Social Media Wasting Time

I read this question in the Glasgow Chambers Linked in group from David Charles of Ad+ Accounting.

My answer was too big for the post character limit in LinkedIn so I thought I would make it an article and post the link as I didn’t want to take anything out. I also realised that a plus point of this was that others who are not part of the group could potentially benefit from reading the question/answer.

—Question—

A recent report from MBO Partners found that independent contractors (in the US) still win the vast the majority of their new business through word of mouth recommendations. Only a tiny proportion came via social media. What’s your experience? Let’s share and inspire, DAVID CHARLES.

–Answer—

I can attribute at least 20% of my companies income over the last 12 months directly to contact that was triggered by social media interaction.

Now yes my company in the industry of Web stuff (that’s a real technical term, honest), so if anyone could convert business online that should be us.

However I believe it’s because we understand what social media can be and it’s place in the business process…an online lead generating, introduction machine, conversation starter, recommendation powerhouse, knowledge transfer/request networking platform (amongst other things) or in summary, a set of sales, marketing and customer support channels.

When you ask most companies what they are doing with their Social Media, how do they measure success and why they are using it that way, most don’t know.

The trick is preparation, so figuring out what you want out of the task/channel/communication that you’re using and focus on that to get the result, if you don’t get the result you wanted analyse why and change the approach… then test again.

So right now I’m writing a reply to a question that I feel I can share some potential insights on.

My primary goal is knowledge transfer because I know and respect David. He has built up “reputation credit” with me by his past posts, actions, conversations and business events, so I’m more willing to spend time replying to his post over others. I also like the questions he asks as they’re generally about business growth, which I’m into as I see that as part of my job role for my clients.

However I also run a business and I also want to make sure that I can I use my time in as many ways as possible, so my secondary goal for this answer is of course to be a potential introduction to others who maybe don’t know me well or at all.

I’m hoping my answer makes people at the very least want to:

  1. Try some of the ideas out and get some value from the article, giving me a reputation boost in their eyes and raising my profile and making them more likely to interact with me in the future
  2. Check out my profile to see my skills and experience and find out more about me and what I’m passionate about (hint: online stuff)
  3. LinkedIn with me so they see my other posts and answers to other questions, that way they get to see if if I’m consistent and trustworthy via other peoples interactions with me.
  4. Then hopefully at some point want to take the conversation offline to potentially do some business together.

That last one is a very simple action that lot’s of people miss out on, it’s how real world networking should work online or offline – meet someone at an event or social site (multiple times to build trust and rapport ), get their details, phone/email for a meeting, chat and see what happens from there.

It’s crazy how many people that say “oh networking doesn’t work” (also goes for social media) but they never do the crucial second part or actually analyse their interactions to see what they could have done better.

I think with Social Media people generally get overwhelmed by all the options and the technical bits available to them (again another real technical term there, sorry for that).

Instead you should be identifying one or two channels to focus on first (so you can test & measure them properly), certainly don’t try to do everything you think you should be doing as you’ll never find out what’s actually working for you.

This approach, for the most, part can also solve the “I have no time to do Social Media”. Everyone has the time to do one or two channels, but it’s just how much of a priory is it to your business and what focus you give to it.

Good research and a clear well thought out strategy means you don’t have to think quite so much about what you should be doing each day/week/month/year. That’s what people waste most of their time trying to figure out and why they never get anywhere.

A little plug, we have a newly improved special report that actually helps with that specific issue of topics for social media plus so much more. So get in touch for a quick chat if you’re curious (hmm tertiary goal? to put in a little plug if you can get away with it…did I manage that ok??).

If the value of Social can be proven then you would of course make the time, the quandary is that you need to treat it as a priority first to see if it’s of value, which can mean admittedly taking a small risk.

Most marketing is like that really, it’s the perception or at least the approach of Social Media for the most part that’s all wrong, why should this be any different to stands at events, brochure mail outs, cold calls, TV/Radio Advertising, Networking events, seminars…I could go on.

None of those activities have any guarantees of returns and some may require investing in them several different times/ways to refine the sales & marketing processes to get results, social is the exact same, but can be done with a bigger potential audience and initially little to no travelling, that’s time and money saved right there.

Social Media or Digital Marketing can usually be more cost effective and quicker to iterate for results so it’s certainly worth looking into.

A secret tip I teach our clients with Social Media is simply educating them to see the correlations of real world marketing activities with the appropriate ones online. We then consult with them on approaches they use for offline activities and translate and adapt them for use online, this gives the client a foundation of familiarity so the move over isn’t as scary. We then help them see past the technical bits to focus on the purpose of the channel or activity, the rest will fall into place with practice, practice, practice – Alan Fair, Director of Contact

So Pinterest is a very visual medium, if you don’t have a visual business like photography or even eCommerce, then maybe don’t do Pinterest, that doesn’t mean Pinterest couldn’t work for the company, that’s partly a creative issue/approach.

It’s just maybe not the best one to have when you start as it’s too much effort to come up with ideas. Think about the other Social channels and how appropriate they are, what opportunities there might be, if you’re customers are actually there or is there another reason for using the channel?

As another example Twitter can actually be good for customer support or alerting customers to delays in deliveries due to the weather. This saves all those phone calls/emails coming in and your staff explaining the same thing again and again and again, even more so if you only have a small team on the phones that do sales and support, then just think of all that extra time gained to make more sales. Just make sure you actually train your customers to check twitter first before phoning you.

There are many handy little technical/tips/approaches for each Social channel out there and if you really know what you’re doing it can even help things like your Search Engine Optimisation campaign or other marketing tasks.

Ultimately I think people get overwhelmed with all of that so take it step by step, channel by channel, post by post, test by test (with good research and strategy in place of course as that’s what makes it easy).

I personally tested reducing posting to Facebook and Google+ after analysing traffic to my website, responses and the contacts I had on the channels.

I chose to focus more on LinkedIn and that has made a big difference. I’m not posting more often, but I am using the extra time to think about what I post or what I reply to…quality over quantity…80/20 rule. I’ve even received compliments at networking events for my posts so I know it’s having a real world effect.

I’ve also utilised my real world connections better on it for introductions and even received unsolicited recommendations for potential work in other groups that has led to actual paid work.

I need to highlight that you need to take the conversation away from the Social Media channel at the right point, so in person, on the phone, even video chat if you have to, any of these actions will generally take the business relationship to the next level which is much harder to do (or takes much longer) on the direct Social Media channel you met on.

In summary:

  1. Business can be gained form Social media, it’s just understanding where it fits in to your business
  2. Asses the social/marketing channels for the most appropriate ones to your business
  3. Choose only one or two channels to focus on initially
  4. Do proper research
  5. Create a strategy
  6. Test, measure, adapt and repeat often
  7. Take the conversation offline if you can to build more trust, then use (in a nice way) that new trust online to increase your reputation

I think I strayed a little from the original question, but I hope something in there helps someone out there!

Alan Fair | Director of Contact

m: 07793 544 852 t: 0141 250 7030 | e: alan@contactonlineltd.co.uk

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