Is Social Media the Answer for Your Business?

If you’re like most people, you’ve put terms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in the «things for kids and
passing time» category. If so, you’re missing the boat – a very large boat – for your business. Whether
you’re a corner barbershop or international manufacturing company, in order to grow (let alone maintain) your
business, you must start paying attention to social media.
Social media is the collection of internet-based technology that allows the widespread creation, distribution,
and collaboration of content (e. g., articles, opinions, videos, entertainment). The technology is typically
low cost and accessible to anyone with access to the Internet. Contrast this with «industrial» media such as
magazines, newspapers, radio, and television, which are expensive to produce and limit content creation and
distribution to just a few.
The old world of industrial media allowed businesses to distribute specific messages regarding products and services,
while the general public could choose only to accept or deny those messages. Consumers had no other say in the
matter and generally they accepted marketing messages in direct proportion to their prominence (i. e., number of
times they were seen).
Although this model was the accepted environment for many years, the tide has turned. In fact, the New York Times
reported that many top publications like Forbes and Fortune were down over 15%. Thanks to advances in technology
and access to high-speed Internet connections, for the first time in history, consumers have their own far-reaching
voice, separate from corporate marketing messages.
For businesses this represents both good and bad news. The bad news is that the way people buy has changed.
Social media provides such a rich source of information and opinions on any product, business, or service that
many can choose to simply ignore advertisements, taglines, and positioning statements. Even the «expert» review
has yielded its authority to peer reviews from fellow consumers. Forrester Research found that the people who
say companies tell the truth in their advertisements has dropped from 13% to 7%.

Today’s consumer is more savvy,
research-driven, better educated, and talking to other consumers worldwide to make very informed buying decisions.
The good news is that social media does not discriminate. Businesses have the same access to social media sites,
technology, and tactics as the consumer. This is considerably good news for the small business owner that can’t
afford traditional industrial media. Like many advances brought by the Internet, social media provides a very
level playing field.
As many more businesses now come to this realization, many make the fatal assumption that, «All I’ve got to do is
learn how to set up a blog, or Twitter account, or Facebook page, then start posting!» While these are absolutely
important steps in the process, businesses must first familiarize themselves with the most critical pieces in social
media: strategy and conversation.
A typical approach for businesses new to social media is to start selling by broadcasting their marketing message.
Imagine a single male that’s desperate to find a wife, walking into a backyard party and shouting, «Ladies, I’ve
arrived! Come over here if you wanna get hitched!» I bet you’d agree that is not the best strategy. A solid
strategy requires careful thought and planning in consideration of your overall objective, your audience, your
audience’s objective, and the specific actions required to get them from where they are to where they need to be.
Because consumers have so much data available upon which to make their buying decisions, a simple one-liner won’t
do the job. Just like making friends at a backyard party, you must master the art of conversation. People buy
from people they like, and today’s Internet technology and online culture allow you to create meaningful connections
with others you meet at the online party. This is the key to social media – creating and taking part in meaningful
conversations with others that will lead them to want to do business with you.
Social media CAN BE the answer for your business, provided you recognize it as another valuable tool in your
marketing tool bag, create a solid strategy for its implementation, and respect the new buying landscape.