Australia was initially slow in its take up of social media, but in the last couple of years, we have come to lead the world. The main growth is coming from Generation X and Baby Boomers as they catch up with the youngsters. And they have approached social networking and social media with a very different mindset – it’s all about generating value for their business or to do their job better.
One of the main drivers of business value is the attention Google now gives to content on social media in its search rankings. Essentially, Google rewards both fresh content and original content – and that’s where social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, slaughters the traditional website. Virtually all the content on LinkedIn is user-generated and so it’s fresh and original and there is lots of it. Businesses trying to generate content on their websites in order to rank highly on Google cannot compete with the sheer weight of what users generate every day.
The other core driver will increasingly be the formation of LinkedIn’s professional customer networks. Businesses not involved with such customer networks will be at a growing disadvantage, and excluded from buying decisions and information flows. These online communities are forming in many professional and management areas, and LinkedIn Groups is the platform they use (over 100 million people can’t be wrong!). Most are still full of spam (generated by old fashioned marketers ‘telling and selling’); a few are not. They are rigorous in prohibiting self-serving behaviour. Here’s a few groups (or professional customer networks) that don’t:
What should a business do to get started on social media?
Here are the 5 simple steps to get rolling:
1. Build a Strong Profile on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the social networking site for business, and is the business card of today’s world – a card that is always available and always up to date. Increasingly, business people going to a meeting will check out the LinkedIn profiles of who they are meeting. Bit of a disaster if you don’t have one – they will rightly judge you as being behind the times. And of course, you need a profile for your company as well.
On your Profile, you can position yourself as a business leader – always write with your ideal prospects, your ideal clients, in mind.
2. Educate Your Organization
It is critical that that everybody is on the same page with social media. They need to understand the “why” of what you are doing. And the nature of this strange beast that you are getting them involved with!
Risk management is also vital – you need to set expectations about the benefits of social media and explain how the results are not immediate. You also need to set boundaries to ensure your people are using it properly and without damaging the company’s reputation.
3. Segment Your Communities
Though more applicable to social media, it is almost ridiculous to say this as it is fundamental to all marketing: you need to have very different messages for your audience, whether they are prospects, suppliers, employees, former employees or whatever.
You need to have dialogues with your various communities- dialogues that make sense to them, are about them and are appropriate for them.
4. Experiment and Learn
If you’re going to get into blogging, for Pete’s sake, start slowly. Same with LinkedIn, Twitter and the others. Don’t rush in and make your mistakes too large! This applies to all social media –start slowly with a clear plan. But, as Nike said, just do it! Not next year. Now.
5. Invest in Developing a Strategy
Well, why wouldn’t you? You do it in other areas of your business, so why should social media be any different?
Ask simple questions such as what do you want to achieve and what are your goals? And then you need some attempt to measure the impact and the resources required to achieve that impact.
However, measuring returns on social networking and social media is incredibly difficult. It’s like trying to measure the benefits of attending an industry seminar. Or measuring the benefits of having a cup of coffee with a former client. It’s somewhat qualitative, rather than quantitative.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least make efforts to establish where leads and sales are coming from. And which tools are helping to build relationships with your very best clients. The idea is to be aware of the time investment in each area. And it’s all about time unless you outsource it to professional providers.
So you need a strategy. One that is coordinated across all areas of your business.
Now, here’s the big point. What every business owner needs to know before they walk into the social media quagmire …
Social media is all about time – your time and your staff time. Now, one of the reasons why social media and social networking are so seductive is their low price- in fact, it’s free. Therefore they seem to have no costs attached to them, and many businesses get hooked in, and start this journey by doing too much. They spread their scarce resources too thin, and end up with little except frustration. They have discovered the fundamental truth of social media and social networking: it is incredibly time consuming.
More dangerously, they start to challenge the value and significance of Social Media. They think that it doesn’t work for their industry. That it is just a fad and a waste of time.
An alternative and more strategic approach: talk to an outsourcer that has two fundamental characteristics:
1. Is strong on strategy. And has a demonstrable track record of implementing great strategies for SMEs. Not for giant corporations like Nike or NAB.
2. Has access to expert people who don’t cost an arm and a leg. Social media requires an incredible amount of expert time to engage, which is the whole point. So it needs to be low cost or it will consume your entire marketing budget. (We use interns, a great resource in this brave new world).
Lead Creation is one of those outsourcers. Not sure if there are too many others.
Find out more about Social Media in your Marketing here.