Perhaps, but take closer look at Twitter in particular and you’ll see it’s jammed packed with enterprising tech savvy business people looking for sales! … and therein lies a problem!
Sometimes Twitter reminds me of the last 30 minutes of a Saturday night in a UK provincial nightclub in the 1980’s!
It’s 1:30 am, it’s looking increasingly like two best friends will be going home alone, suddenly you’re aware the same scenario is being replicated across the venue. Now groups of hungry males are circling the dancefloor looking for easy prey! In an orchestrated campaign worthy of Monty himself, one male hassles the DJ for slow dances whilst the other sidles closer to the unsuspecting prey. Week after week, despite their best efforts, this sophisticated campaign failed to yield the desired result.
Why? ….probably because the protagonists failed to take into consideration the needs of the other party.
And so it is with Social Media, so many people looking out for No.1, few looking to engage, forge friendships & allegiances, no one really sharing of themselves.
Following a 20 year career in traditional media sales and marketing, I set up my first ever marketing consultancy as recently as January 2011. Having put the gum shield in, I ventured out specialising in Social Media, to look for clients. Probably the hardest challenge I have faced is to convince potential customers that in this new media world, the winners will be those that engage with potential and existing customers. Prospects are looking for relationships with businesses, relationships that can be developed where trust becomes implicit. Clients often nod at this point fully understanding the point but failing to take on board the huge implications of this fundamental shift for their business.
This is something I suspect my good friend Graham Jones would be far better placed to provide data on.
Convincing business people to engage through blogging for example is particularly challenging. They still need to be convinced that it would lead to ROI; they are concerned that no one would be interested in what they have to say and they believe they would not have the time available to invest in it. This, despite our best efforts to explain that it should be at the heart of all of our activity! Hand on heart, I think we can all empathise with that sentiment, in truth we all struggle to find the time because we always put out customers interests before ourselves. None of us are perfect and I see myself and indeed many of my customers and contacts readdressing their time management to find that extra hour in the day to market their businesses through this new media. If we are to believe Michael Gerber, then if we do nothing else for the client than persuade them to spend an hour a day working on their business rather than in it, then that in itself will ultimately lead to a return on investment!
When discussing strategy with potential new clients (mostly SMEs), the conversation inevitably widens into a complete review of all marketing activity to both potential and existing customers. Many (most!) look to Social Media to drive traffic to an unloved website which often needs to be completely rebuilt, most see the benefit of building their company/personal profile within their local area or region. Fax numbers on business cards/letterheads usually get replaced with new Social Media contact details prompting the reprinting of stationery etc. Many view Social Media as a unique opportunity to network without having to leave the office. They all admit they would love to have the time to get out and meet more business people face to face, they acknowledge that it would certainly be beneficial for the business, but because they continue to feel the need to work in the business rather than on it, they cannot justify the time. These people see Twitter and LinkedIn in particular, as a more cost effective means of networking.
In my own experience, if you take the time to engage with followers and provide them with what you hope is relevant and interesting information then they will take notice. They will engage with you and I can point to a number of examples where totally unexpected introductions to businesses and potential clients have come about through postings on Twitter & LinkedIn particular. I show these interactions to potential customers as real evidence of Social Media in action and ask them if they think similar experiences could be achieved for their businesses.
All too often, I see UK business people using Social Media like a giant nightclub in the 1980’s. Those of a certain age will recall Luther Vandross & Alexander O’Neal heralding the beginning of what was fondly called “The Erection Section” as at 1:30am, the big cats pounced in desperation on the unsuspecting wildebeest!
Given our “win at all costs” commercial evolution I guess this is to be expected. Encouragingly, I detect people are becoming more happy (particularly via twitter) to connect with strangers who perhaps have complimentary interests. This initial interaction often migrates to email, telephone conversations and ultimately a face to face meeting where business is often transacted. It may only be scratching the surface of what Social Media can achieve, but given the fact that for many it is still a very new phenomenon in the UK (and it is challenging the very fabric of our behaviour); I don’t think that’s a bad start!
So what’s your experience of Social Media behaviour online?