Over the years i have come across many business managers who talk about wanting to “tap into Social Media tools” like Facebook or Twitter. As a successful business owner and manager of a team, i still find this unfocused and time wasting for most companies i speak with. What’s more frightening for me as a web professional with years of experience, is they think that this is the answer to engaging their audiences, much like Adwords is the answer to increased sales. And don’t get me wrong, they have a place and can work very well in some circumstances. But for most companies i meet in this boat, they are not doing the fundamentals of what makes a businesses successful and yet gazing at Social Media.
Business success for our own company is related heavily to a number of specific things inside our Business Strategy:
1. Our relationships
2. How well we manage them and the business
3. The processes in place to govern this
4.The efficiency of our team to know what they need to do
5. Delivering what we say we will and on time
6. Being easy to work with (under rated and highly effective!)
Despite being a virtual company that has no employees and no actual offical company office or shop front, we still operate like a traditional business in what we do. We are all about “servicing our customers”.
None of our own business success comes from the promotion of business within the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linked-In. Minor connections yes, but seldom actual business. We could use these tools more but we would also need to support them.. much like a website. They will require alot of attention to maximize any benefit … and any benefit we do get is likely to be in very specific ways. We would also need to assume that we needed more business than we currently get and that we could cope with the increase. But if we are busy, why would i do it otherwise? There is the SEO aspect. To be seen to be doing what is right so your tick the boxes and the likes of Google are happy with you.
We avoid this for many reasons, mainly to do with doing what is right for us and not what is seen to be right by others.
For our business, we need to focus more on farming what we already have so that we keep those we serve happy. Their experience of our company and it’s services is where our new business comes from and has done for 18 years. Some business models will suit the likes of these Social Media tools, but often these tools are also the platforms of which the business model is founded or even run upon too. If you are new, you might use these Social Media platforms to promote your business through your networks. Once running, they then become useful for SEO reasons.
Most businesses who raise the topic of Social Media with me, do not have their company website or Intranet running correctly. Mostly because there is a lack of resource… thats my observation. The reason they are looking at Social Media is because they want to do some “cool stuff”. They hear the ‘buzz’ of something new and are instantly attracted or convinced about this because .. “everyone is doing this now Dean”. Caution !! Just because some other company has done this or talks about it, it does not mean its actually working for them. In most cases it is not. Do they measure it? What are the inputs and outputs? Do they stack up? I bet 95% of the time, they do not.
Good Social Media strategy requires a good Social Media expert or service, with a long term target and focus. Not someone ‘in-house’ who uses Facebook and thinks they understand Social Media. However Social Media tools or platforms can be used as cheap digital ways for engaging audiences. Like supporting an existing website for customer service enquiries on products or services for example. This is one very specific use here it is driving users at a certain point online to then use the likes of Facebook to engage and ask questions. But this also requires decent resource or it fails. I use this type of interaction myself regularly as a customer on several services. This works very well this way because someone “mans” them and responds quite quickly. I like this and it is often faster.
But does an employee really care about being part of a Facebook profile for work? Unless its a social event like a fun run… or they get some payment or reward for doing so to help encourage new employees or relationships, why would they? A few maybe. For some weird reason business managers think that the average employee is happy to make efforts and be involved in some company initiative to promote business because its simply a good idea. Wake up! Most employees care primarily about two things, getting paid and going home at 5. Reward drives employees. Most managers have this built into their packages, so of course they care more, they are paid more, given more responsibility and reviewed.
And why would i want to follow a company on Twitter for example? Maybe for company stocks if i am an investor? Yes. Or follow a movie star if i was into that. Either way, i would have to be keen.. and want to read the posts. The company offering this service needs to know its of true value to me and.. wait for it… have allocated the resource! The average company has no place on Twitter, especially when they do not have the resource to manage it. I tried a number of companies on Twitter recently and almost all of them sent out useless unrelated information. One company had 90 followers and has never sent a tweet!! I struggled to find any company sending out useful information and those i did find were often reposting.
Distractions from work cost companies millions of dollars every year and its only getting worse. Most employees use Social Media for personal entertainment, which is understandable. Managers are distracted by the “wow” factor of Social Media tools because they are new and exciting. They also use the word “Potential” when discussing it. Anything in the “Potential” category often means experimental budgets and lots of time or resource. Not good business focus now is it?
If you are in-charge of a business, a budget and a website that needs some work, do you waste time with Social Media? Or do you look at more fundamental issues first? Like:
1. Improving the speed of product or service acquisition
2. Create an easy to use self service website
3. Improve the service delivery by streamlining processes
4. Reduce overheads – remove clutter and simplify offerings
5. Allocate resource and reward those for making the above happen
No rocket science here.
Linked-In is a business social network which i believe has a more founded case to be used for our business. Although when i looked at it closely while writing this article, i questioned even this for us. You see, I have a personal profile but i seldom use it. When i think about it, i don’t actually see how it will help me much unless i spend a lot of time on it. And more to the point as i raised before, could i deal with increased work from it if i used it to promote us? And i have to ask myself the question; am iconnected just incase it may!? And for the most part, those i talked to that are linked to my profile could not tell me what direct benefit they get from it either. Outside of those who really use this a lot and there are a few in my network that do post regular things; i know not one like myself that could tell me any direct benefits. Truth is, few that are connected, benefit from it and yet it’s a dedicated business network tool. I know that some do benefit from it and i also know those that do, work on it a lot by posting updates and articles etc regularly. And probably even run a good size network. But you have to use it and focus on it and it has to be part of the business model. This means the resource or the time to make it work, which seems to elude most companies that use it.
For us, our network is offline. Our relationships are in person and over the phone or email. Even Linked-In with its founded business approach does little for businesses like ours. Not to say it couldn’t but we do not drive it. The truth is, we have more business lead generation from the current relationships and the constant contact. This is likely to be true for most businesses despite all the digital transformation going on. These days, any business i might be able to drum up by spending a lot of time on Linked-In, i honestly probably could not handle. If i did do this, it also means i was not giving that time to my customers, which i find to be a more powerful proposition for future work.
Social Media has its place, but right now its affecting society more negatively than positively. Not because of the Social Media tools themselves, but because of the people and how they use it. All these SM tools are making us ‘Fat’ headed. People think it’s cool and use them to avoid personal interaction and try to ‘automate’ what can not be automated. Some of those that are not using it start because they feel out of place… joining to conform. Social Media is attracting people in business for all the wrong reasons.
If you are you’re thinking about using Social Media, think about what you could be doing elsewhere in the basics of the business first. Shelve the idea of using Social Media. Leave Social Media to non-business communities, it works there. And if you can’t help yourself, seek professional advice on a Social Media Strategy from a reputable group do spend their time helping companies like yours.
But my advice is to go back to fundamental business principles that so many companies are forgetting. You don’t want to catch the “Me Too! Flu”. Stand your ground and refuse the “we have to be seen to be doing things” flyers!