When it comes to social media the hardest part to swallow is the investment it takes.
It’s not about money, and what I have to share may make you question the way you’ve been engaging in social media for your business. The truth is this: it takes time. Not just time, but an investment of yourself as a person to be successful in using the tools of social media. It takes transparency and a willingness to share information. It takes (gulp!) being real, both for your customers and your potential customers.
Now just relax for a minute. I know you think you’ve got this handled for your business. You may be saying, “We’ve got a blog. We have a Facebook page. Our marketing person is using Twitter. We’re engaged!”
I’m referring to businesses here, but a business engaged in social media is not a business engaged in social media.
A business engaged in social media is people, a.k.a. representatives, employees of or ambassadors for the business engaged in social media. I have never seen it work better than when said people have personal brands (i.e., are interesting). The people responsible for the reputation of your brand must live their lives with a significant portion of brain cells thinking, “I can’t wait to put this online” if they’re not already in the act of doing it, as we sit here, mulling over truths in social media.
These people blog about your products or services, they post photos on Flickr, they tweet, they comment on others’ blog posts, they rate books on Amazon and movies on Netflix, they Google everything. They’ve entered, edited or sourced an article on Wikipedia. They’ve used another wiki and/or Google Docs to collaborate with others. They have hundreds of contacts in LinkedIn and friends on Facebook that span ages, races, genders and socioeconomic statuses.
And yet … are you tapping into these people and their vast networks to promote your business? Do you know how?
Pour yourself a drink while I prepare to launch onto your consciousness five facts about social media engagement for your business. It’s going to hurt a little bit, but trust me, this post ends with a path to recovery.
Five Facts About Social Media Engagement for Business
- You must have a plan. Social media engagement should be looked at as an arm of your business. You have a business plan or at least know what your goals are, how much money you need to make this year and how that translates into sales of products or services. You need goals for social media engagement as well or else you simply won’t know when or if you’re achieving what you intended.
- You do not need to be everywhere. There are hundreds of tools. Choose to engage deeply in a few; not in a shallow, dipping in infrequently, many. Don’t be tempted to dive into them all; you’ll only drown.
- You must have passion. If you’re going to engage on behalf of your business, you have to really be enthusiastic about your brand. Not excited? Then perhaps someone else on your team is; and that’s OK — one of the most difficult truths for business leaders (the C-suite folks) to accept is that they aren’t necessarily the right people to be engaging in social media on behalf of the brand. Empower those in your organization who live it; deeply and constantly, and while they might do it differently than you would, Mr. CEO, that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.
- You must know who you are, and be OK with it. If you’re still struggling to define your business, if you can’t provide a profile of your “best” or ideal customer, if you’re going in five different directions and you aren’t sure WHAT your primary business offering is to your community, then that will come across in your online content. You’ll confuse your audience. Take a step back, figure out who you are, then come back and engage with focus.
- Engaging successfully in social media can take 20 hours a week* or more … if you don’t have time to engage, yet you have identified social media as important to your business development, look at prioritizing your current activities. What’s at the bottom of the list? Can it go completely, or be outsourced to someone else?
If your team cannot devote the resources to do it right and across a few key platforms, pick one and do it really well. Which one? That depends on your business, but for most B2B businesses, the online tool where you will find the majority of your contacts and prospects is LinkedIn. Too old school? Not when your whole team has fully gotten up to speed, fully loaded contacts and learned a few key ways to use LinkedIn to help your business grow. If you’ve gotten #2 and #4 figured out, spend some time identifying the strongest personal brands in your organization. Who are the people who can engage on your behalf, and make a difference? Finally, create a plan with goals (here’s a self-serving plug: Jaggers Communications can help you with that) and stick to it, evaluating your progress along the way. For those in your organization who don’t yet think that social media is important, you need to be able to demonstrate the return on the investment of all the time your team has spent engaging on your company’s behalf.
How are you doing? Are you ready to accept the truth about social media?
*20 hours is, of course, not continuous time. Blog posts can take an hour apiece; monitoring, updating social networks, engaging in online conversation using Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, commenting on blog posts and more take only a few minutes at a time, but it adds up. This is an estimate of all the time above, combined.