The Extreme Importance of Social Media in Business Today!
Social media… it’s all the rage today! It is increasingly becoming a more integral part of people’s everyday lives, especially now that people can carry the world in their pockets with cell phones that are Web enabled and have data packages. Since there are now over two billion people — nearly one-third the entire world’s population — connected via social media, it has become crucial, even critical, for businesses to take advantage of the huge potential given to them by social media. Those who fail to take advantage of this trend do so at their own peril!
Dejavu All Over Again!
Some say we’re seeing the repeat of trends we saw at the turn of the century… all over again. Though the Internet as a communication tool began October 29, 1969, celebrating the first communication between two distant computers, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in March of 1989, giving us the hyper-text markup language (HTML) that enables pages, links and browsers used all over the world to interact with each other. In the year 2000, the Web as we know it was a mere eleven years old. Businesses were beginning to realize that the Internet was becoming bigger and bigger and was moving beyond the military (its original user), academia and business, and increasingly into people’s homes (and now… even their pockets!) Online shopping was gradually gaining on brick and mortar retail, competing more and more for shoppers’ dollars. Businesses that took advantage of the trend became more successful, whereas those that didn’t suffered as their competitors beat them in the online marketplace.
Good examples that have made the news recently include Borders Books and Blockbuster Video. Borders didn’t believe the Web would become as big as it has and was soon upstaged by Amazon, who began using their online platform for books and now sell just about everything. Blockbuster Video, once seen in so many communities, has now closed so many of their brick and mortar stores since Netflix came on the scene. Had it not been for Dish Network stepping in, most Blockbuster stores would have had to close. Now their trying to win back Netflix customers angered over recent fee hikes. Blockbuster is hoping to stay viable and relevant with their newest program.
Return on Investment… Bang for Your Buck!
The main point is that we’re seeing a similar trend in business today with regard to social media. Business is beginning to “humanize” and get back to that “get-to-know-you” feel of hometown businesses where business owners and customers often actually connect on a personal basis. Social media is helping to create this personal feel on a much larger scale now, in the sense that people can stay digitally more connected than ever… even as they “cocoon” in their homes/offices and have less face-to-face communication.
While we can argue the ill social effects of that social trend, businesses can’t ignore it. By the very nature of what they do, those involved in network marketing, a.k.a. affiliate marketing or multi-level marketing, certainly can’t ignore it as a primary tool for building down lines and expanding their business beyond their warm market of family and friends, many of whom may or may not be interested in a home-based business or work-at-home business opportunity, however quickly growing that trend is. The social media explosion is getting more and more attention. Business leaders are talking about it, authors are writing about it, and some say it’s just the beginning.
Business trend experts like Gary Vaynerchuk, author of The Thank You Economy, say that we’re seeing the “calm before the social media storm” (see the link to his MSNBC interview on YouTube at the end of the “LinkedIn” discussion below. It will blow your mind what this guy knows and envisions about the power of social media for business!). Many people in the business world haven’t yet jumped into social media. They’re sizing it up and calculating the return on investment… not realizing that the longer they wait, the more they stand to lose out on the enormous potential of being able to get their brand, product(s), and service(s) out in front of potentially millions of people in an extremely cost efficient way compared to traditional print and TV advertising media. Branding, name recognition, market share growth, customer loyalty, brand ambassadorship… are all important goals of business enhanced via social media.
But We Have a Website!
Individual entrepreneurs, companies large and small, organizations, network marketers, affiliate programs, even nonprofit organizations that think that having a web site is enough of an online presence these days are sorely mistaken. Since so many current and potential customers and clients are engaged in social media, they’re coming to expect more and more that businesses and organizations they associate with will also be able to engage with them on social media platforms. This worldwide recession we are in is making social media platforms more important to remain relevant… to maintain a presence, build customer loyalty, and just survive.
I’m Broke… I Have a Limited Budget!
Those on a limited marketing budget will find out that social media marketing is very cost-effective, with a great return on investment compared to traditional, non-trackable forms of advertising. Having an employee devote even part of his/her time keeping social media up to date is well worth the effort and expense in the added, perceived value it will create, providing information about your products, services, news, sales, deals, etc., and potentially increasing your customer/client base tremendously in the process.
Blogging, for example, is an easy way to create an outreach program for your brand, company, organization, etc., that will not only raise awareness of who you are and what you do, but increase your credibility with an ever-growing, social-media-savvy public. They will be able to share both positives and negatives about their experience with your products and/or service, especially if you respond to them. They will develop more confidence in your brand, feel more connected to you, and develop more loyalty. They will more likely become the willing ambassadors for your brand, product, or service that you want them to be! Also… those who DO have a web site, which is normally used to provide information, take orders, etc., will most likely see increased traffic on their sites which will result in increased sales… and an increase in your return on the investment you made in your social media campaigns. Best of all is that most social media platforms are available FOR FREE, or with little actual monetary investment relevant to other forms of traditional advertising, and with greater return on investment.
A Growing Trend… Better Jump On the Bandwagon!
Some estimate the number of social media sites at 30,000 and growing by 300 new sites a month! So, to avoid the pitfalls of starting at the wrong place, the best places to start are with the current top giants, like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. You want your customers to get to know you first. You want to share useful information with them… information that is educational, informative, entertaining, even funny… but valuable You don’t want to do outright selling of your goods and services in social media, which is more for engaging your customers or potential customers. You want to lead your customers to your website, and that is where you will do your selling!
Facing the Giants!
Twitter is one of the fastest growing, on-the-fly social media platforms, with some 200 million users, 460 thousand new accounts daily, and 1 billion tweets a week! This medium allows you to post instant updates on almost any topic you wish, alerting all those who “follow” you closest, or your most loyal “fans” from Facebook or most loyal customers/clients who use your services most frequently. And… it’s free!
Facebook, with an estimated membership now over 955 million users (revised June, 2012), half of them logging on each day an average of half an hour to an hour, is DEFINITELY the king of social media today and an audience you need to get in front of! If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest on the planet! 543 million mobile users access Facebook regularly. 40% of Facebook users become “fans” of products and services. So, you’ll need a Facebook fan/business page. Facebook has built in metrics, scheduled posting, and other new features for business pages that make them a must!
YouTube is the second largest search engine to Google, and is actually owned by Google now. Over 4 billion videos are streamed daily, with 60 hours of new footage being added each minute! Four billion hours of video are watched per month. The average YouTube user spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube. Obviously, this represents another huge marketing opportunity for those wanting to get themselves in front of an audience… and again, it’s free!
LinkedIn, which just went public spring of 2011 and currently (mid-2012) has over 175 million users in over 200 countries. Although geared more towards the networking of professionals, it still represents a great way to network with people and get your business promoted. People in your network can refer and recommend you to others, thereby giving you more credibility. LinkedIn is currently the number one B2B networking site, and is being used as a lead generation/marketing and recruiting tool!
Another important fact to remember is that Google just redesigned its search algorithm to favor more “organic”, that is, naturally ocurring backlinks to your website in order to move you higher up on their search engine return pages (SERPS). They favor very highly now the kinds of social mentions received via social media. So, that is yet another way to gain search engine optimization (called “SEO”)… by building on your social media use!
You need to catch the eye-opening Gary Vaynerchuk MSNBC interview mentioned above where he discusses these trends!
Get Going Today… Just DO IT!
Businesses using social media today say it is helping them to do the following:
1) generate exposure;
2) improve web site traffic;
3) help build new partnerships;
4) generate qualified leads;
5) turn many leads into customers; and
6) brand them and their business.
According to recent social media marketing research:
80% of business-to-consumer companies plan to increase their social media usage… will you be one of them?
73% of marketers plan to increase their YouTube usage… will that be you?
81% of B2B companies maintain profiles on social networks… do you?
85% of consumers want to engage companies using social media… will they find you there?
As you can see, social media is here to stay and those who take advantage of it and truly harness its potential will have the edge. The next few years we’re expecting the social media wave to grow to enormous proportions.
It’s time to catch the social media buzz and jump on the wave… before you’re swamped by it! See you in the surf!