Let me start by saying social media isn’t for everyone. Like any marketing activity you need clearly defined goals. You also need to invest time and resource into it, ensure you’ve got worthwhile content to drive it and that you’re saying the right things, in the right way to right people, or it just won’t work.
Right, now that’s out of the way…
Social media is widely accepted as an addition to our personal social spheres. For millions of us ‘Facebooking’ a friend is as acceptable as texting, calling or writing to them are/were. It’s also accepted as a set of tools for B2C marketing campaigns, driving brand awareness, engagement and sales leads for companies as diverse as Tabasco, O2 and Nike.
However according to Eloqua (as reported by Technorati):
“64% of the UK companies surveyed use social media as a [B2B] marketing tool, meaning that over a third (36%) do not”.
Why not? After all for many, networking has been the favoured way of doing business for years, so why not do so digitally? At the very least you avoid the stale canapés and concentrated orange juice.
Of course, aside from the culinary benefits, you’re able to do much more than ‘just network’ across digital social platforms. According to the same survey there are:
“…three top reasons for using social media: creating brand awareness (83%), encouraging social sharing (56%) and gaining trust and followers (55%)…”
This makes sense to me. Like networking events, engaging with followers, like(r)s and connections in conversation and delivering content for them to share is what these platforms are created for. They’re geared up for individuals to do just that, so why shouldn’t commercial entities be able to do the same? If you’re chatting to someone face-to-face and they’re keeping your interest you’ll likely be more ‘aware’ of them next you see them, want to share ideas and trust them more than you would if you’d not spoken with them.
Under a third (32%) said they use it for lead generation, while only 16% use social media to assess market perception of their brand”.
This also makes sense to me. Again, you’re not going to be easily sold to if you’re face-to-face networking. No-one likes an unsolicited pitch launched at them out of the blue. It’s the same if you’re using social media, you don’t usually want to be sold to. You’re there to engage, so content has to be particularly eye-catching to drive you to become a lead or indeed to make a purchase.
As to market perception, I think this is where my ‘social media as networking event’ metaphor falls down. I think that social media, provided you’ve the time, is an excellent place to judge brand perception. People are less guarded on social networks and you’re much more likely to get an honest opinion, but unless you’ve got the inclination to wade through every post about your company it’s hard to get an overview of what people think about you (without using the notorious ‘sentiment tracking’ software). There are also concerns for many about the power of one voice in these instances; it could be you’ve one particularly vehement detractor or passionate advocate that could skew your findings. Of course, if you’re at an event and you have a passionate advocate or vehement detractor, it could be difficult to deal with them without things getting, a little, well… odd.
I think the big thing, though that the metaphor does reinforce, is whatever your goals in using social media, remember:
Social media is first and foremost social. Be nice, transparent, honest. The kind of person you’d like to network with.