Jose Palomino is President of g2m Group, Inc, and author of Value Prop; he blogs at StrategicPropositions.com.
Some of my clients are smaller, more traditional businesses, not necessarily Fortune 500 companies. So, when it comes to discussing social media with them, their regular refrain to me is ‘I just don’t believe in that social media stuff’ or ‘I don’t see how it can benefit me’. This has nothing to do with their education or how savvy they are as business people – it’s a sincere belief which is really this question: ‘Can social media help us?’. So why don’t they believe they can benefit from social media? Read on to find out.
So why don’t they believe they can benefit from social media? Two reasons, I think:
1.) They think they are too small;
2.) They don’t think that they have anything interesting to share. In a broader sense they are asking ‘Would I even read about stuff that I’d write about?’
People engage in social media because people want to talk about things that interest them. But, the reality is that social media is, to a large degree, ‘very tech’ and movement oriented. However, what if you’re an auto parts dealer? What is your social media play there? What if you are a hair salon or a hair salon supply shop? What if you are a printing company that serves the local community? Is there much interest in what you have to say?
So often we see a lot of "Follow us on Twitter! Follow us on Facebook! Follow, fan or like" but for what reason?? That is the question.
Outside In vs. Inside Out
In their excellent book on ‘Marketing in the Groundswell’, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff state that one of the key uses of social media is listen better. So if you are that local auto parts dealer then there may not be a lot of chatter about your auto parts dealership. Perhaps, there are other auto part dealers who are more national in scope. Or, collectively you could see the ‘social media energy’, so to speak, around auto parts dealers by using social media chatter as a source of information.
This would allow you to get a sense of what animates people and it’s incredibly inexpensive and yet very powerful market research. So one use of social media for these smaller companies is listening. Not necessarily flowing content out – but just listening better to your target customers. What is interesting is that in the act of listening, you are going to want to respond and that is the next thing.
Connecting with Customers
There are lot of social forum’s out there ( like LinkedIn answers or groups, Facebook pages, and traditional forums on dedicated sites) where you can engage in conversation. Not comments with convenient (and too obvious) hyperlinks to your ‘Special Offer of the Day’ but just really engaging with people on the topics that matter to them. You will begin to see that: ‘there is a social media angle and something I can talk about or associate with our brand’.
Now, none of this says to do this outside of an overall strategy. I have written often about message clarity and understanding who your audience is and why your offering should matter for them. That offering could be information, insights and advice. Listen first and start seeing if there is that inspiring moment when you say ‘I can blog/tweet/ create white papers about this!’. You can always find an angle but it does take some time to get engaged.