Social Media in Business

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The value of small talk

Which would you prefer: a blind date or a night out with an old flame? Chances are the old flame will be more fun because you can relax with the familiarity you share. First dates can be tedious as each person tries to assess the other person’s knowledge of axe wielding or fluffy toys (both equally as scary). Breaking the ice is difficult. If it were easy it would be called ‘breathing the air’ or ‘cutting the cheese’.

Doing business is the same. Sifting through a prospect’s ego to find their true nature can be time consuming and costly, especially if you get it wrong. It works the other way, too. Try putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes. They are about to spend their hard-earned money on your services and want to know that you can deliver. They need to trust you, but they can’t until they like you, and they can’t like you until they know you.

Know, Like and Trust

Trust is the goal, but we have to know and like first. This is ‘getting to second base’, which I call The Julie Andrews Principle.

So, how do we enter into a business relationship from second base? It mostly involves things unrelated to business. It’s about the personal stuff: what we do on the weekend, what we find funny, whether they still live with their parents, etc.

The Julie Andrews principle in action

These are some of the techniques Julie would employ to get to the ‘like’ stage in the relationship if she were in business.

  1. Make small talk in meetings and on the phone.
  2. Network or go to social functions (do lunch!).
  3. Use social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, WOMF, LinkedIn (plus thousands more).

FACT: Most people will do business with someone they know, even if they don’t like the service.

Web 2.0

For the first time in history we have a vehicle that lets us communicate and market ourselves in a passive way, i.e. people listen to you if they want. This is so much nicer than the interruption model, where ads are blasted at you between snippets of content. When people can choose whether to listen to you, it’s much easier to build rapport with them. I can’t say I’ve ever felt endeared to the Rugs-a-Million guy. In fact, I’d love him to accidentally run into a lump of wood I just happened to be carrying.

The other difference with social media is that your conversations are not limited to work related things. Mixing in some of your personal life can be good. It helps build familiarity. When you are considering doing business with someone, just like before a first date, you Google them to find out as much as you can before it’s too late (see fluffy toys from paragraph one). So, it’s important that your online profile communicates the correct message.

Your online profile

Chris Garrett as a Chicken GangsterWhat does your online profile look like? One of our project managers has a shirt that says ‘I Google myself’. Jokes aside, he actually does. Why? Because it’s important to ensure your message on the web is true. What comes up when a prospect searches for you or your company on the Internet? They should be able to find examples of your work, expertise, testimonials, photos (good ones, not drunk in a chicken suit), and gain a feel for who you are.

We usually share our wins, losses and challenges with close friends over lunch or a game of golf, but otherwise rarely. These are the things that make our friends, well, friends. The information you share sets them apart from others and creates a level of trust that enables you to do business instantly and skip all the cautious getting-to-know-you time.

Sharing things that happen on a day-to-day basis, both professionally and personally helps you build your profile online. This is where social media comes in. You can share information with the whole world and, if anyone’s interested, they’ll listen.

5 ways to use Twitter in business

  1. Find recruits (KND has found two people through Twitter, for FREE).
  2. Ask questions and give advice. This is a very quick way to build yourself as an expert in your field.
  3. Write about your daily wins and challenges.
  4. Announce new products or articles (be careful not to do too much blatant advertising).
  5. Listen to what your competitors are doing. What’s happening in your industry?

5 Ways to use Facebook in Business

  1. Create a page for your business.
  2. Run events using the excellent RSVP functionality.
  3. Push a feed of your web site content to Facebook so readers can comment.
  4. Grow your network.
  5. Share the more personal side of your business; i.e. Friday drinks, birthdays, photos, videos, etc.

Innovative uses for social media

  1. Some Starbucks café’s take orders via Twitter.
  2. Dell uses Twitter to message coupons, clearance events, and new arrival information on discount Dell technology. Dell generated $3 million in sales at no cost using Twitter.
  3. Twitter has been a key communication tool in the recent Iranian conflict when all other media was shut down.
  4. I saved 30% of my renovation costs by finding recommended tradesmen through WOMF.
  5. A landscaping company uses a private Facebook page as their Intranet. They keep track of staff locations, download timesheets and organise social events.

What’s the bottom line on social media?

Social media marketing doesn’t appear as a number on your balance sheet, which makes it a little hard to justify, however, a strong social media presence will have the following effects:

  1. Marked increases in web site traffic flow as each media site directs users back to your web site.
  2. Marked increases in enquiries for services
  3. Inbound cold calls won’t be so cold. Prospects will already feel as if they know you a little. They are reasonably confident that you don’t have fluffy toys all over your bed.
  4. You will have something in common to discuss; e.g. ‘I enjoyed your article on homeostasis and its effects on your to-do list. Riveting!’ This makes the sales process shorter and more reliable.
  5. You are top-of-mind in your circle of colleagues and they will more likely refer work to you.
  6. You will be able to find answers faster. Twitter your question to a large following and see how fast a quality answer comes back.
  7. Find employees. We’ve found two!
  8. Save money on web development. Rather than building a booking engine for your events, just use Facebook. It’s free.
  9. Deliver video and image galleries without the huge server overheads. Use YouTube and Flickr to host your content. They pay for storage and data transfer while you get smooth streaming and reach a wider network. Fa nuthin’!
  10. Widen your marketing net. This is really the crux of it. With social media you can reach millions of people for very little cost.

It makes sense. Marketing evolved when television was invented and now it is evolving again to take advantage of this fantastic new medium. It’s passive and not-so shouty.

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