Social Media and Business – 37

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There are several broad ways in which you can dip your toe into the apparent melee. The first is to be bold and start a new conversation. This will, of course, relate to the product or service that you are providing but should not be an out and out sales pitch.

Let us say, by way of example, that you are a hairdresser. Perhaps you are promoting a new and improved hair conditioning technique. You may be using new products which have special or unique benefits. Well, one-way to promote this using social media would be just to say “buy this product” or “come to my salon and I will use this product for you”. This would be silly and be seen for what it is – straight sales talk.

The better way around this would be to talk about hair care. You might want to talk about the value of conditioning. You could talk about how hair is more manageable once has been washed, cut and conditioned appropriately. You might want to talk about the different components of conditioning and how new and improved products are coming onto the market.

There are 1001 ways in which you could talk around the products or services that you are promoting. Sooner or later somebody will bite. They may ask you questions about the product or about your experiences or expertise.

You might be able to give examples of ways in which you have used the product or the way in which your services can benefit other people. You are likely to get into some sort of discussion or exchange about hair care and, as this is your field of expertise, you are well underway to promoting yourself as an expert.

The other way of getting involved would simply be to immerse yourself in a conversation that is already happening. There are ways in which you can do this and we will get to that later on.

However, a conversation is likely to be going on somewhere around the world concerning your area of skill. Using a hairdressing example, people will be talking about how difficult their hair is to manage, how lank and greasy it is, how it never does what they want it to or how they are mystified by the products that are available.

You simply need to interject. You can do this by asking questions about their problem. You might want to talk about the range of products that are available or you could simply support and empathise with them in their predicament.

Relationships are being built even though you may not be selling a product or service at that that particular moment. You will be seen as somebody that listens and that wishes to be involved. This will spread to other people and your engagement and willingness to help will be remembered for future times.

A final way of getting involved would simply be to look for negative comments and have as much to do with them as possible. The negative comments might be about your personal service or product.

Of course, you would wish to address this in a positive way if indeed you could. You might want to point out not only the issues that might arise from the discussion but also ways in which you, as the business owner or product developer, will address the problems that the potential customer or consumer is having.

The conversation might be about a product or service that you are not actually providing for that particular person or group. However your knowledge of the product or service puts you in good stead to address the negative concerns about it.
Once again, using the hairdressing example, somebody might have mentioned that a particular product made their hair worse and they will never use it again. You might wish to question them as to how they used the product or how it might have affected them.

There could be genuine reasons why they are dissatisfied and you can address these. However the negative reactions might be due to misinformation and this is your perfect opportunity to provide support and encouragement for these people. Once again your expertise, your skills and your willingness to become involved will be acknowledged and spread.

The fundamental principle of all this it is, of course, putting yourself into the issues and conversations of the consumers. Whatever you may feel about the social media environment and the people that use it, when all is said and done these people are individuals and groups that buy the particular services and products that you are selling.

They are your present or potential clients. They are the people that buy your products and should be recognized and respected as such. But they may be looking at your products or services from a different viewpoint to you. They will have a different perspective as the user of the product or service rather than the seller. They may have experiences that you have not thought of or that you have been unwilling to address in the past.

How powerful it is for you to be in this position and to be able to experience the consumer’s viewpoint firsthand.

The traditional model stops the consumer relationship basically at the point of sale. Now you have the ability to engender relationships way past this point into the future and, furthermore, develop more points of sale as your reputation, expertise and unique selling position spreads.

Social Media and Business – 36

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The reason you need to think about these sorts of things is you want to know whether or not the advertising and promoting modalities you are using at present are actually delivering results for the amount of money you are spending on them. We call this the ROI – return on investment.

Are you consistently making a success of the advertising modalities that you are using? How long have you been using them? What evidence do you have that they are successful? When are you due to review them? Are they delivering?

Ways of using the social medium

The best way of thinking about social media is to think about how users are making use of these modalities already. Forget, and put to the back of your mind always, the thoughts that may be lingering in your head regarding social media as purely a method for people to waste time talking about nonsense.

This is by far the most common response I get when people start talking about social media. They forget, or never knew, about how social media can be used for business. Even when I show them, at the very beginning, that influential companies are using social media successfully, there is still resistance in moving to the mindset of belief that it can be valuable at grassroots level for all of us.

I sometimes despair at the fact that the message is not getting through to some people. Sometimes it is easier just to walk away and to drop the conversation, so desperate and concrete are their manufactured arguments.

If you are not prepared to open your mind to the possibilities available, especially when the facts and statistics speak for themselves, then you might as well close this book and either burn it, give it to the charity of your choice or, more acceptably, give it to somebody who runs a business who might be more receptive to the messages it contains.

I might as well say at the outset that these messages are not mine and mine alone. Just by doing a bit of research (or, perhaps, reading further into these articles) you will find that countless businesses have taken the bull by the horns and entered into the social media framework only to find their profit levels have increased dramatically. None of this is to be scoffed at.

So, assuming that you are still reading, how are you going to start using social media?

Social Media and Business – 35

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Making a purchase

Social media is more than just an exposure. It means more than simply being out there where your customers are. More than any other type of media, social media is a way of not only making contact and becoming “sticky”, it is also a way of maintaining long-term relationships and contact with customers and prospects.

We can compare this once more to the use of the traditional model. In days gone by (not that long ago, but it seems like an eternity) consumers would make a decision to purchase and then would, perhaps, eventually buy. This would be the end of the relationship.

OK, so things may not be as simplistic as that and there are plenty of examples of people that may be maintaining long-term relationships by direct mail and other forms of marketing. But the traditional model is basically that of (a) customer makes purchase (b) customer leaves (c) customer comes back of their own accord (if they can be bothered and if they remember).

The sale, once made, is the end point in all too many cases.

Social media changes this right from the outset. Via social media, the relationship often STARTS with the purchase or the involvement between customer and supplier.

Whereas, traditionally, the relationship is built and then discarded after a purchase is made, with social media, the relationship develops further and carries, potentially, on and on. This relationship is very powerful. It can sometimes be fragile but, used in the right way, it can shape future conversations, leading to further interactions and more purchases.
Don’t forget, the relationship is not simply between you and the consumer. It goes wider than that.

Consider the following conversation:

Jane: My camera does not work. I just bought it from you.

Acme Camera Shop: Check the batteries – a lot of people get them the wrong way round

Jane: I checked and you are right! It works perfectly!

Jane (to the global network): Glad I got the camera sorted. Acme Camera Shop fixed it with a simple message. Wonderful.

David: They sound like good people. I’ll check them out.

Can you see what is happening? Jane and the camera shop have a relationship but it goes further than that. Jane connects with thousands of people around the world (do you remember I have 70,000+ people just on my Twitter account?) and what she posts online can be read and digested by them all.

This helps Acme Camera shop in a number of ways. First, they have solved a potential problem for a customer. Secondly, Jane has evangelised about the company via her own channels and without any prompting. But thirdly, the company now has valuable information about a prospective product fault which can be corrected either in this version or via another modified version.

What is more, the company can put this type of problem in a more prominent position by adding it to their faqs, wiki, blog or by tweeting via Twitter (or other social platform) about it. This, in the right hands, is powerful stuff.

Social Media and Business – 34

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You need to paint a picture of your current situation and how it might look in the future. In doing so you need to know what parts social media will play. For example, social media can help to increase your profits directly but it is more likely to achieve one of the following (which can also help to increase profits):

1. Increase prospect leads

2. Increase customer satisfaction and retention

3. Improve customer relations

4. Increase website traffic

5. Increase bricks and mortar (offline) visitors

6. Improve word of mouth referrals

7. Decrease competitor visibility

At all times you will need to be clear. Social media campaigns are not a “set and forget” experiment. They require careful planning and integration. So, with this in mind, are your objectives clear (would other people understand them), are they targeted to your specific needs (are they worth doing) and can you measure them (do you know what success will look like)?

People often fall down at this hurdle. After all, if your objectives are not clear then how will you know if they are worthy of your team reaching and if and when they have been reached?

Measuring success using social media is still something people worry about, and quite rightly so in my opinion. We are not all blessed with the social landscape vision of some of the experts. Many of us are simple people running businesses which have nothing seemingly to do with social media. In fact, social media can be seen as a necessary encumbrance to become embroiled in simply because everyone else is doing it.

I recognise the problems but I believe it is a dangerous view to consider social media as a necessary evil. It is happening now and it is all around. It should be an integral part of your arsenal not a frippery tagged on for good measure.

There are, however, many ways to measure success and development in social media use. Some of these can be simple measures such as the number of comments or clicks on a link. You may wish to use the number of direct referrals from a particular source or there are ways in which you can actually perform research into the awareness of your brand, product or service.

Why not look at your customer service records? You can look to see whether or not there are more positive comments or less negative ones or you can look at things such as return rates, retention rates or other metrics. Naturally you can try to make a direct link with sales.

A good exercise now is to sit back and determine what avenues of advertising and support you currently use. For example do you advertise in local or national newspapers, on local or national radio or television? What about the Yellow Pages, local brochures, leaflets or simple word of mouth?

For each of these, what is the measure of success? What is it you have noticed that has changed because of the interaction you had with these various forms of advertising?

In effect, this is the time for you to determine whether or not what you are doing already is worthwhile. Sure, it may seem sensible to advertise just as you have been. After all, other people are doing so quite successfully.

But is that $1000 advert in the Yellow Pages bringing the exposure and revenue that it deserves? Could that $1000 be spent elsewhere more effectively? How exactly are you measuring the success of your current campaigns?

Social Media and Business – 33

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Whenever you consider what social media is all about always think about what conversations you would like people to have about you. Real people are not like traditional advertising pathways. They communicate via normal modalities not hype.

There are none of the fancy graphics and choreographed stories. People just do what they think is the best for their message and this will often depend on the message they wish to share and their expertise in doing so.

Consider which of the following messages you would like to see:

• A review of your product telling people how difficult it was to use it OR one showing how even a simpleton could work it

• An image of a broken component from one of your products OR one showing it in full working order

• A video showing the lack of quality in your product OR one showing just how robust it is and how it functions every time without fail.

How would you respond to each of those scenarios?

You try

Now it is your turn to think. I want you to think about the products or services you supply. Only by having an overview of what you are doing will it be possible to integrate it into a total social media policy.

So, let’s get going:

1. What products and services do you offer?

2. What are your objectives with each of your products or services?

3. What will success mean? What will failure mean?

4. How much is everything worth at this present time?

5. How much are you hoping everything will be worth?

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