Why No Business Should Be Involved In Online
Sure it's a powerful tool, but will it accomplish want you want it too?
By Marc Gordon
Take a look at these four scenarios.
1. A teenaged boy in Cleveland is sharing strategy secrets on a Playstation
3 Facebook group.
2. In San Diego a father is posting photos of his family's day at the beach
3. A mother in Toronto is uploading a video of her daughter's dance recital
to You Tube.
4. In New York, an HR consultant is twittering about recent changes in
Which one of these people stands out as being unique from the others in the
way they are using social networking?
If you answered number 4 you would be correct.
That's because the first three people are using social networking web sites
for the purpose of social interaction. They are keeping in touch with
friends, family and people of similar interests. Their goals are nothing
more than to belong, share, and socialize.
But the HR consultant is networking for a different set of reasons. This
person has chosen to use networking sites as a tool to position themselves
as an expert-an invaluable source of reliable information. Beyond Twitter,
this person may also be on Facebook, Linked In, Plaxo and others. This
sharing of information would, in theory, impact on how they are viewed
within their industry by current and potential clients. Over the long term,
these efforts could materialize into new business. That is why they are
When business people use social networking sites, they often do not
understand why. And that is a big reason why so many of them see no positive
return from it. Although a positive return can mean different things to
everybody, for most business people a positive return usually involves
making a sale.
The problem is that for the last couple of years, experts have continuously
preached that the success of a business is dependant on participating in
online social networking. They will try to convince you that you need a
Facebook page, that you need to regularly update your Linked In profile,
that you should post articles to a myriad of resource sites, and of course
let the world know you are doing all this by Twittering at least 5 times a
What every expert has forgotten to share with you (or just don't know to) is
that this is not social networking. There is in fact nothing social about
it. You are not trying to make friends, get in touch with old school chums,
or keep tabs on the ex. You are trying to grow your business.
So maybe it's time to stop referring to all this as social networking and
start seeing it for what it really is: social marketing.
Any form of communication you perform on behalf of your business is a form
of marketing. Regardless of whether it's a business card or a Facebook page,
your are building an image - a brand identity that will help you convey your
values allowing people to better understand the advantages of doing business
Think of social marketing as just another tool in your marketing toolbox. In
many ways it is no different than web sites, yellow page ads, trade shows or
promotional items. Each of these is important in their own way depending on
your needs, industry, budget, and time. One tool should not be favored over
another simply because it seems like the right thing to do.
But as this article is specifically about social marketing, we will try to
determine if it should be a key component to your marketing program.
It seems I come across a lonely blog at least once a week. I can tell
they're lonely because the last entry was from 2008 or earlier. The owner of
the blog no longer posts and people no longer visit. The same can be said
for Facebook profiles that have no personal information or photos. Or Linked
In sites that have outdated employment history.
So many business owners jumped on the social marketing bandwagon because
they felt compelled to. Yet when they finally spent the time and money to
create those blog sites, they had nothing to say, no information to share,
and no time to maintain it.
Time is one of those things the experts rarely bring up. But for anyone who
runs their own business will tell you, finding time each day to write about
who-knows-what can be impossible. I have always believed that the most
successful people in business do not invest a lot of time in networking
sites because they are too busy making money doing their real jobs.
On the other hand, networking sites have contributed to making countless
people famous and wealthy. And it can be argued that many of whom possess no
real skills in the first place outside of being able to successfully exploit
their following. I have to wonder where celebrity gossiper Perez Hilton and
socialite Kim Kardashian would be without the internet. (Of note, Kim
Kardashian charges $10,000 to mention a product in her tweets to her 2.7
So should you be jumping into the social marketing pool?
Only you can answer that. But here's some things to think about before
1. What are your goals? Are you looking to increase sales or just to
build a list of contacts? Both can be important depending on the type of
business you own. A restaurant can use Twitter to let people know about
specials available only for that evening. Whereas an accountant might want
to build a list through Linked In as a vehicle to let people know about
changes to tax laws.
2. Content is key. Not actively participating in social marketing is
like being a wallflower at a party. If no one will know you're there, what's
the point in even going? Being an active participant means contributing
relevant content. Depending on the sites you choose to join, this can
involve submitting articles, industry news, anything that your contacts,
friends, or followers will deem useful or worthy of reading. This means
avoiding Twittering about what you had for lunch or posting photos of your
trip to the beach (unless you're a travel agent).
3. Time commitment. Like other types of marketing, frequency is
important in reinforcing your message and getting people to remember you.
Just as you would not place an ad in a magazine for just one issue, you must
also contribute to your social marketing presence on a regular basis. For
many business owners, this can be anywhere from 15-60 minutes per day. Are
you ready for that?
4. Know your audience. A hair salon creating a Facebook page sounds
logical until you find out the average age of their clients is 55, most of
whom do not even use the internet. So are they trying to keep in contact
with current clients or attract new ones? (Refer back to #1)
5. Coordinating with conventional marketing. Social marketing should
not be treated as a stand alone program. To be effective it should be
combined with traditional marketing. For example, if you send out a flyer by
mail, mention that people can get notice of additional promotions by
following you on Twitter. Or use Facebook to post photos of special industry
events you were involved in.
6. The return. Even with conventional marketing, many business people
are guilty of thinking they can expect a certain return for every dollar
spent. If they don't see that return in a specific period of time, they deem
the campaign a failure. Social marketing can be even more abstract. In many
cases, your posts or submissions will not be focused on generating sales,
but instead providing information. As such, readers would be less likely to
contact you looking to spend money. However if you choose to create a social
campaign focused on driving sales, you may find yourself ignored as many
people get turned off of sales pitches made through social media sites.
Using the analogy of farming (for some reason people like to compare
business to farming), if a sales presentation is like harvesting fruit, then
social marketing is like planting seeds. That is, in sales, the harder you
work the greater the immediate gains. An effective sales presentation will
generally result in more sales.
However social marketing is less about what you can get and more about what
you can give. More information, more posts, more contacts, more
referrals-all of these can lead to an increase in business over time. How
much time and how much business no one can say. It can take months just for
people to take notice of you. But like a farmer planting seeds, if you plant
enough of them, invest the effort, and be patient, eventually you will bear
the fruits of success.
About the Author:
Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and marketing consultant based in
Toronto, Ontario. His firm, Fourword Marketing, specializes in helping
businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing
campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit
Follow Marc on Twitter at twitter.com/marcgordondotca.