I have heard business owners say they don’t need social media in their industry. I’ve heard businessmen say they don’t have time or that they are concerned what their people might post.
Here is the issue: they don’t know what they don’t know.
Businesses need to be on social media or else they could eventually face extinction. And to be on social media, they should have a strategy.
Those were two of the important points expressed in the most recent episode of the “Commercial Real Estate Show.” I had the opportunity to interview Les Adkins, CEO of Orange SMS, a veteran social-media consultant and international speaker. We took an enlightening look at social-media strategies for businesses. Among other topics, Adkins and I discussed companies that are successful on social media, social-media company policies and common mistakes that firms should avoid on social media.
“If you want to reach your customers and those that are 30 and under — who are going to keep you in business for the next 30 years — you need to be where they are, and where they are is social media,” Adkins.
Adkins pointed to Coca-Cola and Virgin as two examples of companies using social media successfully. Noting that the beverage giant has one of the largest pages on Facebook, Adkins said Coke has thrived on the platform and solidified customer loyalty in the process because the firm has “created an environment where you can connect with the company outside of just buying their product. They talk about what they’re doing for the environment and how they’re working in the community.”
Meanwhile, Virgin CEO Richard Branson is a high-profile user of Twitter, Adkins noted. “You feel real connected with the firm because you’re actually hearing from him on Twitter,” I said.
Think Before You Leap
Before diving headfirst into social media, a business has to develop an understanding of its customers, the information their customers want and the platforms they primarily use, Adkins said. Also, companies must develop detailed objectives and strategies for their social-media efforts, he added.
And once you open a social media account, you have to stay engaged and be consistent in your updates. This is easier than it may appear. Sometimes when you’re on Twitter, for example, you’ll see an executive making voluminous tweets throughout the day, and you’ll think, “That guy must not be working.” In reality, though, he’s probably using an automated system like Hootsuite that allows him to spend a little time each day composing his tweets and then scheduling them to be sent out throughout the day.
Once they’re on social media, too many companies make the mistake of using social media simply to sell their products instead of taking the broader approach of supplying information relevant to their audiences, Adkins noted. “Companies who do that are making a gigantic mistake because social media is unforgiving of spammers,” Adkins said.
I couldn’t agree more. I really enjoy Twitter and use it a lot, but if I’m following someone who’s always selling their wares, I’ll quit following them. The key is to provide value and usable information to your followers.
“You have to provide a benefit for your audience,” Adkins said. “If you’re a hospital, for example, you should be giving information on how healthcare reform is going to affect a business, not how to visit your facility.”
As Adkins noted, many firms also are losing out on quality employees because of their restrictive policies on the at-work use of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, according to Adkins. Instead, companies should capitalize on employees’ online use and savvy to promote their businesses.
“It’s OK to let your employees use social media and be on the Internet,” Adkins said. “Here’s a dark secret: they’re doing it anyway … You can’t monitor their smart phones or their iPads. Why fight it? It’s just easier to make it work for you.”
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