I had two more Facebook ignorers this week. First was an old friend who didn't use Facebook, and could not imagine how it would be beneficial to his business. I responded with "that's kind of like the folks who didn't use a telephone saying that they didn't see any value in it for business." When you don't use a tool, it's easy to pretend it isn't valuable. Makes life easy on your competitors who do give it a try.
The second was a business that recruits people under 30. The top marketers at this company are still doing all their efforts with newspapers, radio and typical broadcast forms of media. They said they couldn't use social media to reach their base "because you can't control the message on Facebook." OK, so they don't use social media, and their focus is on message control so they don't intend to use social media. But their target is a population that every month uses less traditional media, and more social media. And these folks are wondering why media costs are up, and their success is way, way down. Uh huh.
At MediaPost.com "Avoiding Social Media Malpractice" Chad Cappellman tells the story of a hospital division that gets more people coming for insight through Facebook than come through the highlighted links on the hospital's own web site! People use Facebook today – a lot. We all would prefer a personal referral when we have a question. Often, a referral is better than 10 Google search hits at pointing you to the service provider or product which really fits your needs. And Facebook is a fast way to generate referrals. As is Twitter. So when you want potential customers referred your way, why wouldn't you try to maximize the use of social media? As the story above discusses, people would rather get info about a hospital (an example) from friends than from about any other source.
As for implementation, social media is part of the more sweeping market shift affecting all businesses. Historically, business people thought in terms of "control." The business had communication walls, internally and externally. More time was spent making sure information wasn't passed around than making sure communication was fluid and accurate. But in another MediaPost.com article "Twitter and Facebook Could Get You Fired" we see that approach simply won't work any more. We live in a "connected" and "networked" world today. There are precious few secrets when everyone has a mobile phone, and most of those have cameras, and texting is ubiquitous, and the vast majority of people under 35 have multiple social network locations.
Today, you can't win by limiting communications. That is a failed approach. Nor is it possible to "control" what is said about your business or its products and services. What you can, and increasingly must, do is monitor the chatter and be part of it. Of course some things will be inaccurate, so its now your role to help move the message in the right direction. Don't think about control, think about helping the message move toward accuracy. And leverage all the chatter to help you sell more stuff!
We live in a fast shifting world. That is not going to change. Slow moving traditional media is gradually dying. No competitor can succeed by avoiding the shifts. Those competitors that win will use scenario planning to help anticipate the shifts, and focus on fringe competitors to learn how to do new things which can create advantage. Success isn't going to come from trying to Defend & Extend the "core" – but rather by rapidly adapting to new market needs even if it means changing your "core." And the best way to stay connected to shifting markets today is through social media. It not only gives great, and timely, feedback but offers everyone the chance to enter into a dialogue with potential new customers at remarkably low cost. And in remarkably powerful ways.