Word of mouth, the good old way to spread recommendations about a business. Every business owner, big or small, relies upon happy people saying good things about their company to generate new sales.  Nowadays there is a cheap, fast, and effective way to get that word of mouth spreading through the town, country, or across the world.

A website alone is not enough

It’s a website – right?

Nope. While a company website has been a must-have for many years, 46% of online users count on social media before making a purchase.

Note that? Social media.  A passive website isn’t enough. It has to be interesting, informative, enticing, and well promoted – that’s where Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and so on are needed.

So everyone uses social media then?

It’s obvious, isn’t it?  Yet this week I learned that 68% of America’s top 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all, while only 19 of them use a Twitter account. It’s not just the big boys and girls either – local businesses get that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look when asked about their social media strategy.

Why aren’t smart business people using social media?

  • Generational

I know it’s a sweeping generalisation, but top CEOs and business leaders usually grew up before there was a computer in every home. They may have a website, and use email, but they don’t appreciate the benefit of being continually active online. This attitude needs to change; the majority of customers are online, and a large proportion of them make purchases linked in some way to social media.

  • Time

Running a good social media strategy is time consuming, and there is no short cut, although a number of tools will help. I run my own business, and even a minnow like me is flooded with things to do.  Without understanding why social media matters, the time investment is never going to be high on the list of priorities of a business owner.

  • Cost

Running social media needs to be paid for, in either time or money.  If online interaction isn’t important, then the cost is not something to consider.  In the end, business leaders are focussed on the profit and loss of their business. When they understand how social media can help this bottom line, then the cost becomes more attractive. Especially when they compare it to the costs of a traditional advertising campaign.

  • Lack of control

Rather than every statement from the company being filtered past the narrowed eyes of the publicity department, social media lets the maverick loose. Usually, this is a good thing, allowing personal interaction and a human face to bland corporate branding. Five thousand people saw Jessica Gioglio’s fulsome praise following this Twitter exchange.  Eighty per cent of people who received a response from a company went on to make a purchase (figure from Mr Youth).  However, get it wrong, like Weetabix did, and it can be incredibly damaging. If it had been face-to-face, I am sure Weetabix would have been much quicker to back-track and apologise.  This is a textbook example of failing to remember that there are people on the other side of the screen.

  •  Fear

All the above points add up to fear.  Fear of something new, spending too much, getting it wrong. The more they don’t get on the social media surfboard, the more behind they feel. Everything seems to have have a social media #hashtag now – a constant reminder that everyone else is doing it, and they are not.

 

It doesn’t have to be so daunting however.  A good strategy, and a little investment can easily lift a business above the general hubbub.  It’s not too late!

 

benefits of social media for businesses infographicInfographic (from Best Web Hosting Geek)

Joanna is a copywriter, SEO content creator, and social media adviser.  Talk to her now about the ways she can lead you painlessly into the social media ocean.