A Business Guide To Surviving Social Media
article compiled by steve

Whilst you and I were asleep one night, the business world apparently changed completely says Ed Stivala, who assesses the value of ‘keeping up’!

 

It’s frequently said that we all now need to be adopting social media in order to survive – let alone grow and prosper! In fact, it seems that if you are not “LinkedIN” these days then you should “Facebook” the facts that you are basically a “Twitter” and there is no “MySpace” left for you.

 

But if we take away all the hype and general guru-induced hysteria, what are the real pitfalls and opportunities presented to your business through social media?

Social media – by which I mean the array of websites that now allow people to interact as opposed to simply read content – is just another communication channel by which you can reach your target audience, and your clients can potentially reach you.
Nothing magical about that. It’s just an extra way to communicate.
But the big danger – and there is one, make no mistake – comes from all the generalisations we’re presented with. Generalisations are your enemies where social media is concerned. But specifics are your friends. So the secret to leveraging this new channel is to consider your business very specifically.

 

Go fish where the fish swim.
Think about your target audience – where exactly do they go online and which sites or communities are they part of?
Scratch beneath the obvious answers that you assume to be the case and you may well be surprised. Do some research. Ask your customers and prospects. Your competitors probably won’t have done such research, so there is an immediate opportunity for you to steal a march.
It’s amazing
how many people simply guess about which networks and places they need to be part of. Be different – ensure that you are investing your time wisely.

 

Make time.
It is easy to be seduced into thinking that social media is an instant fix to increasing sales and only takes a few minutes a day.
After all, how hard can it be to write 160-character message on Twitter?
The reality is that social media – done well – is very time consuming.

Being an active part of online communities means
that you need to participate, think up interesting and engaging content ideas, as well as keeping up to date with the ever-changing landscape.

 

Remember that social media for business is a very different experience to using it as a bit of fun with your friends and family. So someone will need to make time. That might be you, or it might be your marketing team or an outside agency. But someone has to do invest the time!
After all you wouldn’t want to do it badly would you?

 

A poor attempt is worse than doing nothing.
Embrace this – it’s important! Social media is already littered with debris from businesses that have “had a go” and experimented. Whilst mostly they lose interest and move on to the next wiz-bang marketing idea, their social media footprint and their online reputation lives on – permanently.

 

You’re almost certainly cautious and professional about what you say in public and online. You protect your all-important reputation. But the impression created by a half-hearted attempt at social networking can be easily overlooked. All your mistakes, all your ill-considered comments and hastily-written reactions and postings will be visible for ever. So if
you’re not sure what you’re doing or you can’t make the time needed then you are almost certainly better doing nothing rather than experimenting and learning in public.

 

It’s an additive.
Social media marketing doesn’t replace your existing marketing campaigns – it compliments them and enhances them. And the differences between marketing and selling apply to social media too! So for the vast majority of businesses social media will be about long-term brand development and marketing. NOT selling! Of course, there are a few very notable exceptions – take DELL for example. But these
were carefully thought-out and specific to their business. But we have already decided to not think in generalisations…

Once you understand the opportunities, you may even decide that just surviving the threat of social media is not enough – and that you want to join the ranks of business owners who go onto thrive and grow using it!

 

So how do they do it?
The businesses that grow using social media are the ones that have adapted their existing marketing skills to this new communications channel.
So don’t see social media as a sales forum, see it as a barbeque!
A ‘virtual barbeque’ that is. A social event. A place to mingle and chat leaving your card with people and igniting sparks of interest in your personality.
The businesses that use social media most profitably are the ones that took the time to listen first and understand the culture and etiquette of social media rather than turning up in the wrong outfit and suffering a huge, and public, social gaff.

One thing is for certain – there’s a party going on. And a large number of the people who are important to your
business are already there. The big question is: Will you be joining them?

 

Top Tips

Social media is simply another marketing channel – the same rules apply
Don’t generalise – be specific!
Do your research first – fish where the fish swim!
Doing it badly is worse than ignoring it – so make time or employ a specialist
Your mistakes and experiments will live on publicly – so don’t ‘learn online’!
Your customers are already at the party – you need to join them!

 

Taken from an orginal article by Ed Stivala
Ed Stivala is a director of web strategy agency n3wMedia.com

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