It still strikes us as odd when businesses tell us they don’t use social media, don’t check their Yelp reviews or have no idea if their hours are posted on Facebook. Many business owners are still under the false impression that if they ignore social media, it will not affect their business. That is of course completely false.
Here’s why social media is important for every business:
1. All your customers are on it
Well, almost. Facebook alone has 1.2 billion users and one out of every three Americans uses it daily. Other social networks are no joke either, Pinterest clocks in at 70 million users, for example. What this means is that a big chunk of your target audience is on social media. This also means they spending less time than before on traditional media such as TV and print journalism. As a result, your traditional marketing methods might not work as well as before.
2. Equal posting opportunity for all
Anyone, anytime can voice their opinion on social media. There is no real barrier to signing up for and posting on social media. There is no editor or curator who decides what gets in and what doesn’t. It’s completely free which is beautiful, but also dangerous. People can write false information and create as many fake profiles as their heart desires (Yes, it’s against the terms of service, but it’s pretty much impossible to enforce). When someone writes about a business on social media, that post can reach hundreds of people immediately and if it becomes popular it can snowball to reach millions of consumers.
3. The truth is out there but no one is looking for it
In traditional media, journalists are still held to basic standards of truth in their reporting. Serious news organizations employ fact checkers to confirm the facts mentioned in articles, especially if those fact might paint someone in a negative light.
On social media, there’s no fact checking, there’s no vetting, there’s no editor to tone down exaggerations and cut out potential slander/libel. Whatever people write, it gets out there. Once it is, it’s hard to refute. Potential customers see it, they pass along, they remember it. Even when a business protests and can prove their position, it’s hard to erase a bad impression brought on by a negative review. That’s why businesses must be there to assert their truth if and when someone disparages them unfairly online.
4. No Way Out
Whether you like it or not, your business has a social media profile of some kind. You didn’t create it. You didn’t sanction it. It does not matter. The profile might have been created by the community or it might have been created or bought by the social network. The point is, it’s there.
Businesses might feel extorted to participate. They didn’t ask for this, but while you can technically ask to have it removed, you shouldn’t. Since all your customers are on social media, you want your profile there. How will they discover you otherwise? The market has spoken and that’s where it wants to play. Don’t like it? Tough.
5. It’s growing
Just when you figured out Yelp and TripAdvisor, came Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and now Pinterest, Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Google+ and Path and Snapchat… There will always be more networks that pop up. Some will be more niche and some widespread. You have to keep an eye for where your target audience is hanging out on the web and be there as well (preferably before your competitors get there). Just two years ago, teenagers were flocking to Facebook and today millions of them have discovered Snapchat and are spending less and less time on Facebook. These cycles will likely continue to occur.
The reality is that even the most basic social media strategy will require maintaining 3-5 profiles. Businesses must figure out where their customers are on the web and join those networks.
6. It will never die
Whatever people write about your business on the internet, it’s there forever. You can shove content around, work hard to move it to deeper pages of Google but ultimately, it will always be there for potential customers to discover. This is why you must try as much as possible to control what is being said about you BEFORE it gets online. If you run your business well, provide great service and are receptive to customer feedback, customers will write great things about you that will indeed stay online forever. Social media just may not be all evil after all.