When Social Media isn’t the Answer

“We need to be on Facebook,” they tell me. “Everyone’s on Facebook.”

“Yes,” I say, “but you’re a B2B company. When people are on Facebook they want to hang out with friends and family — they’re there to avoid their job, not do more of it.”

“Yes,” they say, “but our chief competitor is on Facebook.”

“Yes,” I say, “but they have 12 Likes. Nine of them are staff, and the other three are teenagers.”

“OK,” they say, “then what about Twitter?”

“Well,” I say, “you have a very specific target market. Twitter is more of a shotgun medium.”

“Yes,” they say, “but our chief competitor is on Twitter.”

“That’s true,” I say, “but they are following two people, they have no followers, and they’ve tweeted twice in the six months since the account’s been active.”

“So how can we tell everyone how great our product is on social media?”

“I think we need to rephrase the question,” I reply. “It’s called social media. It’s not called product media. It’s a place to build relationships and connect with people. It’s not a place where you can just barge in and push your stuff on people.”

“But if we don’t use social media,” they say, “How are we going to get the word out about our product?”

“For your product you don’t need social media,” I offer. “You have a relatively small group of potential customers. They are easily identifiable and easily contactable. Your offering solves a major and pressing problem for them. They gather regularly in a forum where you can join them and where it’s appropriate to discuss your businesses. They offer speaking opportunities at these gatherings, and invite potential vendors to share new products. Or perhaps you’re a wholesale distributor for a product that’s purchased almost entirely at tradeshows. Or you have a local Thai takeout and nobody on staff who understands social media or thinks it’s fun. Or your product is one that people primarily use Google to find.”

“But you’re the social media person,” they protest. “How come you’re telling us not to use social media?”

“Because social media is not always the answer,” I respond. “There are a million and one situations in which it makes more sense to spend your limited time and energy elsewhere. Social media takes effort. It takes persistence and sustained investment in relationships that may or may not produce sales.”

“So what should we do instead?” they ask.

“Imagine for a moment that you’re your customer,” I say. “But not your existing customer. Imagine you’re your customers just at the moment they realize they need your product. Where are they? Are they at their computer? Are they watching television? Are they in the car? When they realize they need your product, what do they do? Do they call a friend? A colleague? Search Google? Issue an RFP? You ask yourself all these questions. You find exactly the path that your customer travels to arrive at the solution you offer, and then you place yourself exactly in that path. If they’re searching Google, you run Adwords. If they’re in the car, you try radio. You anticipate the when and the where of the question, and you endeavor to be at the ready with the answer.”

“Hunh,” they say. “It sounds so simple.”

“Yep,” I say. “It is.”

By Kaila Colbin
Kaila Colbin is a serial entrepreneur who is fascinated by all things Web and human.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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