Delving into Social Media

What you should do depends on a number of factors, but do something on purpose, which can include purposefully doing nothing at this time.

Social media is all the rage. Unless you live under a rock, you are probably somewhat aware of social media, and may even be thinking about how it fits into your shop’s marketing/sales arsenal. Or maybe you have dabbled already. Should you? If so, how, when, how much, and what results should you expect?
 
As a professional consultant, I can answer these questions with certainty: “It depends.” Seriously, though, what you should do now depends on a number of issues I will touch on in this column, and I will give you an additional free resource to help you. The most important point is this: Make a conscious decision. What you should do depends on a number of factors, but do something on purpose, which can include purposefully doing nothing at this time.
 
Social media, also known as Web 2.0 by many, is the latest incarnation of communicating with your market—or not, if they aren’t using it. One critical question is, to what degree are your customers using social media to learn about or deal with vendors like you? Before you say, “They aren’t using social media,” ask them. Or better yet, take a quick look and see for yourself. Are your customers on Linked-In? Do they have Facebook accounts? If you don’t know how to use these social media sites, you should learn.
 
Podcasting is another form of social media as well as blogging. (Did you know you can create a podcast and post it on iTunes for free downloading?) Many people are turning their websites into blogs to increase their search engine rankings. One of the changes that has occurred in search engine ranking is “freshness”—that is, newer content gets higher relevance by the search engines.
Recognize that social media is a tool in your marketing/sales arsenal. Like any tool, it will take skill and resources to deploy effectively. If your customers and prospective customers are not active on Twitter, then “tweeting” is probably a waste of your time at this point. However, a YouTube video showing your capabilities may be just the thing. One of my customers created a very effective video showing off some of their unique capabilities and put the link to it on their home page as well as in the signature line of all their emails. They get lots of views. How do they know? YouTube counts views for them.
 
How else can social media help you? It depends on what you are already doing. If you send out a newsletter, where does the content come from? If you start a blog, you can often repurpose the blog’s content for use in your newsletter. That way, people can follow you regularly, or just get the highlights in your newsletter. Your social media strategy must complement your other marketing/sales tactics. It should not be a stand-alone activity.
 
What about a Facebook fan page? It is easy to create one, and it can augment your website or blog. Should you? It depends on your market and how they use social media. It won’t hurt, but it will take some resources to get it done.
 
More and more web and social media access is happening via mobile devices: Smart phones, iPads, and so on. It is unlikely you need a conscious mobile strategy at this point in time, but at least be aware of the shift in usage that is occurring.
 
To get started with social media, get smarter about what it is. We have a free white paper you can download that will tell you more about the various aspects of social media and how to think about it. It’s available at short.productionmachining.com/socmed. If, after reading that paper, you think you should be doing more and you need help, you need to find someone to help you. Be careful of so-called “experts.” The entire field has not been around that long. Walk before you run. And remember, as I like to remind people, in 1849, they discovered gold in California. Very few miners made money, but lots of suppliers to the miners made a fortune. Be careful of the social media suppliers and their schemes. And feel free to email or call me with questions.