Before we look at the how you can be ready for the “Are you ready” part of this article, let’s look at the idea that 2012 is the Year of Social Business. You can only understand the “why and how” of wanting and being ready to be a social business when you understand why it is the year. Only then can you develop your relevant-to-your-prospects approach to making your business social.
The reason why 2012 is the Year of Social Business is because just about everyone is saying it is. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy so to speak. At the moment I am writing this article a Google search for “2012 Year of Social Business” will return 2.55 billion results. That’s not a trend; it’s a landslide. Here are the four overwhelming reasons why it is the year:
1) Facebook and Google (Google+) are making noise about 2012 the Year of Social Business, though maybe not in so many words or using that exact phrase. All the other social sites are following along in their own ways.
2) Tons of those in the press – from print to broadcast to everything info on the Internet – are pushing for 2012 to be the Year of Social Business.
3) So called social media gurus/writers/bloggers on the Inernet and those many titles of social media services selling agents and agencies are all pushing the “Year of Social Business” idea to increase their followings and sign up businesses for their social media services.
4) Almost all of us not in one of the above categories of Year-of-Social-Business-Proclamiers buy into to the idea, even those planning to do nothing about it.
Are You Ready for It and Should You Even Care?
Should you care that 2012 is the Year of Social Business? Maybe so, and maybe not. It is very simplistic to say, but the three primary reasons a company should be on social media platforms is to generate and nurture prospects, and to facilitate customer service, and to build online community. To see a business type that doesn’t need to care about social, let’s look at one industry from this perspective – large passenger airplane manufacturers.
If Boeing and Airbus care that 2012 is the Year of Social Business, it has nothing to do with selling or servicing jetliners. Just imagine the following scenarios:
“I didn’t even know that Filbert Airlines existed, or that they had the $60 Million dollars to buy a new 737-600. Thanks Facebook.” Signed a Boeing jetliner sales rep.
“I buy aircraft for Filbert Airlines and we need a new jetliner. I didn’t know any reputable aircraft manufacturers to buy one from, but a buddy of mine on LinkedIn told me about Airbus, a company I’d never heard of.”
“We kept having landing gears fall off of our jetliners, and Boeing wasn’t returning our calls. I tweeted this to my friends with the hashtag #Boeing and their service techs tweeted me back in less than 2 hours.”
“After a long day of managing my fleet of 207 jetliners, I’m just looking for other fleet managers to pal around with online. That’s why I joined a Google+ Hangout with my peers.”
If you think any of those scenarios happen I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. There isn’t a single possible candidate to buy a jetliner that Boeing and Airbus doesn’t know about and have on speed dial. And they may not know which celebrities think like John Travolta – that a 737 is the only way to go because a Gulfstream is just too confining – but trust me, that celebrity knows who Boeing is.
The only reason why Boeing and Airbus each have a social presence is for stockholder relations. Heck, that’s the only reason why they advertise.
The Rest of Us
However, if you don’t make jetliners or build airports or sell battleships, you pretty much need to make your business as social as possible.
Just realize, making your business social is not the cure-all for all your problems and not the panacea for what ails your poor sales or weak service.
Of course a significant number of you won’t do anything social this year, and if you otherwise sell and market wisely, you can probably get away with it.
In spite of all the hoopla out there saying traditional sales and marketing is dead, particularly cold calling, there are plenty of prospects who will respond favorably to a well developed phone call crafted so the recipients realize the caller has a relevant message that will really help them achieve their goals and objectives, and/or solve their problems. Prospects will read a brilliantly created mailer that captures their imagination, starting with the envelope and delivering a story of success where the reader is currently frustrated. A well-written radio ad can cause a potential client to pull their car over to call you or go to your website.
And there is still a huge opportunity for your website to pull in prospects and serve existing clients, but before you spent a cent on SEO be sure you have a website message that is worth the effort – that is, a message that causes prospects to say, “Wow! This website is all about me!”
Remember, Social Media is one of many marketing/selling media. Most of them are usable for most businesses, but there are so many factors relating to which one(s) you should use for your business.
Factors for Your “Social Business”
Are you B2B or B2C? – Yes, everyone can easily have a Facebook Fan Page, but if you are B2B put the minimum into it unless you have a huge marketing budget. If you are B2C you really need to consider social media more seriously.
Prospect Age Demographics – If your typical prospect is mid-20s or younger, forget everything and live in Facebook. If you only sell to Baby Boomers, you need social and a website, because they may find you on Facebook while playing Farmville, but they will want to go to your website to seriously research your company/products/services.
Marketing Budget – The bigger your company the more you can do. Most who read this blog are smaller businesses with numerous restrictions on what they can spend. The previous factors seriously impact how you should go forward but assuming your typical customer isn’t 17, less money means less to spent on social. No budget for Facebook? Get the owner’s college-aged son to put one together but you write the copy. Make yourself figure out LinkedIn and build your company’s presence there on the weekends.
Price of Your Product – The more expensive what you sell the longer the deliberation time before the purchase. Social can make for an effective nurturing process, but then so can email marketing with good SEO/SEM and relevant content on your website. And believe it or not a good professional sales rep, without a sales manager breathing down his neck to sell, sell, SELL, will also be able to nurture prospects over the long-term.
Number of Potential Prospects – Everyone is a candidate for insurance products, but how many companies buy nuclear reactors? The larger the number of “suspects” and the less readily accessible the indicators of who is considering a purchase soon, the more a social media and web-based approach makes sense to seriously invest in to uncover and nurture prospects.
Not Mind Over Matter But Minding What Matters
There is a lot written about mindset and creating an attitude or the mental game of social business. There is talk about social media being the responsibility of everyone in the business. All that is true, but there needs to be a pre-decided effort and plan.
You need an overall marketing and sales plan. And it is not just the responsibility of the chief marketer or the sales manager or even the owner. All three have responsibility to lead the effort, but all sales staff, marketing, and customer support should have a part in the planning.
Most employees in most businesses are active in some way in social media, and the number and activities are skyrocketing daily. That fact is not a disaster waiting to happen so much as an amazing opportunity to galvanize your employees to help you. You may find the perfect person to manage your Facebook Fan Page is already doing a spectacular job of managing one for her local bowling league – believe it or not.
I know of a sales guy who is totally frustrated with his company’s website. No one will listen to him and he is afraid to tell them that he knows what he is talking about because he is making almost $7,000.00 a month managing the SEO of his 35+ niche affiliate websites. He doesn’t do online affiliate marketing to quit the job he loves; he just needs more money for his large family with several kids already in college. That employee is not a problem to be feared but an asset to benevolently exploit.
Social Business is on the rise – 2012 is the year. But then again 2011 was a big year for it and 2013 will be even bigger.
Do social media for your business; do as much as you can. But do it intentionally and with a plan, don’t do it just because everyone else is.
Also, don’t call a social media expert until you decide what your overall marketing/sales plan is. Then make the expert prove he/she understands what your plan hopes to accomplish before you listen to his/her strategies and tactics – which you will pay for.
If you don’t know what you want to do overall or why, well, that’s why I am here.