Friday 13th: Social Media for Business

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I recently presented a 15 minute slot on social media for business at a marketing seminar held at the Carnmarth Hotel, Newquay. A full transcript of my presentation and accompanying slides can be viewed below:


View more presentations from Tonick Media.

Good afternoon, I am the last of today’s line up and I will be looking at social media, a subject which I imagine you are hearing increasingly more about. I hope as I move through my presentation it becomes clear exactly what the term means and why it is becoming important to many of your businesses.

To introduce myself, I am the marketing director or Tonick Media, publisher of the Business Cornwall magazine and website. In my day to day work I advise and help businesses to the get the most from the media – traditional and new.

Before I move into the main part of my presentation can I have a quick show of hands.

How many of you need to …

  • Communicate with your customers in one way or another?
  • Keep in touch with your market place, trends, industry news etc?
  • Promote and market your business?

Great, well if you answered yes then this presentation should be relevant to you.

Let’s start by putting things into context. There are a number of issues or problems facing businesses at this time. Three such problems that social media is well placed to help with, include:

  • Fragmentation of the media
  • Noise and Information Overload
  • Increasing customer choice

Fragmentation

The traditional media is undergoing a massive change as it deals with declining readerships and advertising revenues. At the same time we are seeing the rise of the web and increasing fragmentation of the existing media channels.

As it currently stands there are now more than 10,500 radio stations, 5,500 magazines and 200 plus cable channels in the US alone. On the web, 31 billion searches occur every month and US internet browsers have the choice of more than 1 trillion websites.

Connecting with a customer and holding their attention has never been more difficult.

It took radio 38 years to reach a market audience of 50m, TV just 13.

The internet reached the same audience in just 4 years and more recently Facebook did it in 3.

The fragmentation of the media shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Noise

We have started to talk about ‘noise’ and ‘information overload’. The stream of information across all channels, originating from the media, business, charities and individuals communicating with consumers and each other has reached unprecedented levels.

In fact, the knowledge contained in just one weeks’ worth of the New York Times is more than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime during the 18th century.

Choice

What’s more, the choices open to each and every one of us in every aspect of life are increasing. From choosing a loaf of bread through to mortgages, insurance or choice of holiday destination.

Turn your attention online and search for a phrase – watch as thousands or even millions of results appear at your fingertips. Finding a choice of supplier has never been more easy or convenient.

As businesses, we need to work harder to gain attention and form a lasting connection with the customer before someone else does.

This is where ‘Social Media’ comes in.

Social Media is about creating connections between you, your business and your customers. Direct and enduring relationships built on trust, credibility and mutual understanding of one and each other’s needs.

It is about listening and engaging with customers, and the wider community who may have an interest in your business.

This may not sound like anything new really? And in fact, it isn’t.

What has changed is the way in which we form these relationships. We have lived through a time where the web has grown in influence, bringing with it huge scales and new ways of doing business.

How many of you in this room have a website or some other form of web presence?

OK, so a fair proportion of the businesses here. And I’m sure if we asked the same question around the country or the world the results would be no different.

The issue with our conventional websites is that many lack of any form of meaningful human interaction. In most cases, websites have been nothing more than glorified brochures, an online shop or something rather static to be ‘accessed’ by the customer. At best they may include recent news updates and a contact form.

Many of you may be thinking there’s nothing wrong with that. But how many of you have struggled to find the contact number of a supplier on their website or become frustrated listening to a list of telephone options when all you wanted was some human interaction?

Sometimes, you just want to check a few of the details, clarify your choice, or possibly gain some professional advice.

In the absence of companies willing to engage, customers have taken matters into their own hands.

At first, forums and review sites took the lead and allowed customers and others to answer each others questions. These sites still continue to grow in popularity; however, they are now part of a wider phenomenon we refer to as ‘Social Media’.

With advances in technology, a host of new services and platforms have emerged to enable anyone to become a publisher or media owner in their own right.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and countless others place the ability to create, publish and share content online in the consumers’ hands.

This has introduced the prospect of customers sharing their opinions on a whole host of matters including their likes, dislikes, examples of good and bad customer service or the best price available.

The Platforms

There are a whole range of sites we refer to as part of the social media phenomenon. I’ll take a moment to highlight some of the principle types…

Blogs

A contraction of the term ‘web log’, blogs are a type of website, usually maintained by an individual or company posting regular entries online. These entries are often displayed in reverse-chronological order running down the page.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries.

A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important aspect in many cases.

According to one study, websites hosting their own blog have been found to achieve 55% more traffic than those without.

Micro-Blogs

Micro-blogs such as Twitter enable the reader to post regular entries in just 140 characters – like a standard text message. Frequently these messages include links to more detailed information on websites, blogs or other sites.

These sites allow users to access real-time information on subjects as wide ranging as political opinion, the X-factor result or breaking news items.

As a business tool, micro-blogs offer an instant communication platform with customers and other important people to your business. They also provide a useful gauge on public opinion.

Social Networks

Social networks enable individuals to become a part of online communities who share interests or activities.

Users can upload details about themselves and form connections with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, keeping in contact with them through in-built messaging and sharing features. Information relating to the individual usually forms part of their ‘profile’ – a kind of personal web page.

The biggest social network is Facebook with over 300 million active users. However, there are also networks specifically designed for businesses such as LinkedIn and Ecademy.

File Sharing Sites

File sharing sites offer online storage of documents, presentations, video, photos and other content. They allow you to post content online for others to access, share and comment on.

Popular sites include You Tube, Slideshare, Flickr and Google Documents. As business tools they enable us to upload ‘passive marketing’ materials to be viewed or downloaded by potential consumers.

These platforms are some of the main ones you will encounter on a day to basis but there are many others I could draw reference to.

With such easy access to self publishing tools, controlling our marketing message has become an impossibility. At best we can seek to manage it.

We need to know where conversations around our company or industry are occurring and engage positively with those taking part. After all, not taking part in the conversation or ignoring it will not stop it taking place.

Getting Started

So where do you start?

Listening is the first step.

Start by creating Google Alerts for your company name, keywords and keyphrases associated with your business. Go to Google when you leave here, type in ‘Google Alerts’ and you should easily find it. It’s totally free and very easy to set up.

Google Alerts is designed to automatically message you as mentions of your company or other topic of interest appear in the Google index – i.e. when your company gets a plug on a blog or other website.

Next, take a moment to check Twitter for the mentions of you or your company. It works just like Google search. Go to twitter.com and type in words or phrases associated with your business in the search box provided. This will return any messages over the Twitter network relating to your business.

Once you have gauged how the land lies you can begin to start thinking about how you may use these technologies and changing customer attitudes to your benefit.

There are a whole range of platforms and services to choose from. However, start with your customer.  What sites are they using? How are they using them? Is there any opportunity for your business to engage with them there?

Don’t stop at the customer.Think about others who may have an important relationship with your business. Are there opportunities to connect with suppliers, strategic partners, the media or local decision makers? Who else do you want to bring on board?

Once you have identified your customer start to think about what you would like to achieve. Do you want to give customers a new route to make contact or suggest ideas? Are you looking for more website traffic? Do you want to showcase your business to a wider audience.

Think about how you will measure the results. What evidence can you gather to evaluate your success? Are your expectations realistic? Remember, this is a long term investment which will achieve results over time dependent on the investment put in. Do not build your objectives around short term results – you need to be in this for the long haul – after all relationships take time to develop.

Planning your social media approach will come naturally when you have a good understanding of your customer and objectives.  Don’t start with the technology, your competitor may have a Facebook page or Twitter account -it doesn’t mean it’s right for your business.

Think about your general approach at first. What kind of strategy are you looking to implement? Are you looking to use social networks to make new connections or are they a good way to consolidate existing ones? Have you got the time to prepare content for a blog or do you need to look at something simpler?

Using your general approach as a guide, you can start to look at the individual platforms you will employ. Put together a full plan of what sites you intend using and how much time you will dedicate to each. Ensure that your choices match your wider company strategy.

Getting things right with social media will provide new business opportunities, longer customer relationships and wider reach. Most importantly it can mean lower costs and increased marketing effectiveness, leading to a healthier bottom line for your business.

If you want to get more information or want to get started then you can find this and previous presentations on the subject at http://www.slideshare.net/tonickmedia.

Also, each month, in conjunction with  UKNetWeb, we run a free webinar for businesses on how to get started – you can message either of us for details.

As a company we can provide training, advice or mentoring on getting the most from your social media approach.

Thank you for listening, if you have questions please feel to grab me during the networking session to follow.