By Brian Bluff
At MODEX, my brother Eddie and I had the opportunity to deliver a workshop titled, “Social Media Bootcamp.” During a break, I spoke with a number of the attendees. Despite their excitement about the power of social media and its potential impact on their businesses, some expressed concern about their ability to get started.
The reality is that the leadership at many companies does not yet support participation in social media. Security, time, frivolousness and the mother of all objections — “My customers don’t use social media” — are the top concerns C-level executives offer when opting out.
In an attempt to dispel some of the trepidation expressed through these anti-social media objections, the remainder of this article will tackle each head on.
Social media is a security risk.
Somewhat agree. There is risk with social media, but it has to do with having employees, not social media. This risk is not new.
We’ve all heard stories about rogue employees violating corporate trust. It happens. In the eight years since my brother and I started Site-Seeker, Inc., we have our own set of embarrassing employee-based stories.
To lessen the frequency of these situations, we have worked to improve our recruiting practices. That said, sometime in the next few years, there will likely be an employee situation that causes me to lose a little more hair.
Despite these inevitable events, we “permit” our employees to answer the phone, send email, take part in meetings, attend tradeshows and participate in social media. While social media does give our employees a big voice, I would suggest that the potential for harm is no more than that of an employee intentionally emailing sensitive information to everyone in their address book. Employee problems happen with or without social media.
A social media policy can lessen the potential for a security violation, but at the end of the day, there is no substitute for good employees.
Social media is time consuming.
Agree. Social media is time consuming if you do it right. But, so is taking a steady stream of orders or managing a pile of new leads. Anything can be time-consuming, but there are strategies to minimize the time required by social media.
The overarching goal of a B2B social media program is to establish yourself as an approachable expert within an expanding group of qualified customers and prospects. You do this by listening, sharing and providing value. Helping prospects solve their problems positions your brand as a valued resource. When customers and prospects have a problem you can solve, you will earn the right to bid on the job.
Creating content and monitoring your social media platforms is time-consuming. Blog posts, articles, videos, images, and infographics make up your expert content. You will need to create this content and that takes time. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and YouTube are used to distribute content and to participate in related discussions. These interactions grow your social capital and the reach of your brand. The more time you spend engaging, in a quality way, the higher your return.
Creating content once, and repurposing it multiple times, saves time. A white paper can be turned into a three or four blog posts; a Power-Point presentation can be converted into a video or uploaded to a presentation sharing site like SlideShare; and a video can, with a few clicks, be embedded into a blog post or your website. The secret to saving time is to capture your thoughts once, and express them in different formats including blog posts, whitepapers, articles, presentations, video, podcasts, webinars, and email newsletters.
Social media is frivolous.
Disagree, but understand. A study referenced by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter) claims that 50 percent of Twitter activity is spam, self-promotion and pointless babble. If your vision for social media is telling people what you had for lunch or shouting, “look at me,” then you are right. Social media is frivolous.
If you intend to operate within the other half of the pie chart, you will pass along news, spread valuable information and participate in conversation with prospects and customers. Depending on how you use it, social media can be invaluable and definitely not frivolous.
“My customers don’t use social media.”
Strongly disagree. Usership of social platforms has grown to astounding levels:
• 900 million Facebook users,
• 300 million Twitter users,
• 135 million LinkedIn users, and
• 93 million Google Plus users.
All these users engage in conversations about every subject under the sun. To prove to yourself that people are discussing your industry online, search for relevant keywords on the following sites:
• Google Blogs (Select “blogs” from the left-hand column or top navigation — often within the “more” dropdown menu);
• Facebook; and
• LinkedIn (Search for people, groups, companies, and answers in the top right drop down menu).
Granted, you will find a fair bit of noise, but you will also discover that prospects and customers are discussing issues important to your business.
Search engine marketing and social media are forever connected. Search engines now use social signals as ranking factors. They display the avatars of our friends and connections within search engine results pages; and Google has recently integrated Google Plus content within the traditional search results — Google’s Search Plus Your World initiative.
If your website is a valued source of leads, you have little choice but to engage with social media. Yes, social media is time consuming; it does provide rogue employees yet another opportunity to embarrass or harm your company; and it can be frivolous. However, when executed properly, social media supports your overall online marketing effort and leads to an enormous ROI.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Brian Bluff studied Micro-Electric Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. After earning his Bachelor’s degree and spending several years in the United States Navy; Brian went on to work for some of the country’s most successful companies including; Pﬁzer, M&T Bank, and PAR Technology — where he held several Vice President positions, including Vice President of Marketing at Rome Research Corporation and Vice President/General Manager of PAR Logistics Management Systems—the company that pioneered the asset tracking industry. In 2000, Brian went on to start his ﬁrst business, TCO Inc. As a provider of Internet marketing solutions, TCO, Inc. became one of the ﬁrst of its kind in Central New York, offering clients a competitive advantage online through the use of consulting, online marketing and the Thomas Industrial Network. Today, Brian shares the secrets of Internet marketing on the national stage, traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada to speak at trade shows, seminars, and association meetings.