What’s the big deal about Social Media?

You’ve probably been hearing for some time now that your business simply must get into Social Media. You’ve probably been asking yourself (and no one else, lest they think you out-dated) “Why?!”

Let me answer that.  You don’t! There, I’ve said it, and I hope I’m not the only one who will. You can have a successful business without Social Media. People do it every day. People are regularly making a living–and perhaps even making themselves rich–without ever having heard of or tried Social Media.

Social Media is a tool–a powerful tool, to be sure–but it’s nothing more than a tool. Or a set of tools, really. And with most tools, there is always a lot of hype surrounding it, often created by those who want to sell you tools, maintain your tools, teach you how to use tools, or rent your their tools. People like me!

It’s like years back when everyone told you “You just have to be in the Yellow Pages, or you’re doomed!” Today it’s the Yellow Pages that are doomed. It’s like when everyone got all excited about how you have to have a website. There is a lot of hype, and as often as not, the hype turns off as many as it convinces to try something.

So let me try to explain why you should pay attention to Social Media and at least look into how it could support your business. There are three main benefits of social media:

  1. Get your message out
  2. Build your business’ credibility
  3. Find out what your customers need

Let’s look at each of these in turn. But first of all, I am making one rather large assumption at this point: that you know what Social Media is. If you don’t, please take a few minutes to go read this. Then come back here.

Get your message out

Social Media allows everyone to get their message out to the world. While I won’t say that everyone is equal online, everyone has an equal chance online. Quimby Cola can be as big online as Coca Cola. This is demonstrated in how so many videos, sites, pictures, etc. go “viral”, in that they achieve phenomenal popularity seemingly overnight. Something just has to catch the attention of enough people initially and it doesn’t matter if it was made by Paramount or Paul McGilicuddy, suddenly millions of people are tuning in to see it.

Obviously “going viral” is hard to predict or achieve, but getting your message in front of your target customer group is much easier to do. You can get your message out in the way you want it, at the time you want it, to whom you want it at relatively no cost. Initial results can be slow, but given enough time and attention, they do come.

Build your business’ credibility

Considering how quick and shifting the Internet can be, it’s amazing how enduring information can also be. Write a letter to the editor in the newspaper, and within a few weeks every copy is in the landfill. Write an article on the Internet and people could still be finding it years later.

This is great news for building your personal or business credibility. Those who regularly put out informative articles, posts, or webpages, etc., build up an archive of information that can be found by someone at the time they want that information. When they stumble across useful information they are more likely to pay attention to other things that same publisher has said. You gain credibility with that potential customer and someday, when they’re looking for what you’re selling, they buy from you, because they know you know your stuff.

Social Media is a great way to establish yourself as someone who knows. With a little planning you can dangle free information in front of your audience–enough to let them know that you’re credible, but not enough that they won’t come back for more with money in hand later.

Find out what your customers need

Social Media allows you to know what people think of you and your business. This can come either directly, through their comments and interactions with your social media channels, or indirectly, by your actively searching for what other might have said through their channels. You can find people who are looking for what you have to offer and approach them. You can get feedback on your ideas very quickly.

Most importantly, you can interact with your customers and prospects. Social Media allows for dialogue instead of one-way communication. Customers love it when they can interact with the people they do business with. They continue to do business with those they have positive interactions with.

On the down side, people will not always say kind things about your business. You can’t control that. Someone who has been offended can raise a Social Media stink, and there is nothing you can do to stop them. You can, however, put your message out there to counter it. You can attempt to engage with that person to solve their problem and turn them into an ally. Not everyone will want to let you help them, but your other customers will appreciate that you tried.

In short, Social Media allows for public relations on the personal level, and it can happen in an amazingly short amount of time. Those who ignore this potential are at best failing to utilize a significant tool, and at worst shooting themselves in the foot.

So Why Social Media?

Social Media is nothing new. It’s public relations, word-of-mouth, marketing, customer service, and public communication. These are age-old business concepts.

But Social Media gives you a chance to do all of this inexpensively and quickly. It allows you to interact with your customers wherever they are, without having to wait for them to come into your shop. It gives you a chance to get in front of them on a more regular basis. It provides you the means to find out what is on their minds. It allows you to tailor your message to better fit your customers.

It’s not a magic pill that will turn your business into an overnight success, but it is a great toolbox for invigorating your customer interaction.

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