Last week I had the pleasure of participating on a social media panel hosted by the Green Chamber of the South and Southeast Green. An enthusiastic audience posed a lot of thoughtful questions. What stood out were the extreme variations among the guests in terms of their own social media experiences. Much like Lindsay’s post about being so close to our clients that we sometimes forget that not everyone knows what we know; I often fall into the trap of thinking everyone is blogging, bookmarking, and knows the most up-to-the-minute stats on Facebook demographics. But that’s simply not the case.
Many savvy business people still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon. But I see a difference in “why” they haven’t, compared to just six months ago. Now, instead of not being sure there is any value in using social media in marketing communications, most hesitation is due to not knowing where to start. Several of the questions demonstrated that confusion:
I know I need a Facebook Page, right?
My first response to this is, why do you think you need a Facebook Page? What is your product or service, and who is the audience for it? A perception persists that “everyone” needs a Facebook Page, and I still don’t believe that to be true. It always reminds me of something my dad was fond of saying to me as a kid, when I complained that a friend got to do something that I didn’t – “Just because (friend name) jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”
Facebook Page value for every type of business, especially B2B, isn’t proven to me. Many in this audience – small business “green” service providers – may be better off focusing their limited resources somewhere else. Take a fresh look at your website and ensure it is search-engine optimized. Create a blog. Bookmark your content on Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon. Bottom line is, before you try to feed what one of my clients refers to as the “social media monster,” be certain that you have your online house in order. Then, take a strategic look at whether a Facebook Page will help you reach your audience, and put a communications strategy in place before you publish it. Maybe Twitter or LinkedIn is a better fit. There is not a one-size-fits-all social media solution.
Why do I need a blog?
Short answer: because it’s your “soapbox” – your platform for thought leadership, for content, for sharing your knowledge and expertise. It also helps to feed the aforementioned “monster” when you do create a Twitter account, LinkedIn Group or Facebook Page. Need more reasons? Here is the best one: A study by HubSpot revealed that companies that blog generate more ROI than those that don’t, with 55 percent more website visitors.
Since social media is free, shouldn’t I do it all?
Actually, no. To both parts of this question. Sure, Facebook and Twitter don’t charge you to set up an account, but there is a cost. In many cases, that cost is your time. Using social media well takes time, strategy and more time. You may also find that good social media marketing needs expertise, whether it’s a social media training program with a qualified consultant, or the integration of your social media marketing with your larger PR and marketing efforts. With 70% or more reporters now using social media, making social media part of your PR program just makes sense.
And no, you shouldn’t do it all. At least not all at once. There is nothing wrong with taking things one step at a time, to make sure what you are doing is done well. Start a blog. Make sure it’s optimized for the Web and for social media with share features. Then head into Facebook or Twitter. Add on some sight, sound and motion with a YouTube Channel.
The bottom line is that if you are still hesitating to jump on the social media bandwagon because you just don’t know where to start, you can start with just one thing. Experiment, get comfortable, make sure you have the time and resources to do it well so that it delivers results. Otherwise, what’s the point?