Social media, although it is not in any way new, it is still talked about in many businesses and indeed, at home as if it is. The issue is, we are generally creatures that want to fit in and seem informed and knowledgeable. It is inbuilt.
If we are told enough times that something is important, we accept that it is, and start to repeat the rhetoric. That is, even if we don’t really understand how it works, how to use, it or what the point is.
Although there seems to be a universal addiction to getting more likes, follows, retweets, than the person you really don’t like. Let’s face it, we all have a sneaky look now and again.
The fact is that social media is evolving all the time, so there is always something new, something that has gone out of fashion (anyone remember MySpace? Launched 2003, sold 2005 and forgotten by 2008). We will always be learning, no matter how much of an expert we become. However, it is no great mystery. It evolves around us, just as anything else in life does. It is moulded around how we want to live our lives and engage with other people and companies. It is just that it does so somewhat faster than many people are used to.
Social media is already an integral part of our lives. Some of it we see, some we don’t but there is no one and no business that is untouched by it. However the number of individuals and businesses that are fearful of joining in the conversation is still significant. As is the impact for businesses that don’t do it or do it very badly.
For those who include themselves in the above group I have some common themes I come across when talking to client that I can share with you.
What’s stopping you?
Many don’t really know why they have avoided online activity. My first challenge is. Work out what is stopping you and get past it. You and your business is missing out.
Don’t think you have to do it alone
Many confuse using social media with the ability to manage and target the messages on your chosen platform. If you understand how you want to interact, you can find plenty of people who understand the mechanics of how to make it work, so don’t let that hold you back.
It is just a conversation
Remember, any interaction is a conversation. Treat it like you would if you were having a chat in a cafe over a coffee. If someone says hi, you say hi in return. If they give you a compliment, you say thanks. If they ask you a question, or need help, you tell them what you know and maybe suggest someone else who may be helpful.
As with any conversation you don’t always talk, that switches people off. You can just listen and give the digital equivalent of a nod or a laugh.
Don’t dominate the relationship
Any relationship that is all about getting what you can from the other person is doomed. Remember, if you focus on what you can put in, you will automatically get things back.
Remember your conversation is shared with the world
Unlike the cafe where it’s just your mate and you, on social media you need to be happy that the world know what you said. If you have strong, values led leadership this will be reasonably simple anyway.
It is about more than sales
For businesses it is not an extension to your sales team. Yes of course you can offer goods online, but if that is all you do you have missed the point and so many benefits for your company. This is a relationship with your customers. When done correctly, it will reflect the values of the organisation. It will allow you to get to know your customers in a way you never did before. It will enable you to integrate into your community, in a more meaningful way and it will build long term relationships. All of which will impact on your business, with improved staff retention, greater customer loyalty, improved reputation and much more.
What about all the bad stuff I hear?
There is a sad side to social media which does make people fearful. I will never understand the aggression of a complete stranger to another.
There are relatively few people in the world who would walk up to a stranger in the street and subject them to aggression or abuse but the anonymity of social media seems to make some people think this is ok online. This should not be confused for passion for a topic, being challenged or holding different views. Social media is fantastic as a forum to hear different perspectives that make you really think. It is also an amazing arena where everyone is equal so all views carry the same weight.
Don’t miss out on the overall benefits for fear of the minority. If it happens walk away from the conversation and think, don’t just react. Do what you would do if it was face to face. If it is in response to something you said that was wrong, you apologise. If it is an extreme view, the fantastic thing is that the less extreme social media crowd around you will quickly balance the comments. You may need to do very little.
Planning is important
Businesses need to have considered possible issues as part of their crisis management plan, so staff are empowered to manage proactively. There is no time for prolonged meetings when an issue arises.
See the potential and be creative
This is a global conversation tool and we should use it as a positive for our amazingly diverse world, celebrate differences and bring as much creativity to the conversation as possible. If you engage in this freely sharing advice and knowledge you will see that you very quickly get the same returned.