Raising your business profile on-line is much more than simply putting up your web site and flicking a switch. Yes, you may need your own web portal for your customers and potential customers. However, are you really leveraging the new social media aspects of the web for the benefit of your business? This month, our Managing Director, Leslie Allan, prods your thinking on this new medium as he reviews a recent white paper on this important business topic.
Your Business and On-line Social Networking
The recent industry report by Michael Stelzner on the penetration of social media for business marketing purposes raises some wider questions on the impact of Web 2.0. To begin with, what is Web 2.0? “Web 2.0” is a catch-all term that refers to the evolution of the internet to a state in which information sharing and collaboration is a natural way of working. How has networking on the web changed your business, or how is it going to change the way you do business in the future?
Stelzner’s report provides a tantalizing glimpse of where we are heading. He asked marketers and users of social networking sites a range of questions on their beliefs and practices. Some nine out of ten business owners responded that they used social media to market their business. Employees of businesses trailed slightly behind at eight out of ten.
Treat these results with a good measure of caution, as the people surveyed were by and large existing users of the technology. As Stelzner says, survey respondents were garnered from invitations posted on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, along with an email out to marketers. Not exactly a representative or random sample of all business people.
However, his results do pose the question: If you are a business owner, have you dived into social networking to promote your business? Do you have the time? Stelzner reports that some six out of ten marketers spend at least five hours per week networking on-line, with four out of ten spending at least ten hours per week. Is this a good use of your valuable time? Or are you struggling to forge meaningful relationships – business or otherwise – on-line? Are you spreading yourself so thinly that you are finding that you are friends with everyone, but a friend of none?
I see some networkers out to make as many network contacts as possible – some in the thousands – with the prime purpose of wearing their tally as a badge of honour. I find this my greatest challenge with the Web 2.0 environment. How do I have a broad spread without sacrificing depth? I am a member of a number of social networking sites, but have found myself spending the bulk of my on-line time with just two or three sites. How have you dealt with the challenge of so many networks, but so little time? Are you developing significant business relationships or simply skimming the surface?
Eight out ten of Stelzner’s survey participants believed that social networking created extra exposure for their business. A still significant six out of ten said they saw an increase in traffic to their web site and more subscribers to their circulations. Other benefits reported were a rise in qualified leads and closed business deals. Stelzner’s report is certainly strong on extolling the virtues of on-line social networking. However, be mindful that the report is largely drawn from the opinions of those already converted to this way of doing business.
That’s not to say that on-line networking cannot help your business. Our own business has received invitations to partner with other businesses as a direct result of my participation on social networking sites. Most invitations are made in good faith. The caveat is that you do need to watch out for business owners offering a symbiotic relationship, but in truth looking to benefit themselves above your own business. Be watchful of who you deal with and proceed with caution.
Which are the most useful social sites for promoting your business? Stelzner reported the networking sites most commonly used by experienced marketers are Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs. Are you surprised? Facebook and Twitter are often perceived as portals for pre-pubescents and teens. Of the general business networking sites, I spend most of my time on LinkedIn and Fastpitch. Which are your favorites? Do the demographic of visitors to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on, fit your client market?
What about blogs (web logs)? Do you frequent them to keep up to date? Blogs have spread like wildfire over the last couple of years, and many businesses have succumbed to the lure of easy customers ready for the picking. I have seen a number of colleagues set up blogs, only to be dejected once they realised the amount of work required to get that critical mass for it to be low maintenance. Without the time or the patience to rally visitors in the early days, most of them now stand as relics to an overly optimistic outlook. Have you started a company blog? Is it a success, or are you struggling to keep it relevant and topical?
What lessons have you learned that you can share with others? Write to us and tell us how Web 2.0 is changing the way you do business. What stories can you tell about what has worked for you and what was a waste of time and effort. With your permission, we will share your learnings with our readers. And isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?
Michael A. Stelzner, Social Media Marketing Industry Report, http://marketingwhitepapers.s3.amazonaws.com/smss09/
Check out Leslie Allan’s downloadable books at our Publications web page at www.businessperform.com/html/publications.html Leslie’s books on managing change and improving employee capability are packed with practical tips and useful resources.
You can also find out more about how to effectively use your web site to leverage your business. Whether yours is a large company or a one-person consultancy, you can benefit from the sage advice offered at www.businessperform.com/html/website_tips.html
Be sure to pass this newsletter on to friends and colleagues who want to stay up with what’s on. From all of us here on the Business Performance team, we wish you a productive month and look forward to communicating with you again soon.
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