"Social media is a fad"- This is a phrase I hear often when talking to businesses. In fact, I seem to remember people saying the same thing about email! I agree in the sense that different tools will come and go - just look at the decline of MySpace and rise of Facebook. However, the tools are not the important factor. Executives need to understand the change that social media has made to the way businesses can create value and this has an impact on customer perception.
Here are 5 concepts which, if embraced, can bring economic value businesses and brands.
1) The fall of the 'business wall'
The days of telling customers what they should think are over. They are in the main immune to the traditional selling techniques such as brochures and advertising. They’ve heard it all before - how you are different, how you will rock their world! Customers are people first, business people second. They now have a network of people they trust more than you. Their friends, their colleagues, their connections....to succeed you need to break down the wall and join them as their trusted friend. Organisations need to develop content and connections which position them as a trusted friend - think about what makes your business colleagues trusted.
2) Customers are far more knowledgeable than before
Think about when you go to buy a car. You no longer just walk into a showroom and simply accept what you are being told by the salesperson. More often you would have done some reading and checked out reviews on X car beforehand....this is also true in business. When people are researching who to use, whose products are the best...they start on the internet. So you need to be on the first page of Google, you need people to be recommending you. This is an opportunity. Blogging and Twitter for example, allow you to position yourself as an expert in your area and show that you understand customer challenges. They are also easy tools use so pretty much anyone across the organisation can use them. Make use of these and let IT move away from administrating to facilitating, from administrating to finding new tools which can help enhance the brand and drive the business forward.
3) Its all about what the customer wants to read, not about what you want to tell them
Your website is critical. Hands up - how many sites out there concentrate on what you want to say or what is easy to put up there ? But when did a press release ever persuade a potential customer...really? What the site needs is to offer value to a customer or prospect. The customer is not interested in how great you think you are - they think that might be a tad subjective!...they are looking for insight into how you can offer value to their challenges, how you can help them meet their business objectives. How you can educate, inform or even entertain them at times.
4) What is valuable to your customer?
If you want to be on that first page of Google then you need to be talking about things people are searching for - this is different to the old days when it acted as a virtual billboard. The best way of thinking about this, is to think about what your customer's problems are? And what they are typing into the Google search bar to which you are the solution. Think about a doctor, it is not about talking about the diagnosis it is talking about the symptoms.
5) To gain control, cede control
Do you remember the old adage that the more you give, the more you receive. Well, business is the same. The more you give away 'free' in terms of value, the more you create customers willing to want more, and willing to pay a premium for your expertise. Why do authors give away free chapters? To make you want to buy more. Why do newspapers show you the headlines on the newsstand? So you want to find out more. As CIO you start to control the conversation when you break the walls down and join the conversation on the web. Give them a taster, give them an appetiser..
Social media tools will come and go, but the ability for people to connect and research your competitors will not go away. The more you fear the risk to reputation, the more you restrict the use of the web...the more you are taking the ultimate risk - that your company becomes irrelevant.
Key is to success is reviewing your business strategy and then choosing the right tools to deliver that goal. Too many people decide they must be on Twitter because everyone else is.....No! Decide what your business needs to achieve - is it thought leadership? Is it brand awareness? Is it cost control? Once you have identified your end goals, then choose the right tools to deliver them.
Anna Farmery is founder of The Engaging Brand. She is a hugely popular speaker on social media, leadership in the modern world and also brand engagement and has energized audiences across the world - New York, Los Angeles, Holland, Belgium and of course across her homeland in the UK. She has brought her unique style (described as "a ball of energy and crammed packed of ideas") to large networking events, small business networks, online training events and corporate days. She also produces The Engaging Brand podcast which was nominated two years running for the Best Business podcast. The show interviews a wide range of people looking for creative ideas of how to develop both you and your business. You can find out more about Anna on Twitter @Engagingbrand.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bluefin Solutions Ltd.