I order a package of vacuum cleaner bags online. The site cheerfully requests “Like us on Facebook!” Kobe Bryant announces that in order to help the Lakers, he won’t tweet during playoff games. A friend tells me that he is the mayor of a local lunch joint on FourSquare.
This column features at the bottom not only the opportunity to tweet or like, but to share my weekly topic on LinkedIn, Google+, Baidu (does it translate it into Chinese?), Bebo, Orkit, Netlog, Stumbleupon (really?), Blogger, Delicious, Friendfeed, Tumbler, Viadeo, MySpace (THAT’s still around?), Reddit and Digg. I’m not sure why that share widget doesn’t include Pinterest, but we offer it separately. Good thing!
The traditional media reports celebrity tweets as hard news. Fast food chains start hashtag discussions about a new sandwich. My 17,000 Twitter followers are a nice number, but even if I was the Sheik of Araby I couldn’t marry a fraction of those followers who have suggested it (and I’m only including the ones who ask in English).
For a small business owner, the deluge of attention surrounding social media is confusing. You read about a food truck on the West Coast with 100,000 customers eagerly following their daily location tweets, and presumably flooding to patronize it when it’s in the neighborhood. When your business would be thrilled with ten extra customers a day, that kind of following looks might tempting.
Besides, social media is free. John Wanamaker, the Chicago retail magnate, once famously said “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. If I only knew which half.” When the money spent on advertising is zero, isn’t any return worth it?
This is a column for business owners. If your business is large enough to employ a marketing manager who has a social media strategy, have at it. If you use an intern from a local college who is free, or nearly so, let them fly. The question is whether you should be involved in a social media effort for your business.
Social media is a retail phenomenon. If you sell to the general public, are responsible for business development in your company, and have the time to spare, by all means tackle social media as an advertising vehicle. If you are sitting in your retail store between customers, boot up your tablet. If you are surfing the ‘net for half of the evening, get some plugs in for your business. Social media can do a few things well. It eases a potential customer’s risk tolerance by showing that lots of folks have purchased from your business before.
But I’ve stopped looking at ratings on Yelp, Urbanspoon, Travelocity or BizRate. Every feedback page has at least a couple of folks who say it was the best experience ever (friends of the owner?) and a couple who rate it the worst. I don’t know who these people are, or whether they have a clue about what a good meal or good service is.
If you sell to businesses, focus instead on your value proposition. I’m astonished at the number of B2B small business owners who think that a Facebook page can replace a business webpage. It can’t. It’s less organized, less focused and less controllable. The Facebook page for this column, which is the only FB presence I have, is “liked” by the National Rifle Association. Is that good for my business? I’m not so sure.
And by the way; I’m fully aware that I could have hugely raised my SEO score by linking all the websites mentioned above. I didn’t, because there is no chance that they would generate a new client. It would just have been 15 minutes of wasted time.
Picture Credit: Neocloud Marketing