If you are still ignoring the 21st Century phenomenon that has become known as “social networking”, you are risking being left behind as your competitors take advantage of this increasingly powerful new communication medium.
Anyone with teenage children has probably fretted at the amount of time they seem to waste on pointless chat and worried about the sometimes catastrophic consequences that can eventuate from cyber bullying or viral party invitations.
However, underneath all that inanity, there are some rapidly emerging applications for social media in the business environment that potentially provide competitive advantage as the early tide of interest grows into a tsunami of usage. Afterall, it is through sites such as FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn – to name but a few – through which large numbers of people choose to communicate with each other today.
Now you can add Google+ to the mix – a late-comer to the social networking environment from the search and advertising giant. It has just entered the arena with a rocket showing early growth that has outstripped the best performances of all its predecessors.
If you want to communicate with your customers, suppliers and staff, it makes sense that you too should have a presence in these environments. It is a challenge that many businesses are warming to but also one that many others are choosing to ignore.
Facebook may have started as a means for college students at Harvard University to rate members of the opposite sex but it has since grown to have around half a billion active users. Fundamentally that means that a large number of your customers are on there. So should you be.
Starting your Facebook group and uploading new products, special offers and product information provides the opportunity to interact with customers in a way that suits them. If they like what they see they will recommend you to others.
I don’t want to over-simplify the process of leveraging Facebook as a marketing tool or make claims to be an expert but if you are not already on there it is probably worth having a look at how some other companies are using this medium.
Twitter is an interesting one. At first glance, it would appear that it is a hive of useless, unnecessary posts and often it is. However, it is also a great way to keep track of people whose opinions you value and see what they are reading or doing on the Internet.
Any business in the channel can create a presence on Twitter very quickly and easily and then invite customers, suppliers and staff to follow their posts. I have seen many companies using Twitter to alert people of snap deals, stock clearance sales, special events and/or industry comment to create debate or to seek information that may be commercially advantageous.
LinkedIn has very quickly become the social networking destination of choice for working professionals. I was at an IT service management conference recently where a recruitment forum was taking place and a delegate from the audience said that his organisation no longer advertises for staff.
He had found that respondents he handled from recruitment ads were all second tier in terms of quality employee candidates. I am paraphrasing here, but in his experience, all of the good candidates looking for new opportunities are snapped up through their LinkedIn connections before they even start browsing what’s on offer via traditional recruitment avenues.
This is even more so when you are talking about the so-called “Y” generation which has grown up with Internet based communication as a tool at their disposal from a very early age. They live organise their lives through the Internet an
If you are working in an industry such as the IT distribution channel, then it pays to have your finger of the pulse of what is happening in the world of your customers, suppliers and staff. Social networking sites offer you the opportunity to develop two-way communication with these people who will, at the end of the day, make or break your business.
You don’t have to dive directly into the deep-end. Indeed it probably pays to take a toe-in approach to begin with as there have been some noteworthy errors of judgement committed in social networking environments over the years. If those blunders go viral, the consequences can be disastrous.
However, do not let that deter you. If you ignore this rich potential vein of connecting with customers, you really are missing out on the opportunity to leverage it as a marketing and communications medium. Take a bit of time to create a profile and start learning how people communicate with each other in the second decade of the 21st century.