Unless you've been living under a rock, you don't need me to tell you that social media has legs. And it's getting leggier by the minute.
Many companies don't fully understand what to do with social media. They don't see the path to benefit from it. Others have tried using it and walked away not seeing the value of social media. Others still don't get it at all, and have left themselves completely to the mercy of the online mobs.
Most of us are somewhere in between.
Social media is at its best when used as a tool to listen and interact with buyers in the early-to-middle stages of their buying cycle. This is the time to focus on providing consumers with content that matters to their buying process. While it's possible to direct sell and find customers "in the market" today, it's also difficult. Most of today's companies are overly obsessed with late-stage buyers; thus, this kind of thinking seems to them less valuable.
What It Can Do
Relationship building, goodwill, and improved customer service are what social media can do for you. Also, social media can:
What It Can't Do
If you think putting up a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page will build huge gobs of closable traffic overnight, you're kidding yourself. Relationships need nurturing. Social media can't:
More on Buying Stages
A short example: early-stage buyers have only identified a need (e.g., "I need a winter vacation this year"). Middle-stage buyers know approximately what they want (e.g., "I want to go to Florida this summer"). Late-stage buyers know exactly what they want (e.g., "I'm going to Florida and I'm making reservations and buying plane and park tickets now").
Do you think someone in early or middle stage might be influenced to by social media? If you aren't convinced, look at what happened to United Airlines.
Anybody who is thinking about going on a winter vacation and happens to cross the "United Breaks Guitars" video will think twice about United. That is a negative influence on early-to-middle stage buyers.
Now, say it's 10:30 a.m., you're starting to think about lunch, and you come across this video? Andy Sernovitz, an interactive marketing consultant and author, writes about P.F. Chang's brilliant use of Twitter. They're clearly trying to influence early-stage buyers, but this isn't easy to bring to mass scale.
Still, Not Everyone's Convinced of Social Media's Value
Where we part in our agreement is in thinking that real-time search and social media have no monetary value. Remember, social media can build relationships, though not paid traffic generation.
Some Practical Steps for Getting More From Social Media
Where's the Value for You?
Social media isn't everything people are hoping it will be, yet. Still, there's value in participating and investing resources to be a part of the online 2.0 conversation. Just temper your expectation, and use it for what it's good for.
Have you had to prove that social media has value to someone? Tell us how you won them over and we will share the best stories in a future column.
Meet Bryan Eisenberg at Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center.
Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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