1 November 2010 By Northern Lights
This blog first appeared as a guest blog for The Forum of Private Business, following their recent survey on the number of SMEs using social media.
Don’t get left behind! Even ‘dinosaur businesses’ are into social media
Do you remember when websites first appeared? It was the time of dial-up internet connections (how long ago does that seem?!) and no-one could imagine why a ‘proper’ business would ever need one.
But within such a short space of time – I reckon about two years – the market went from being about geeks and cool design agencies to …. suddenly any business looked really old fashioned if they weren’t out there online.
And let that be a warning to businesses now. If you haven’t researched and started social media activities, you will look old fashioned by early next year.
This summer, we’ve had every kind of company and professional firm talking to us about social media. I have to admit, a number of them are really traditional and I would have thought they would not get to blogs and Twitter for some years yet.
Social media is probably taking a longer gestation time than it was for websites – and they weren’t quick – in terms of understanding the opportunities, learning how to use it and then implementing activities.
So if you think you don’t need to worry because your competitors and customers haven’t got a blog or Twitter account – just take care. You may be surprised at what is going on behind the scenes at this moment. Businesses are sorting out their strategies, writing blogs to launch in a few months and training their employees in everything from Twitter and blogging to how to use LinkedIn.
If you want to catch up quickly, what should you do?
1. Take time out of your business – a half day at least and switch off the phone and emails. Go online and search your competitors, customers, suppliers and industry bodies. Look at who has a blog, is making comments on other blogs, is tweeting. Jot down what is interesting and what is frankly awful (and there is a lot of that!)
2. Imagine you are a potential customer or existing client as you search. What might you find useful – where is the gap that you could fill with information and tips?
3. What are your employees doing? Look to see who is on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Have they mentioned your company name? Are you happy about what they have said? Are their LinkedIn profiles consistent – do they reflect your brand?
For most businesses, the best ‘entry point’ into social media is to start with a blog. Not one that talks about your latest order or award – but cutting edge information that could help your clients. Explain where technology in your industry is going, report on an exhibition and the trends you spotted, review a book. Invite your customers to write guest blogs and strengthen the relationship.
And make sure you get a social media policy for your employees with guidelines as to what they can and can’t do.
What would you recommend as the first steps for a business that still hasn’t taken the plunge into social media?
The first step I would suggest is to allocate time and/or a budget to a social media campaign. This sounds obvious, but if you want to make social media work, you will need to dedicate some resource/time to it or find a trustworthy partner.
Too many companies pay lip service to it and then think it doesn’t work for their business or sector. It’s not something you can dip in and out of, it needs regular daily/weekly work to make a success of it.
Excellent point Fraser, thanks!
Although I agree with the above, I believe that one of the first things a business should do is set out their goals and actually define what they want to achieve through social media. If done properly, this will not only provide them with something to measure but also provide them with the appropriate network to use as well as things that they can communicate and talk about.