My latest Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column might push you a little. If you’re avoiding social media because you don’t think you have the time, you may be missing out an excellent opportunity to connect with your customers.
When talking with other professionals about using social media to promote their business or their individual expertise, there’s one very common point of resistance: a lack of time. It usually sounds something like this:
“I wish I could.”
“I’m too busy.”
“There aren’t enough hours in the day!”
My response is always the same: “Oh, you have the time. You just haven’t made it a priority.”
As you can imagine, this sometimes rubs people the wrong way. After all, how can I be so sure that they’re not too busy to use social media? Well, I firmly believe most of us make time for anything that’s important. As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write in their excellent book, “Rework”:
“When you want something bad enough, you make the time — regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people don’t want it bad enough. Then they protect their ego with the excuse of time.”
In other words, time isn’t the issue. It’s simply a matter of priorities. Am I saying that social media use should be your top priority? No, and it doesn’t have to be. But it is becoming increasingly important to your customers, and if it’s important to them, it needs to be important to you, regardless of what business you’re in.
Another quote, this one from Jay Baer of the “Convince and Convert” blog:
“Every company will have to be social eventually, whether they like it or not. Our customers will demand that they be allowed to interact with businesses in this way — the same way they demanded that we connect via websites and e-mail. The new question will be ‘How do I know what resources to devote to social media?’”
Soon, as Baer suggests, “being social” will not be an option. And the sooner you make it a priority, the better positioned you and your organization will be in the long run.
Please understand that I’m not saying you have to be on Facebook. I’m not saying you have to use Twitter. I’m not even saying you have to be on LinkedIn, even though I think LinkedIn has tremendous potential for just about anyone with business relationships. And I’m certainly not saying you should be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other social media site. You simply have to decide which tool, or tools, holds the most potential for you, based on three factors:
What are your goals? Social media absolutely can help you move real-world needles: more inquiries from prospects, higher levels of customer satisfaction or increased sales, for example. However, it needs to be integrated with other strategies and goals. After all, a target number of followers on Twitter or hits to a Facebook page is worthless if it’s not leading to interactions that make a real difference for your business.
Who’s your audience? Who are they demographically? Psychographically? Where do they spend their time when they’re online? And most importantly, how can you use social media to help solve their problems or entertain, educate or inform them about issues and ideas they value?
What resources do you have to devote to the effort? If you’re using social media as an individual, “resources” equals “time.” The question becomes, “If I truly want to make this a priority, how much time will it take every week?”
For an organization, it could still be time, or it may mean dollars. Many successful organizations implement their social media strategies in-house; others outsource their efforts. For some, it’s a combination of the two. Regardless of how it gets done, it’s going to take resources, and the more you put in to it, the more likely it is you’ll get something out of it.
As you consider these questions, don’t be afraid to look beyond what’s popular. In a recent study of how the Inc. 500 use social media, one of the tools with which respondents perceived to have the greatest success is message/bulletin boards. The latter doesn’t come up very often amid all the hype about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but message/bulletin boards are delivering real results, including 93 percent of the Inc. 500 that use them.
So the next time you wonder whether you should make social media part of your marketing and communication strategy, ask yourself: Is there anything you’re spending time and/or money on that could become a lower priority? If so, is it worth investing more resources in a strategy that’s becoming increasingly important to our livelihoods?
For almost all of us, the answer to both questions is yes. We do have the time. All that’s missing is the discipline to make social media as much a priority as it is to our customers.