Social media looms large in the world today. It seems almost everyone, young and old, participates in one or more of the popular platforms. Reasons vary, with some tweeting about their products or services, hanging out on Facebook to connect with others personally, and still others utilizing several platforms at once for a companywide marketing campaign.
Why use social media?
I wrote professionally for years on a part-time basis before going at it full-time in January 2010. During those years, the bulk of my income came from one of my corporate jobs – pharmaceutical sales, advertising, research nurse, and others. I didn’t jump on the Facebook bandwagon and only dabbled in Twitter for a couple of weeks before closing my account.
When journalism and copywriting became my primary career focus, I realized that I probably needed to get with the program, so to speak. Now, I can’t imagine trying to run a business without Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Google Plus.
If you’re a small business owner, you simply must develop a social media strategy for marketing and engaging with others – or just go home.
Don’t take my word for it.
I talked to my good friend, Robert Caruso, founder of BundlePost.com, a social content management system. I asked Caruso to tell me why business owners, big and small – but especially small, must use social media.
“It’s where the people are. Whether you think you should be there, or not, doesn’t matter. It’s where the people are.”
It’s true. People and businesses all over the world use social media on a daily basis. Perhaps they use Twitter to publicize sales and promotions for their products and services to consumers. Many use Facebook to keep up with family and friends as well as promoting their businesses.
These examples represent business-to-consumer (B2C) and personal uses of these and other social media platforms. But they leave out an important population segment that should leverage the power of social media for marketing – business-to-business (B2B).
Accenture released a report in November 2011 showing that only 8 percent of B2B companies participate heavily in social media to engage potential clients. The company surveyed over 200 marketing executives when compiling the report. Of the 200 executives, a full 65 percent reported that they viewed social media as very important to their business.
So why the disconnect?
The respondents in the study had an unclear understanding of what social media could actually do for them. Others stated that supervising management viewed social media investment as risky. Still others didn’t know which platforms to use for their social media marketing campaigns.
According to Caruso, any business that hasn’t leveraged the power of social media must participate or perish. “Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. The gun went off four years ago and you haven’t even hired a coach, or begun to stretch,” he warns.
Get in the race now.
Using a service, such as BundlePost, can help you get in the race and start your social media initiative. Caruso explains that to effectively leverage the power of social media, you’ve got to have enough selfless, relevant, and valuable content out there at all times so that no matter when a potential client gets online, he’s got a very good chance of finding you.
To do this, you’d spend 80 percent of your time searching for great content and assigning appropriate hashtags. A content management service can do all of that for you, so you can spend your time actually engaging and forging relationships with industry peers and clients.
It’s not about push marketing.
“Direct marketers represent the segment of the business and marketing population that have the hardest time grasping the power and effectiveness of social media,” says Caruso. “It’s not about push marketing.” He went on to give a great analogy for those confused about how to properly engage in social media. “Social media represents a parallel universe to the real world. Anything you could do at a local networking event, you can do using social media.”
At a networking event, you might have 500 people shaking hands and engaging about their businesses. The same thing happens when engaging on a social media platform, just in a virtual sense.
It’s vital to be human when engaging with others in social media. Caruso emphasizes this critical aspect when he says, “Don’t send a brand logo. Don’t send a company name. Send a human.”
Final pearls of wisdom
“The biggest mistake most brands and small businesses make involves trying to build their brand without adding a human element,” he says. “Pick someone whose picture will be associated with the Twitter account. There must be a human element. For me, it’s coffee and kids. You’ve got to find what it is for you and your target market.”
“Do less reading and more asking questions. Social media professionals are some of the most helpful people out there. Engage with them. Ask questions and ask for help. You’ll get it.”
Finally, I want to thank Robert for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me. If you don’t know this guy, or haven’t had a chance to really engage with him, you’re missing out – completely. Read more from him and learn more about him on one of his two blogs: BundlePost and SocialGraphics. Follow him on Twitter here: @BundlePost and @Fondalo
Love you Robert.