The Social Media Gold Rush

Somewhere between skimming through my mostly marketing-based RSS feed on Google Reader, the print edition of Northern Nevada Business Weekly (NNBW),  and the various social news feeds on my iPhone this week, specifically Twitter (yes, I have been sometimes known to geek out during the lunch hour), it hit me: the social media gold rush is officially upon us.

Specifically, there’s been enough experimentation had and case studies compiled that businesses far and wide have officially become comfortable jumping into social media endeavors with both feet … in hopes of cashing in.

According to a recent survey of 600 small business owners across the United States, 90% are actively engaged in social networking sites and 74% perceive social networking as valuable — if not more valuable — than networking in-person. Similarly, the Burson-Marsteller Fortune 100 Social Statistics Report for 2012 noted that 87% of Fortune 100 companies were actively engaged in at least one social media platform in 2012, which was a 10% increase from 2010. The report also noted that the growth in the volume of conversations taking place on social media has encouraged companies to participate, and that companies are now creating multiple accounts to target audiences by geography, topic, or service:

Not unlike the California Gold Rush of the 1800s where all any old person had to do was pick up a shovel, pick, rope, saw, or axe to experiment with digging up gold, all people need today is computer access and two fingers to take part in this giant online experiment. But what is it that separates those who strike it rich from the rest left staring into the bottom of an empty gold pan?

Everyone Claims to be an Expert, But No One Knows What They’re Doing

What used to be a conversation mostly limited to circles in marketing has officially spilled over into the mainstream. The problem is that everyone claims to be an expert, but no one knows what they’re doing. I’ve seen individuals positioning themselves as social media experts who aren’t even visibly present on social media, professionals using LinkedIn or Facebook for business in all the wrong ways, and marketing professionals leaning on bad social media statistics as “proof” that their online efforts have been fruitful when reporting to confused and clueless executives.

Which is why Mike McDowell’s article published in this week’s NNBW entitled “How to determine social media’s real impact on your business,” really hit home for me, when he stated:

“We got 1,000 new Facebook Likes this month! And our Twitter followers doubled! Not to mention, we received a bunch of positive comments on our blog!” So what? We’re in the midst of the business gold rush to use new media such as social networks, blogging and other online content-sharing forums. Starry-eyed business professionals read and hear the success stories of their peers, and can’t wait to get similar results. Unfortunately, what happens is that they rush in without a plan, and after six months are disappointed that they’re not seeing business boom.

As the director of Web and digital at KPS3 Marketing, McDowell is well versed in understanding the various ways of determining social media’s real impact on a business. However, he cautions that although sales are a worthy measuring stick, they’re not the only thing that can (or should) be measured.

How to Use Social Media the Right Way

If you’re currently experimenting with social media (or new media in general) for your business and aren’t entirely sure how to integrate it, below are a couple of excellent resources for getting started down the right path.

  1. MistyUse social media as a tool for achieving sales and profit. From the article entitled “Six steps to get new media working for your business,” Squeeze In restaurant owner Misty Young writes: “In the modern, new media era, you are the media. It’s ‘social’ because we participate in it, talk about, research, respond and purchase through it — it’s two-way, back and forth. We are observing and shaping it at the same time — gone is the old school, one-way broadcast or distributed media model … As a small business owner, don’t you owe it to your customers to be where they are?” As a successful restaurant owner utilizing new media well, Misty offers six tips for integrating new media into your business plan with the goal of seeing focused results.
  2. AbbiHire a digital marketing agency. From this article entitled “Four signs that it’s time to call in a social media guru,” written by Abbi Holtom Whittaker of the Abbi Agency, “Don’t be hesitant to ask for social media help. Social media gurus are constantly learning, as the networks are constantly changing, and because they are immersed in that world they know how to best apply the capabilities to your business. And the best ones have real creative touches that allow you to stay one step ahead of the competition.” Abbi offers four situations where it pays to get some valuable and trustworthy support: 1) When setting up your pages 2) When setting up deals, specials, or offering any kind of reward to fans 3) When crisis strikes, and 4) Posting.
  3. LorenUse social media to bring your company and its employees to life. According to Loren Condron of Dotted and Crossed Marketing, “Paint a picture for your consumers about your business, give them a sounding board to be heard, answer them back, and reward them for participating. It really is that easy.” Specifically, Condron suggests turning a one-way ad into a two-way conversation, which starts the customer experience on a positive note.

In closing, to avoid getting caught up in the social gold media rush, remember to always think strategically and focus on utilizing social media as a tactic for achieving higher level business goals.

Now it’s your turn! What is your best advice for using social media as a tool for achieving sales and profit? What are some bad examples of businesses using social media that you’ve seen?


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