Social Media – Why Does Your Business Need It?
Because a prospective customer can be at different stages of the buying process when you come in contact with them, your company has to engage where they are to be most effective. Engagement means finding the best way to have a ‘two-way’ conversation with them. Social Media helps companies to engage in those two way conversations.
Although people are coming to the World Wide Web in increasing numbers, not all of them come wanting to buy products or services based on what they find on websites and search engines. The conventional wisdom used to be that if your company appeared at the top of a search engine’s (Google, Yahoo, Bing) search results, you could expect more buyers, more sales and then more profit from having a website online. This practice is called search engine optimization or SEO.
Furthermore, a business owner could expect even more profit if his or her company successfully captured a website visitor’s email address in order to ‘remind’ the buyer of additional savings and current specials. These strategies (SEO and E-Mail Capture) still work today in giving companies increased access to buyers who are in search of the products and services they need and desire.
However, an interesting phenomenon has occurred over the last five to ten years. Internet users are coming to the web not only to buy things and to look for information; they are now coming to connect with other people. To state things more succinctly, they are coming to the web to ‘hang out’ or socialize with other people. They do this on what are called social media sites, of which you have probably heard their names (and probably have an account of your own): Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Although the three sites mentioned (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) are probably the largest and most heavily trafficked social media properties they are not the only ones. There are literally thousands of different social media sites that Internet users visit to ‘meet’, converse and hang out. But as a business owner, you know that your time is too valuable to work on thousands of sites; so you want to make sure that you have a presence in places where lots of your potential buyers are going to be and where your impact can be felt the most.
If you were just to look at Facebook, the statistics would say that there well over 600 million users on their network. Internet users, now conduct more searches on YouTube than they do on the Google search engine. Twitter boasts 175 million users. So, regardless of your business model or demographics, your prospective customer is likely to “hang out” on one or all these social media sites.
The expectations of people while they are on these sites are to have interaction, make recommendations and to show their friends what they “like”. If your brand is one that a customer or prospect ‘likes’, you will get to show your product or service to someone who may never search for it in a search engine.
This makes having a Social Media account just as necessary as having a website to be found in a search engine. The interaction that people have with each other makes it easy for your company to be noticed. Without that interaction about your company, you are likely to be leaving sales “on the table”.
But the interaction that your company has with customers and prospective customers is important too. If you are able to respond to customer’s comment about your product or service on a social media website, you will get the opportunity to see what real people think about what you are selling them.
Even more important than that, you will have the chance to respond to people’s thoughts and concerns about your company. If you wait for people to call you or visit your website with testimonials about your product, they may never call. Furthermore, all of us are skeptical of testimonials that a company places on their website or in their advertising.
Of course, the negative side of this is also true. With a social media presence, you have a chance to respond to negative feedback. Without it, the negative feedback will go on without your answer, taking some of those same sales back “off the table”. Many companies successfully navigate negative word-of-mouth by addressing issues directly using their social media accounts.
As the expectation for two way interaction increases, Internet users seem to develop more trust in a company willing to answer questions, talk openly about what is happening with their company, address large scale support issues in real time and provide timely information. To get this kind of trust, you need to make sure that your business is in those places where people hang out and talk casually with their friends. Giving them the opportunity to talk to you in these mediums is vital to getting those sales and prospects that will never consider you otherwise.