It wasn’t so long ago that uttering the term “social media” conjured images of pubescent teens, young adults, and doting grandparents posting about their mundane daily activities and posting their even more run-of-the-mill snapshots to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and a host of others. Seems as though anyone with a digital camera, internet access, and time to spare could become a social media maven.
Then, buoyed by the success of sites such as LinkedIn, along came marketing and entrepreneurial types who saw the business advantage of having a strong social media presence. Presto! The notion of social media as a haven only for friends and family was transformed into something much, much more.
The social media or NEW media space is now a place where business transpires, reputations get built, brands mature, products get launched, and buzz is either generated or squashed.
It’s gotten to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if everyone should or even can learn how to use it, or at least use it effectively to achieve their desired professional or business branding results. Think about it, the entire world does not know how to effectively use television, radio or even print media. It cracks me up with this whole mad-dash to “learn how to use” social media.
A friend of mine is a realtor. She markets and sells real estate. How hard can that be, right? Like anything, if you have an interested buyer, selling is easy. Problem is, you rarely reach interested buyers without great effort, and you’re even less likely to close a sale unless you know what you are doing. Expertise and experience are valuable in professions such as real estate. They are becoming equally as important when it comes finding success in social media.
My realtor friend recently took a class on how social media could extend her real estate selling efforts. The result? She felt overwhelmed by all the information and possibilities, so much so that she couldn’t grasp how social media could work for her business. She began to question whether she’d get any return on a social media investment. Wouldn’t it be easier, she wondered, just to stick with the tried and true of what worked in the past (handing signs, listing on MSL)?
Possibly, at least in the short-term, but easier doesn’t always mean most effective. You can rest assured that most of her competitors will seize upon social media as yet another tool with which to reach out to buyers, and that buyers/prospects will come to expect and appreciate the two-way communication street. Simply put, people will wonder “what’s wrong” when a realtor (or any other business for that matter) has no social media presence, and those who fail to embrace social media will be at an immediate disadvantage—just like businesses and professionals who still have no (or a less than standard) Web site presence.
At a minimum, companies need to realize the power of investing in the online personas and social media presence of the people behind their products/brand. This is even more important for SMALL business owners as well as professionals (on a personal professional level).
Why? Because people tend to buy from small business if they can get up close and personal with the people behind the brand. The same goes for bigger brands. I love to “get into the head” of Michael Dell or some of these other high-ranking executives ready and willing to be even more up-close-and-personal with their customers (and fans). What better way than to use online social media channels to put the people and leaders behind the business scene front and center? I have to say that I follow a number of small business professionals online with whom I share interests. Guess who I turn to when I’m looking for a particular product or service?
It’s certainly hard to deny the power of social media. Perhaps it’s just a matter of harnessing that power and putting it to best use. That said, can social media training for everyone be far away?
Back in the mid-1990s business owners and professionals scoffed at MS Windows, MAC OS, and “Web site 101” type training, but eventually most caved—either by receiving direct training themselves or by hiring someone with the experience and expertise they were missing to do the work! Again, social (or NEW) media is really no different from mastering the use of television, radio or print media. For the most part, the owners or chief officers of companies/brands don’t produce television commercials on their own. They hire an agency or the production is led by someone in-house who has the training and expertise.
Where do you fall in the spectrum from social media novice, to do-it-yourselfer, to expert?