By Patrick Nelson
Some people thought that the telephone was a fad. The founder of IBM himself failed to see the long-term possibilities of the computer. Others believed that TV would never catch on and still others thought that email would never replace letters and postcards. There are also those who say that Social Media is just a phase, a passing trend that will be gone in a few years.
As a digital marketer, a web presence architect and an Internet professional who is deeply involved in creating and implementing Social Media strategies for my clients – a variety of businesses of all shapes and sizes – I see firsthand the variety of responses to this new Internet paradigm.
Some people are blissfully unaware of Social Media. Some are aware but are choosing to ignore it. And, at the opposite end of the spectrum, some people confess to be “dabbling”, or “doing a bit” and finally, some people – and some businesses – are completely embracing it, pushing out the frontiers and seeking to make the most of this phenomenon.
Unaware of Facebook? What planet…
Because you’re reading this blog, you’re probably having a hard time imagining someone being completely unaware of social networks and their impact on the world of business. Oddly enough, it’s the more successful people – the entrepreneurs, the actual business owners, the doers, the movers and shakers – who are usually the ones who are unaware. Perhaps it’s because these are people who are so busy, so caught up in achieving and just getting the job done that they don’t have time to acknowledge the trend in Social Media and, quite frankly often feel that they don’t need to be aware of it either.
However, these people, once I explain to them the importance of Social Media and the impact that it WILL have upon their business (upon every business), they are usually pretty quick to become one of those that completely embraces the new phenomenon.
Because these are people who are focused on winning. And because they’re in it for the long haul. They intend to be in the game not just today or tomorrow, but for a long time to come.
Is ignorance bliss?
I also see a number of people who, whilst aware are choosing to ignore Social Media. These are the people who think that even universal trends such as the one we’re all currently experiencing will not affect them.
History provides us with plenty of examples of the danger of this kind of thinking. The business graveyard is littered with the corpses of both giant corporations and millions of small businesses who not only refused to take advantage of the paradigm-shifting trends of their lives, but actually blatantly chose to ignore them altogether.
“Dabbling” never works
Playing at integrating Social Media into your business probably won’t work but sadly this is the approach that most businesses are taking. What I mean is that lots of people are already on Facebook; some have even realised the value of having a Facebook page for their business and have that sorted out.
Equally, lots of people have heard of Twitter and some may even be using it and trying to get it working for them.
But most of these people remain unaware of the vastness of the Social Media landscape. They do not know, for example, that there are currently over 350 high traffic Social Media websites representing a daily traffic that runs into the billions.
If your business is going to benefit from Social Media at all, don’t make it a half-hearted effort. Get yourself a Social Media strategist (ahem! sorry, shameless self-promotion) and ensure that you’re making the most of this new paradigm in marketing.
Six reasons why you shouldn’t ignore Social Media
Here are just six of the reasons why I say that ignoring the Social Media trend would be the worst business decision that any of us could ever make:
1. People now communicate more regularly via social networks than they do by email.
The way that we all interact and acquire information is evolving again. Nielsen Online Research (Social Networking New Global Footprint) notes that membership-based communities are visited by more than two-thirds of Internet users from around the entire world.
Also, according to Nielsen, social networking websites like Facebook and blogs received more Internet user time than email did throughout 2008 suggesting that this indicates that email is how older people communicate while social networks and text messaging are the preferred communication method for the younger generation.
But Nielsen also points out that, in 2008, Facebook experienced greater growth amongst older people than it did amongst the young.
What can we learn from this? Basically that people – in general – prefer the multimedia, publicly social, more entertaining experience of Social Networking to the well established, but spammy medium of email.
2. Social networking is not just for teenagers.
In 2008, 35 – 49 year olds represented the biggest growth segment for the social networking sector. Some of the people I meet who are choosing to ignore Social Media do so, they tell me, because they believe that it is “just for kids”. It isn’t. Don’t make the same mistake in your business.
3. People spend more time in social networks when they’re online.
Nielsen also noted that, here in the UK, one in every six minutes online, was being spent in, or on, the social networking websites making them stand out clearly as the places where more and more people are choosing to connect.
4. Social Media is not just for small businesses
If further evidence was needed as to the growing importance of Social Media (apart from Birmingham City University offering a degree in Social Media – I kid you not!), consider of the large brand names that are innovating and using Social Media to their advantage:
Burger King launched their “sacrifice ten friends” Facebook application in which we were asked to delete 10 of our Facebook friends in order to get a free Whopper. Naturally, Facebook didn’t like it, but their users didn’t seem to mind too much; the campaign went viral with over 20,000 users sacrificing 200,000 friends in order to get their hands on a free burger. I must remember to ask my friend and fellow Courvoisier member, James Lamper what he thinks that says about their psychological attitude towards food!
Facebook, as you can imagine, shut the application down quickly, citing “privacy concerns” but the effect proved the point; Social Media, used correctly, can make a huge impact on your brand. Burger King’s campaign was an absolute hit largely due to their lack of hesitancy in pushing the envelope and their willingness to do something a little different.
Dell, also have chosen to embrace Social Media, but with a much longer term focus than the Burger King campaign. In what must be one of the largest efforts – and biggest investments – by a corporate company so far, Dell have created a true cross-platform community with multiple Twitter accounts, a whole network of blogs and a very active presence on Facebook.
Dell have also publicly stated that they have already had a return on investment from Twitter with more than “$1 million in revenue” demonstrating that they have already learnt one of the most important lessons of how to succeed in Social Media (having an effective “cross-platform” strategy).
There are plenty of other examples including Sun Microsystems, General Electric, Graco, IBM, Microsoft, Comcast, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods, Nokia and Starbucks. Starbucks have gone so far as to create a new website; My Starbucks Idea mystarbucksidea.force.com where Starbucks customers and fans can give their suggestions and other people can vote on them.
The most popular suggestions are highlighted and reviewed. Starbucks even have an “Ideas in Action” section; a blog that gives updates on the status of relevant suggestions. By brilliantly giving a voice to their web savvy customers, Starbucks have succeeded in building a true community around their business.
5. Social Media to build a community around your business is not just for large businesses
Don’t make the mistake either of thinking that you need to be a corporate to build a community around your business using Social Media.
I’ve heard too many small businesses tell me that they only target their “local area” and that, therefore, social media wouldn’t be of much use to them.
They forget that one of the most significant benefits of the new paradigm of Social Media and social networking is the ability to open dialogue or start a conversation with your customers, no matter where in the world they are.
A great example that should inspire any small, geographically-based, localised business is that of Pizza Party www.pizzapartyonline.com, Santa Clara, California. Bear Silber has successfully used Social Media to attract new customers to his shop. Watch this video www.pizzapartyonline.com and take note of the fact that Bear made the news just because Pizza Party use Social Media; specifically Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. Social Media helps Pizza Party to promote specials and offers and allow their customers to watch their pizzas being made using three webcams that are installed in the kitchens!
6. Despite the recession, most marketers are increasing their spend on Social Media
We all know that in a recession, budgets get cut, jobs are lost and those still in work are expected to do more, in the same amount of time, with less resources. Despite the fact that this is apparently our reality in 2009, a new Forrester Research report demonstrates that 145 global interactive marketers in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies with greater than 250 employees are increasing their marketing spend.
What’s more, over half of them intend to specifically increase the amount they spend on Social Media.
Part of the reason for this is the low cost of Social Media tools. When compared with traditional marketing alternatives like advertising, it is clear that Social Media requires a lower investment. In fact, about 75% of those surveyed by Forrester who knew their budgets said that they had allowed for $100,000 or less for Social Media tools over the next year.
So, there are six reasons for making sure that Social Media plays a part in your business. There are many more. I’d be happy to talk to anyone who would like to know more about the role that Social Media plays and the true picture – the bigger picture – of just what can be achieved.
The real question is; are you going to ignore the possibilities? Or are you going to embrace them?
Patrick Nelson – T: 0845 880 2141 – M: 07973 272464