your products and services.
That way, when little Molly needs a trim they’ll remember you rather than your competitors.
Networking doesn’t just apply to your customers; it can apply just as well to getting known by influencers in your niche. For example just imagine if our dog groomer got to know a number of local dog-owning celebrities in their neighbourhood and gave their pets a trim? This could lead to word-of-mouth, as well as other promotional opportunities. Yes, word-of-mouth can begin with social media.
In marketing-speak we often talk about paid, owned and earned media. Paid is all the ads you spend money on. Owned media is your database of customers that you can market to time and again. Earned media however is marketing you can gain simply by being truly valuable to your niche market.
A growing social following can represent an excellent promotional opportunity for not just your products and services but also all the “non-salesy” aspects – such as articles you’ve written, photos you’ve taken and more. By offering genuine value to your followers, when you actually post something promotional, not only will you have more followers but they’ll also be far more receptive towards the opportunities you present them.
Ever visited one of those websites which links out to a Facebook page with 3 fans that hasn’t been updated in the last 12 months? How did that make you feel? More importantly, how does it affect your impression of the business? It’s unlikely you’ll decide they’re so great that they’re too busy to be on Facebook; rather you might see the “digital tumbleweeds” and decide this company really isn’t putting the effort in.
The reverse is also true, however. When a small business has thousands of fans or followers, and is regularly sharing useful, interesting updates we naturally assume they’re “safe”. Don’t under-estimate the power that this social proof can have on making your business appear bigger and more trustworthy than you might.
I hate to break it to you but your business isn’t perfect. We can all improve. The question is “how”? Of course, the best answer is to get feedback from actual customers. Social media makes it easy for existing or potential customers to connect with you, ask questions or provide feedback.
By listening to, and engaging with, these individuals you can often find ways to improve your business. You might even uncover a new product or service that people are crying out for yet you never even considered asking.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Using Social Media
As you can see, there are plenty of potential benefits of being on social media. So it’s fair to say that everyone should rush out and sign up for Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler right now, ok? Well, no. You see, despite the potential benefits of social media, it’s oh-so-easy to do it wrong.
In which case you might as well not bother.
Better to be investing time and money elsewhere in your business.
To give a balanced picture, therefore, here are five reasons why social media might not be right for your business…
Me, Me, Me
Too many businesses see social media as a one-way “broadcast” medium. They post about a special offer or a new product they’ve released and expect flocks of people to arrive at their website, credit card in hand, ready to buy. In essence a Facebook page or Twitter profile is seen by many businesses as a promotional channel like email marketing. Somewhere simply to talk about themselves.
On social media, people really don’t care about your product. People on social media want to be informed, educated and entertained. Oh sure, they’ll tolerate a few promotional messages here and there but if you only plan to go “me, me, me” then social media isn’t for you.
Remember everyone’s favourite radio station – WII FM – or “what’s in it for me”.
Yep, it’s painful to admit but a lot of social media profiles run by small businesses are flat out BORING! You need to be continually asking yourself why people will want to follow you.
The correct answer isn’t because you’re the oldest dog groomers in your town. Nor is it because you offer the best prices or the longest opening times.
Nope. It’s because you constantly share handy dog-ownership tips, cute puppy pictures and you chat to your followers about their pets, building a community and encouraging them to show off their own pooches. You build an enjoyable, informative and supportive community of like-minded individuals. Do that and you’ll be successful. Be boring, and you might as well quit before you start.
Let’s imagine you’re going on a first date. Do you expect to marry that individual at the end of the first dinner together? Probably not. At least I hope not – or you’re in for a nasty surprise (as is your date!).
The same could be said for social media. You can’t share a few funny pictures and expect to double sales the same day. Social media is about relationships – and relationships take time to build.
Social media, unlike PPC, doesn’t result in an immediate return on investment. Instead, businesses successful with social media need to be in it for the long haul.
Lack of Strategy
The people who follow our imaginary dog groomer probably aren’t interested in his or her political views. Most of them probably don’t care about the football scores from the weekend or on what Donald Trump is saying today.
To keep your audience engaged and growing, you’ll therefore need a strategy. Social media is so increasingly competitive that simply posting when you have the time, and whenever you remember, and posting whatever you fancy simply isn’t going to cut the mustard.
These days it’s critical to have a social media strategy, and one that you’re regularly willing to re-assess to see exactly what is working for you – right now. Over time you’ll develop a reliable, proven strategy for getting the maximum results with minimal effort.
Many businesses know that they “should” be doing social media, but this is rarely enough.
After all, how do you know if you’re doing a good job, when actually you have no real targets?
Worse, how do you formulate a strategy when you don’t know why you’re on social media or what you’re meant to be doing?
No, social media can be one of the most time-intensive things you ever do, so don’t do it “just because”. Make a goal. Build a strategy. And then focus your time on the most efficient actions to help you achieve that end.