As part of my current 'crusade' or 'revolution', as several of my clients have dubbed my current quest to keep social media simple, I've been asking people why they're using social media. Now if you purely use social media for personal reasons, keeping up with family and friends or communicating long distance then you probably don't need to read any further. However, if you use or intend to use social media for your business, then read on. If you'd also be so kind as to put the first answer to 'Why are you on social media?' that came into your heads in the comments below, I'd really appreciate it, and we'll see if it's the same after you've read this.
One of the biggest companies I've ever worked for once asked me to build their social media presence on, and I quote, "Every platform competitor a & b are on. If they're on there, then that's where we need to be". I'll tell you what I told them. You're wrong. That's not how social media works. Social media is built upon communities of users brought together by common experience, common wants and needs and a familiar story-telling narrative. You have to find your audience, not simply position yourself where your competitors are.
It doesn't matter how big your business is, how big your competitors are or how many platforms they're on. You can only build a social media foundation, strategy or whatever you want to call it, upon people. Forget your jargon like B2C or B2B, social media only works on the basis of people to people. Which is something a lot of businesses and social media professionals seem to be forgetting these days. Which is why I keep asking the question. And if your initial answer isn't one of the six following answers, then we probably need to have a little chat.
1. Listen to and learn about your customers
The vast majority of organisations with highly successful social media channels already know who they appeal to, who buys their products or services and how to talk to those customers online. You know how they know? Because they listened, for a long time and then they started a friendly dialogue with those people. You cannot learn anything about your audience without listening to them first.
2. Invest in online relationships that add value
Now I'm not suggesting you use Tinder for your business, but I am suggesting that when you start reaching out and talking to your audience that you actually speak to them like human beings and on the basis that you're a human being too and not just a faceless brand or company. Be professional by all means, but be polite, be friendly and be interested. Your relationship with your audience is like any other, they need to feel that you want to spend time with them.
3. Provide the best customer service
Managing customer expectations is one of the greatest unsung benefits of social media for your business. If you can listen to every single bit of feedback or mention of your brand regardless of whether it's positive, negative or indifferent, what would you do with it? If this was your reason for putting your business out there on social media, then I salute you! Talk to your audience and learn what they expect from you, apologise for shortcomings, educate them on your company culture and how you do things. You have a massive opportunity here to outperform competitors if you get this right.
4. Reach new customers
Once you've got a handle on your existing customers, then the online world is your oyster. Reach out, look for more conversations that may be related to you, look for gaps in the market that you could easily fill, but you still have to do your listening first. Notice that the sub-heading here doesn't say 'sell to new customers', because social media is not immediately about selling. These are still people you're talking to and this isn't broadcast television advertising. You need to do a lot of work to make potential customers your audience and build that relationship with them first.
5. Gain greater market share
If you can get the basic building blocks settled as your foundation, then I pretty much guarantee that you'll steal a march on your competitors. Want to know why? Because your audience will trust you. They'll openly tell people they trust you and share your content for you. Congratulations, you've just made it easier for customers to find you in an online world where ordinarily you have to find them. To paraphrase Spiderman; with great credibility comes great market share. Businesses with a strong social media presence are increasingly outperforming their competitors.
6. Increase brand awareness
I've already touched on this in the last few points, but you need to remember that social media is essentially free for anyone that wants to get involved. Anyone with a PC, laptop or smartphone with an internet connection can have a say on social media, which makes it a very cost effective strategy to use for small businesses. It's also levels the playing field considerably, as all it takes is investment in your time to start seeing results. And time is one thing that small and big business alike doesn't have enough of. There is absolutely no reason (given the correct investment in time) that a small home-grown business cannot have the same brand impact as a global brand.
So, how do these six points compare with your answer to the question?
Hope to hear from you soon.