Social Media – Risky Business or a Way to do more Business?

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Would social media be good for our type of a business?” is a question I get asked the whole time.

I can honestly say in every single situation social media can play a positive role in an organisation “if” it is used properly and responsibly. Mostly social media hits the media spotlight when something has gone wrong and it is exactly this scenario that has businesses and other organisations fearful and reluctant to take advantage of the considerable opportunities that are available to everyone.

Do a quick Google search on the keywords “Barack Obama and Social Media” and you will quickly learn how social media is credited for delivering us the US President, the most powerful person in the world.

If social media is influencing the world at the highest level then how can we leverage this for our own businesses and organisation?

Have you noticed the trend of a lot of advertisers who instead of listing their website on their adverts are displaying their Facebook details? Effectively these advertisers would prefer to bring their customers and prospective customers onto a place where they can interact with them, communicate in a more informal manner and show them some of the personality behind the products and the services.

The businesses and organisations who are getting it right understand that social media will help them to build a loyal “tribe” of fans and followers. From research that has been done there are powerful statistics that support the reasons why a business should place such an importance on their social media activity:

• 50% of people who engage with a business on Facebook are likely to use their services or products
• 67% of people who engage with a business on Twitter are likely to use their services or products
• 80% of people who engage with a brand online are likely to recommend them to someone else

(Please note the word: engage – that does not mean a “like” or a “follower” – it means someone you actually interact with)

Now there is a reason for any business to get moving!

What can social media actually do for my business?

The first thing I ask my clients is to think of social media as “Parallel Media” and let their activity on the different platforms be part of their everyday routine and not something separate that they do once every few days.

By using social media you can:
Boost awareness of you and your business
• Enhance your reputation
• Build your network of valuable connections
• Stay up to date with news and learning
Drive traffic to your website
Advertise in a very targeted way

To summarise you can accelerate your efforts and do more business by using any of the social media platforms.

Social media is not a full time job but it is definitely a full time mentality.

Facebook is an absolute “have to” for any business selling directly to consumers and Twitter can work quite well here as well. Twitter can also work well for a more serious industry. The magic of twitter is that it is easier to build followers and the powerful search facility enables you to track anyone having a conversation about anything that is relevant to you and your business.

For professional services LinkedIn is powerful but from my experience most people are not even using a fraction of its potential.

Using Social Media

David and Goliath

Social media gives the ability of a small business to compete with a larger business – in almost every other case they won’t have the resources, purchasing power and general financial clout to compete with the big guns.

In fact a small business has a distinct advantage once they get the right person active on social media building a genuine connection with customers that a larger business will find difficult to achieve.

Free versus not so free

Without writing any cheques a business can promote themselves using social media. When the recession bit hard this made social media very attractive as the same budgets just weren’t available for traditional advertising and promotion. Clever businesses spotted this opportunity early and while others were struggling and contemplating setting up their social media accounts, they were light years ahead seizing every opportunity with their online audiences.

However we are starting to see major changes and the social media platforms are now cashing in with advertisers “traffic” starting to dominate. You can target an audience in a very unique with your adverts and we have many clients taking advantage of this feature.

Risky Business?

Social media is only risky when you let someone in charge of your posting who has no idea what they are doing, they don’t understand your business and they are not mature enough to handle the interactions online.

One of the big mishaps occurs when a business owner hands the social media activity over to a young student who is “good on Facebook”. That is like handing the keys to your brand new car to a seventeen year old who has just started to drive!

Sometimes business owners realise the importance of social media but do not have the time, patience or confidence to do it for themselves. My big advice is to take the time to learn and either do it yourself or find the right person to hand it over to but always maintain control.

There is an emerging industry in agencies taking over the social media activity for clients – personally I think a business is putting themselves at a huge risk by doing this and losing the benefit of interacting with your customers. Either do it yourself or don’t bother.

Customers now have the ability to both praise and complain about their experience online with the risk that this can spread like wildfire. This is a new reality and avoiding social media is not a solution. Whether you are active on social media or not, customers will still talk about you online and you are better off being active and aware of the conversations than not knowing – treat the feedback as gifts that you can learn from.

Human nature can present the biggest risk of all and even the most experienced of social media users can come across some very abusive and damaging people online. In this scenario you need to be cool and measured and not let yourself get dragged into an online slagging match. You generally find that if you have been a good operator then other users will quickly come to your side and marginalise the abuser.

Would social media be good for our type of a business?

Of course it is but like everything else in your business, learn how to do it properly.

The biggest risk of all is not jumping in and letting someone else be the one who is talking to your customers!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion with offices in Cork and Dublin offer Social Media Training and Consultancy

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