The thought of a colleague declining to use a computer might have been acceptable thirty years ago. Today it is utterly unthinkable.
I believe the same is happening when it comes to social-media tools. Those who don’t engage, perhaps dismissing them as mere marketer’s toys, risk becoming irrelevant. Social media is driving change in ways that no member of an organisation can ignore, regardless of their age or role. This applies doubly so in the fast-changing technology sector.
Social media is a force multiplier for all sorts of tasks whether you want to raise your profile; start conversations with new customers, partners or suppliers; spot new markets; and, yes, sell and market stuff.
Real world Transformations
Social media is helping businesses identify emerging customer needs; spot and solve operational problems early; unlock data and new insights; harness untapped talent and it is creating new networks of business and information across industries, cultures and geographies.
- The food stall owner who raised money from customers for a new kitchen with a few tweets.
- The start-up selling wonder DIY putty that showcases its uses from its customer community’s photos and YouTube clips.
- The big-box retailer enabling staff across its branch network to answer customer tech queries anywhere in real time via Twitter.
- The multinational consultancy that has created a cross-border forum to tap into the talent and insights from all its people globally to help solve local customer problems.
- The fast growing, mid-market business creating a knowledge network via LinkedIn that lets it find and get close to new partners and future hires.
Yet many businesses and executives haven’t gotten to grips with social media. Given the pressures on our time, writing blogs, hanging out in forums or tweeting with customers or peers may seem indulgent. A dangerous and distracting waste of time even.
Why is this an outdated view? Here’s why:
- It’s now where the important industry and customer conversations are happening. Why would you not want to listen in?
- It’s where you will hear the unvarnished truth about you, your products and your competitors.
- It’s where new business ideas, models and innovative ideas are born, evaluated and emulated.
- It is measurable, which means you can track how influential your activity is.
- It is a fast and cheap way to influence internally and externally.
But to achieve results you need to align your efforts to clear tactical and strategic aims to ensure that social media does not become a distraction or an unfocused and ill-targeted activity.
A Few (Social Media) Rules
Social media should work for you if you observe a few key rules. They include:
Listen in – Find out where people are talking in your marketplace, about your brand or about the latest thinking in your industry. Then spend some time reading and listening.
Engage – Customers and your industry will talk about you, your brand and your market whether you like it or not. You might as well join in and help shape opinion.
Take a long-term approach – It need not necessarily require lots of time – you can achieve a lot with only 15 minutes a day – but you need to engage consistently and frequently. It’s a long-term play and one that requires the building of trust.
Don’t hard sell – Too many business simply use social media as another channel to broadcast sales messages. It’s is a bit like talking at someone you’ve just met at a party, imposing your views and never asking any questions or showing any interest in them.
The only other rule is: make a start by trying it. Baby steps are fine. Follow a few of your favourite thinkers, share by tweeting links to interesting stuff online, drop in on a couple of related LinkedIn groups. Pretty soon you’ll be living and breathing social without noticing you’re doing it.