#Social media has in recent times become equated with advertising online. There’s no disputing that it is a valuable tool when it comes to bringing #business owners and consumers together. However, if as a #business owner you’re still wondering if social media is really worth the investment, then I could only shake my head in pity because you do not know what you are missing.
Now, at the time when #Twitter was the new thing everyone was talking about, there was no shortage of cynicism. As with any “next big thing,” there were plenty of #people who said, “It's a fad, it will never last.” But today? Of course, it’s a different story.
But that is understandable because back then, most people had just about accepted that Facebook was here for the long haul. They never imagined there was space for another one. However, we can all agree that social networking is now a part of our lives. In fact, today many more social media sites have joined the fold along with a slew of micro-#blogging sites and friend-finding apps!
So, right now it's not just the “big two” as they’ve been joined by Instagram!
Classifying the Social Networking Field
After a careful look at what is happening in the social media arena, you can, in all honesty, divide the social networking field into three groups:
a. Those who joined Facebook and said, “That's fine, I'll stop here.”
b. Those who added Twitter, and get everything they need from 140 characters at a time; and
c. Those who document their everyday life through pictures and wry or heartfelt captions.
While the above may look great but it shouldn’t be for you as a business owner. Fact is, using social media for your business is really not a matter of choice any more.
You Need To Spread Your Online Presence Far And Wide
Believe it or not, the way we do business has changed utterly in less than two decades. In the 1990s, running a business from home was just about possible if you had a big enough house or a small enough business. You needed premises, and you needed prime location.
Having premises isn't going to hurt if you're the kind of business that benefits from them. If you're a food store or a hair salon, they're almost essential. However, “prime location” now is online.
You'll get absolutely nowhere if you don't have a website. That's for a start. But it's now more and more accepted that you need other things too. The bottom line is that you need to be active on social networks to have a competitive edge in business these days. And if you're in either of the first two of those social media adopter groups above, you're going to need to learn the rules of the networks you're not yet on.
So, what’s The Route to Take?
1. Business Is More Visual Than Ever; Get on Instagram!
Sharing pictures of your lunch may not be for you, but if that's what's stopped you from getting on Instagram so far, then stop it from stopping you.
The worst thing you can do as a modern business is to laugh at social media. It will laugh right back and drive your customers elsewhere. The one thing you can be entirely sure of is that if you're not on Instagram, your competitors will be. That's a whole section of your audience you're turning away from.
“But, but…” you may be thinking, “It's not like my business is a visual one anyway!”
And by and large you may be right. Maybe you sell insurance, or are a courier. Your product may be abstract or hard to photograph. But you're not. Your vehicles aren't, nor your delivery route. Your customers aren't. There will always be something connected to your business to photograph. Make use of the filters, in an appropriate way – like showing off an epic sunset you saw on a delivery route, for example.
2. Take Advantage of Events As They Happen
You've probably seen a few businesses’ social media accounts and generally, you’re not impressed by them. For the most part, they are used as RSS feeds by companies who know they should have social media. But they don't know what it does or how to use it. All the best business social media accounts are the ones with a modicum of humanity.
If the whole world is tweeting about a significant event, you should be in there too. What you need to be careful about is how you do it. If it is a tragic event, register your business's thoughts and condolences for those affected. Do not editorialize or offer opinions – save that for your personal account, it is not for a business to comment. Never refer to a tragedy and promote your business in the same post. Oh, yes, it happens.
If it is a more joyful or unexpected event, by all means live-tweet your office's reaction to what's happening. If it is political, play it by ear. Nailing your political colors to the mast could bring in new followers. It could also turn a lot of people off, depending on what your views and market are.
3. Reach the Widest Possible Audience
Once upon a time, the hashtag was the domain of Twitter. Now, you can find all Instagram or Facebook posts on a certain topic by clicking on the hashtag too. So you should feel free to use them – in the right way. You want to draw anyone who might be interested in your business to your posts. Do everything you can to get more Instagram followers – this is a ready audience for your promotions.
So much business today is international, which makes social media even more valuable. A huge department store in New York City has high catchment in that area. Its international custom cannot be as impressive, because someone in Zurich doesn't just get on a bus and head to New York for the weekend. But if you're visible on social media – and do it well enough – you can attract overseas followers.
4. If You're Not Sure, Hire Someone Who Is
The big three social media sites are different enough that you can be a Twitter junkie but left cold by Facebook. And, verse versa. If you’ve had trouble getting to grips with Instagram or another social network, fine. It's probable you know someone who isn't so unfamiliar.
It may be a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a son or daughter of a friend. Ask them to take control of the business social media accounts. Pay them for their time – and if business booms, bring them on full time as social media manager. It's well worth the commitment.
It's fine to be agnostic about social networking on a personal level. A lot of us are, and some people are better at filtering events and opinions into a digital space than others. However, you need to remember that social media is not huge part of business – and unless something unforeseen happens, will stay that way. So for the sake of your business success, stop being anti-social!