(Until you read this post)
If my last post on why I wish social was NOT in my job title didn’t stir up enough controversy – then this one might!
In this post I will explain the harsh question you need to ask yourself before you decide to spend a pound, euro or dollar on any social media related software. And while you’re at it, hold the head count for any staff to work on social media as well.
Social is a not about the technology, it is about a cultural shift to create a more honest, open, transparent way of doing business.
To clarify my definition of software in relation to this post I am talking about a company trying to sell you a tool do something with social: monitoring, responses, collaboration tools etc. I am not including free software such as WordPress, Hoot suite etc.
You can achieve so much without spending a penny. If you have a plan which builds a strategy for using free social tools closely aligned to your core business objectives, then you could achieve more than any other “social strategy” which could easily cost hundreds of thousands or more.
So what if you have 100,000 likes on Facebook. Who cares if you’ve got 100,000 followers on Twitter. Neither of these translate into anything your CEO cares about.
Free things to do with social that really help drive business in a way your CEO cares about
The goals of most businesses can be linked to these things:
- Get more customers
- Keep the customers you have got
- Sell more to your existing customers
- Do the same thing but at a reduced cost
Let me give you three examples which cost you nothing and will help you to achieve the first objective of getting more customers
1. Get more customers using twitter
To win more customers: you need to be a better company to do business with than your competitors.
If you visit twitter.com/search you have free access to everyone in the world on twitter. You can search for questions people are asking in your industry and then help people out. This is a great technique championed by one of the originators on social media Gary Vaynerchuk. He set up an online wine shop and spent many many hours everyday answering questions like “what wine goes with fish?” He simply answers ”Sauvignon Blanc would go well with fish”. Not promoting his products, but providing value and indirectly showing his potential customers how helpful he is, and why they should do business with him.
Gary says treat Twitter like a cocktail party, just use it to talk to people. Watch this video to understand more.
2. Get more customers by using blogging to answer questions
Marcus Sheridan uses social media and specifically blogging to answer questions that his prospects and customers want to know the answers to. As a result he starts to build trust and over time converts his prospects to customers.
Check out this video interview with him to explain more:
3. Get more customers by using blogging to be honest about your products
If you are selling product A and you are competing with product B then you (the sales person) for product A will tell the prospect all the great things about product A. The sales person selling product B will tell the prospect all the problems with your product. This leaves the prospect very confused as to what and who to believe.
If you are honest and talk about any potential problems with your product and give the prospect a good explanation about how to fix that problem or why that problem is not such a big concern in their circumstances, then you would gain trust from that prospect. When sales person B tries to convince the prospect that product A is bad because of X, Y and Z, the prospect will already know the unbiased truth about your product.
Social media can achieve so much more for everyone. These are three examples which can achieve great results in one area of the business. If you cannot convince the CEO that one of these three ideas is worth doing then good luck trying to get him to shell out £1,000s to buy some AMAZING social software solution.
If the leaders in your business do not buy into these ideas when there are no costs (just labour time) then you are probably wasting your time trying to get them to buy anything that costs money.
Your company may think that it’s all a waste of time and of no value, but I think there is a way forward. If you and a couple of passionate fellow employees think it is the right thing to do, then why don’t you set up an unofficial answers blog. Start publishing the content on this site.
Be sure to make it clear that it is nothing to do with your company so you won’t get in trouble. You can even link back to the company website to prove how much traffic you are bringing them. If the content you create is good enough then people will start going to your site. You can then present the evidence about how successful your site has been and the leaders will hopefully reward you for your initiative, eat humble pie and bring it into the company website.
If they still don’t buy into it, then I would advise you to do one of two things
- Use the site as a case study of your work and get another job where your talent and initiative is valued
- If you want to be cheeky - keep writing the content and monetize the blog through affiliate links and sell the traffic back to your company through a third party affiliate marketing company
To summarize: there absolutely is a place for social software but it is useless unless you can change the culture of your business. If you cannot convince your manager or whoever needs to approve the project to do something that has zero outlay cost then how are you going to convince them to spend any money?
If you do convince them to spend money and you have the wrong culture, then the project will either not be as successful as it could be or more than likely fail.
Once you start to establish some credibility for social in your organisation then reach out to some social software companies to see how they can help you do things better. Most of these companies will be able to help you achieve much more with social but unless you get the foundations right then the technology will not be of much value to you.
What has been your experience of investing in social technology? Have you been able to use it to change the culture of your business? Has it worked well or have you had challenges you have had to overcome? Has it delivered the results you was looking for?