It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon with social networks. All the rage. these communications tools can provide a great avenue to reach new customers and contacts. At the same time they can burn masses of time and divert you away from other business development tactics. So what are the obstacles that the uninitiated should try and avoid? Here are 5 factors to assess if social networking makes real business sense for your organisation.
1. Follow your market
Is your market using social networks? If they don’t then concentrate on the communications channels they are more ‘at home’ with. Whilst there’s a tremendous ‘buzz’ about channels such as facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like, you need to be absolutely sure the people you want to communicate to use them. Research is emerging about the profile of people using this media and their usage patterns. Make sure you check the findings out before you commit lots of time and energy to social networking.
2. Selling will switch people off
People don’t want to be ‘sold’ to on social networks, nor do they want to read loads of self-gratification, questions or dialogue secretly masked as such. An open, honest and interesting discussion is preferred and you need to be sure your products or services can stand up to this. The good news is this can add positively to your company or brand ‘experience’. To do so you need to think closely about best tone of voice to adopt as well as the interesting and engaging content you can bring to the discussion. If your mind goes blank at this prospect, perhaps now’s not the time to get involved.
3. It takes two
The best business relationships emerging from social networks originate from both parties showing a genuine interest in each other. So don’t ignore questions and messages that people post to you. Interact with them. Remember you are on display here. A company who only posts comments about itself, points people to its website and doesn’t respond to questions and comments from the public (including customers and prospective ones) is soon ignored or worse still, ridiculed.
4. Beware blending business and pleasure
If you are blurring the boundaries of business and personal life in your use of social networks, make sure one cannot harm the other. We have seen people who have clearly stated brand values and messages for their company, but through their use of facebook, blogs and twitter seem to deviate from these. Just like any other communication channel, when it comes to business, social networks need to be planned and strategically managed along with other media you are using. If not, you risk becoming inconsistent and confusing with your company/product/service message..
5. Let your advocates do the talking
Social networks really do give more power to the people. If your clients and customers love the experience that your products and services give then let them do the talking. Recommendations (especially when the economy is difficult) speak volumes and will be noticed far more than any sales message spiel you can put together.
And don’t forget…
Whilst social networks have been enabled by new technology, they are governed by human behaviour and that is slower to change. Social networks facilitate socialising and satisfy a desire for community, knowledge and entertainment. With each of us those desires take different forms and different weightings. On top of this, each of us only has so much time in a day to interact with them. So people often try out different mediums and then settle with what they’re happy with. That’s why you have to be a) doubly sure you’re interacting with the right network for your market, b) you understand why, when and how they use it and c) you produce content they will engage with.