“If you are not using social media to converse with your clients then you are already behind the power curve.”
My friend Francine Hardaway, CEO of Stealthmode Partners, said that the other day.
What is social media? Social media encompasses blogs, bookmarking sites, mySpace, YouTube, forums, and almost any website containing user-contributed content. The test for determining if something is social media is to ask, “Can your own voice be heard there?”. If the answer is “Yes” – such as putting your own video clips up on YouTube – then it is social media.
Why should you be interested? Because one kid in Iowa with a blog and five readers can ruin your company, that’s why. Because our markets are smarter than we are, that’s why. Because a small company can gain a reputation that large organizations with millions to spend on marketing would be hard pressed to create, that’s why.
Every consultant should have a blog. If you are a consultant, chances are there are at least a dozen others doing exactly what you do. You are unique however not because of what you do but because of how you do it. If I put a Jack Daniels in your hand at a party and ask you to explain some of the techniques you use and why they are effective, I will learn far more about you than I can from your website. After two or three such sessions I’ll have developed a sense of trust in your professional capabilities. And because we probably also connected on a more personal level, I will have also developed a personal trust relationship with you. People don’t do business with your company, they do business with you – And you will have become someone I am comfortable doing business with. We call this sort of activity networking. Your blog puts your networking on steroids.
You should be monitoring your reputation. In the old days, big companies had news clipping services. Once a week the top executives were presented with a copy of every mention of the company in any newspaper or magazine in the country. Such a service was expensive back then. It costs zero today. When some blogger halfway across the country says something nice about you in his blog you can know about it within minutes. Nothing turns that blogger into a raving fan quicker than a personal email thanking him for his kind words about your company. Conversely, if he said something derogatory you have a chance to reach out to him and make amends before it turns ugly. How can a kid in Iowa with a blog and five readers ruin your company? Because his readers have blogs too and at least one of them probably has a few hundred readers and some of them will post the story on their blogs. And so on until you have a supernova on your hands.
You should be learning from your customers. It is likely that the image you have of your company and it’s products and services is quite different from the image your customers have. Your company’s best chance for success is when the external image and internal image are in perfect alignment. A blog is the best tool for making that happen. Traditional techniques for discovering new markets for your product or service are expensive and error-prone. Instead, let your blog bring those new markets ideas to you.
Social media as a business tool is a new concept and so it is natural to be uneasy about it. A professional journalist recently told me that not long ago he and his colleagues actually feared it. The reason for this fear and discomfort is that it is a disruptive force, upsetting the old order. Every entrepreneur knows however that disruption provides opportunity.