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Social Media for Business: Are in or out?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There is rarely a day that I don’t visit a social media site. It’s much the same for millions of people. The President himself is a frequent tweeter. Like it or not, social media has become part of our everyday lives.

It’s not just for individuals. Businesses, non-profits, schools, and even churches are on social media. It can help businesses connect with customers but only if you do it right.

For this article, I am going to keep it simple. It’s why your business should or shouldn’t be on social media. Let’s get started.

Why your business shouldn’t be on social media

It seems like most businesses are on social media. That means you should be too, right? Well, maybe not. Social media is only one part of a public relations/marketing plan. If you don’t know how it fits, social media is going to be a waste of your time.

A few years ago I can remember driving down the street and it seemed like every business with a sign had a message to follow them on Facebook. One day I came home and looked up several of the businesses to see what they were doing. Unfortunately, the answer for almost every one of them was the same. Not much. And, what they were doing was, well, boring.

They weren’t doing anything that told me much their business. The posts didn’t engage customers. I could see they started off by posting frequently and then they just stopped.

Social media requires a strategy, and as I said earlier, it’s only one part of a plan. If you’re not willing to treat it as such, it’s not going to do anything for your business. Activity for activity’s sake is just busy work and you have plenty of other things to worry about.

The first thing I look at when I visit an organization’s social media is what they are doing with it. I then look at if people are engaging. By engagement I mean sharing, commenting, and liking posts. I also look to see how often posts occur.  If there are multiple social media accounts are they being leveraged?

For example, Instagram and Twitter are two social media platforms but they function differently. Instagram focuses on pictures and quick video bites. Twitter only allows 280 characters to post with and has less of a focus on media. They focus on two different aspects so if they are being treated exactly the same I question why a business is using them let alone being on both.

I once looked at a company that had a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The content was identical. It was being on social media for the sake of being on social media. They were acting like an orange, a potato, and a steak were all exactly the same. There was little effort being put in and it showed. Most posts had no likes. None of them had any comments or shares.

As a business owner, you know that time is money. In this case, the time being spent, even though I could see that it was as little as possible, was costing them money. Not money to pay for being on the sites because that’s free, but money being paid to an employee to post.

If you don’t have a good social media strategy your efforts will fail gain any traction and will have absolutely no impact. You will be wasting time and money.

Why your business should be on social media

Based off what I said in the previous section, you may think that I’m advocating that not every business should be on social media. I’m not. I think every business should be on social media. It is a great opportunity for a business and done right it can help you achieve business goals.

Social media promotes your brand and is a and is a wonderful tool to help drive people to your website. I am going to look at this from two perspectives: marketing and public relations.

I’m going to start with marketing as this what I see happen most the time with businesses on social media. To most people marketing is the selling and promotion of your products and business. When this article was posted on this blog, I posted links on social media to market it. Many other companies do the same thing with their blog posts and news stories.

Let’s look at a different example. I follow Disney on Facebook. There have been many posts promoting the new Avengers movie. It’s ranged from trailers to interviews with the cast about their favorite Marvel moments, talking the movie and their characters, and reminders when the film is opening. All are designed for the purpose of making me aware and interesting me in going to the movie.

Your marketing messages can certainly overlap with your public relations efforts but be careful about selling on social media. People don’t follow you to be sold to they follow because they like your business and its products. Done correctly, they won’t even pay much attention to that the fact you are marketing to them.

The other piece of the marketing puzzle is ads. Many social media sites allow you to join for free and then sell ads to make many. With social media, you can target a specific group or groups of people. It’s far more effective than placing a newspaper or even a television ad.

When I buy cheese, I buy Tillamook. Over the last few days, I have been seeing Tillamook ads pop up in my Facebook feed. The ads are in regards to a new product they are selling, Tillamook Sauce Starters. I find the product intriguing and the next time I’m at the store, I’m going to see if I can find some.  

Public relations, put simply,  is about creating a relationship between you and your audience. If you know your business you know who your customers are. It’s about promoting your brand and creating trust. Public relations can also humanize your business and show its commitment to the community. Let’s look at two examples.

Edelman is a public relations firm with offices throughout the US and around the world. In a tweet, they told how employees from its San Francisco office volunteered to clean up a beach and included a couple of pictures. It shows two things, Edelman’s commitment to the community and employees of the company. Why does the second point matter? A large company can be seen as faceless. While it’s only a handful of its employees worldwide, the company is made of people.

Nita Strauss is a guitarist who plays with shock rocker and rock legend Alice Cooper. She may be an incredible guitarist but she is also human. Here she shares a picture on Instagram of a visit to Busch Gardens with her boyfriend. The picture doesn’t scream heavy metal guitarist but it does humanize her to her fans.

So, Are you in or out?

As you can see there is value to being on social media but only if it is part of a larger strategy. There must also be clear goals. If you don’t feel that you have the time to make the proper commitment you have two options. You can ignore social media and leave money on the table. Your competitors will thank you. Or, you can hire a professional to design a strategy that will help your company meet its business goals. It’s up to you but I would do the latter.


Shane Carpenter
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