I was recently taken aback when I read the statistic that 80 percent of retailers still do not use any form of social media to promote their businesses. That made little sense to me because after all, it’s easy and free. Well, fairly easy and almost free. Regardless, I thought everyone was doing it. Then when I dug a little deeper I realized that one of the main reasons for this surprising statistic is the intimidation factor: Non-techie types are just a little scared of this recent phenomenon known as "Social Media.”
So I went searching for some answers that I could share with my readers; answers to two questions: Do I really need social media? and How in the world do I get started? I found great answers in an article titled "The Five Myths of Social Media” by Jonathon Levi. Jonathon is the principal of Lucid Path Consulting, a small-business SEO, Search Engine Marketing and Social Media consulting firm. He is also the president of the Silicon Valley chapter of Entrepreneur’s Organization, a group I was a member of in Dallas and Colorado for many years.
Jonathon clearly and plainly outlines some of the misconceptions and myths that you should toss aside when evaluating your social media strategy.
- "My Business Can’t Benefit From Social Media”
Jonathon challenges his clients to think of a company or an industry who can’t benefit from social media. He’s yet to find one. Unless you are perhaps a government contractor with only one client, social media can help you. His rule goes: "If you have customers, you belong on social media.” If you don’t have customers, well… you’re not in business.
- "Social Media is About Broadcasting”
No. Social media is about socializing. You wouldn’t hop on the phone with a customer and do 100 percent of the talking, so don’t expect it to be any different via social media. Twitter is very apt when they urge you to "join the conversation.” In order to be successful in your social media endeavors, you have to balance your press-release style broadcasts with listening, engaging and interacting. Reply to people’s tweets and messages in a friendly and personable way. Share other people’s tweets and videos.
- "We Have to Maintain our Polished Professionalism”
Not really. Though a certain threshold of professionalism and political-correctness always applies, Zappos.com has shown us that sharing your corporate culture, no matter how wacky and fun it is, is an important part of earning trust and legitimacy in your marketplace. Zappos.com shares ridiculous photos of bunk desks, costumed keg parties, pets at work and more. Weaved into the fabric of social media (and the basic human nature it represents) is an element of voyeurism. People want to feel included, and they want to be validated as loyal fans.
- "We Can Dedicate One Employee to Handle It For Us”
No way. Opening your business to social media means shifting the way your entire organization thinks. Though one person may manage the throughput and actual interaction (not recommended), the entire organization should be thinking in terms of social media. Empowering your employees to post interesting and fun ideas and events on your Facebook page and Twitter feed will create loyalty and camaraderie among your staff.
- "You Can’t Measure Your Success In Social Media”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, of all the mediums of advertising, social media is by far the most measurable. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of metrics by which you can determine your return on investment (ROI), growth and more. On a basic level, you can count the followers, Likes, retweets and comments. You can track your visitors and conversions on Google Analytics. You can track your views and interactions through Facebook Insights. You can even measure your impact, influence and trust factor with Klout. Never before have you been able to see the measure and effect of your efforts—down to the dollar.
So get out there. Start with something as simple as opening a Facebook account for your store. Find a few young, tech-savvy employees who want to connect with your customers. Take some photos of the most adorable animals either in your store or that belongs to your staff and post them on your Facebook page. The costs are so incredibly low and the potential returns are tremendous.
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