Message to the front office: Integrate the new with the old

There are still businesses and managements out there that don’t see the value of social media in their strategic plans. And no matter what statistic, value proposition to the consumer, or competitive edge you site, your CEO will not even open the door a sliver to see what’s on the other side.

It’s a frustrating prospect to see your competitors keeping up with technology and relevant communications avenues while your business or management continues to use the tactics they have always done before, and fall behind.

The fact is social media is here, and is here to stay. It is not a passing fad.

The number of people who use some form of social media is astounding – more than 900 million people are on Facebook, more than 140 million people are using Twitter, and more than 150 million people use LinkedIn. And as of March 2011, 49 percent of people in Ohio use Facebook to stay in touch with friends, family, and brands they care about. And it’s growing every day as the preferred form of communication for people throughout the United States, and the world.

But simple audience potential statistics alone are not the sole reason to get involved in social media. Social media is being used by businesses and government agencies to build customer bases, and provide quality education about products and services to the masses.

And it’s this quality information that people are looking for to be more educated and make better decisions that will affect their everyday lives. The place people are more and more relying on to get this information is social media.

Social media is about a conversation. It’s about building a relationship built on trust. When this trust is gained, you become the source of information people will keep coming back to time and time again to get the answers to their questions.

For example, a small fiberglass pool swimming company in Virginia created in 2001 was only a blip on the radar in its local market when people searched for fiberglass pools on the Internet. Once the owner decided in 2009 to get involved in social media and answer the questions customers had about fiberglass pools, how they compare to concrete pools, and more, the business experienced incredible growth. The company is now often the No. 1 company found for most search terms about fiberglass pools, and has had tremendous growth because of it.

This is how social media can help in the digital era. If you’re new, social media can help people find you. If people are asking questions, social media can help you be more relevant and timely in answering those questions. And if you can do these things, social media would have played a part in making you a more trusted and reliable source of information for customers.

Now, I’m not saying social media is the goose that laid the golden egg. But it is a tool that should be a part of your strategic planning, and an integrated part of your marketing and public relations programs.

At the same time it’s important to realize the changing dynamics of how people consume information and make purchasing decisions. The impact of traditional means of marketing and advertising is waning as people are inundated with messages trying to grasp a moment of their attention. People fast forward through commercials, speed past billboards, and flip past magazine ads.

Additionally, no longer do people rely on a singular source to learn, instead consumers tend to read, watch and listen to multiple forms of media throughout the day, and even at the same time. As information is able to help a person, or someone they know, they share it with others or flag it to revisit at a later time. It is becoming more and more important to be able to integrate social media into the mix of a company program to ensure greater visibility of its messages and products.

Social media doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Beginning small with one social media tool, and doing it really well, can provide significant benefits. Later, incorporating other tools, as appropriate, can be used to expand reach to more consumers.

The bottom line is if customers are thinking about it, businesses should be talking about it. And the quickest and most efficient way to address what people are thinking is through social media.

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