To tweet or not to tweet? That seems to be the question facing countless businesses today, and it’s a question that is becoming a dilemma for many executives. They’re faced with a tough decision: is it better to suffer the “slings and arrows” of the social space, in spite of the risks? Or are their stakeholders better served if they “take up arms against a sea” of talking heads and social media gurus who insist that they must join the conversation or die?
Here are seven reasons many brands are choosing to take their chances and pursue a social business model.
1. It’s where the people are.
Facebook has 700 million active users. Twitter has 175 million, LinkedIn 100 million and the new kid on the block, Google+, topped 20 million account registrations in less than 20 days since its July 6th launch. And it’s not just kids: Facebook’s second largest user demographic are females aged 35-54.
The numbers are clear: more and more people (i.e. consumers) are turning to social networks for entertainment, education, and interaction. Many are even using social platforms to request assistance with customer service issues, and forward-thinking businesses are there to answer their calls for help.
2. Your customers want to talk to you.
Social business goes well beyond using social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to broadcast marketing messages. A recent Gartner study concluded that, by 2016, 15% of all businesses will have deployed a “social layer”, a place where deeper, more meaningful conversations with customers can take place than in the rapid-fire, short-form interactions of the social platforms.
With the right listening tools in place, businesses can tune in to what’s being said about and to them. Paying attention to those signals can rapidly turn potentially volatile customer service issues into PR victories; neglecting them can lead to seriously bad press.
3. Like it or not, you’re already there.
If you think that you’re going to avoid the risk of bad PR in the social space by simply refusing to participate, think again. Your customers, whether fans or detractors, are already talking about you online. While you can’t control the conversation, doesn’t it at least make sense to chime in and influence it?
4. Everything can be measured.
Hands down, one of the most appealing things about the Internet, especially to marketing folks, is the fact that everything can be measured. And while marketing departments around the world are using these metrics to calculate ROI on their campaigns, other departments can take advantage of this ability to measure, as well.
For example, those responsible for risk management in an organization can use social listening tools to monitor the conversations that employees have online (like they do with email now) to make sure that everyone is following the rules. With the right tools in place, this process can be almost entirely automated, giving risk managers a much needed sigh of relief.
5. You can keep potential customers engaged, even over a long sales cycle.
For businesses with sales cycles that are measured in multiple years, the only choice until now has been to “check-in” with customers periodically to keep them engaged. The social Internet, though, has created an entirely new method for keeping in touch and engaged.
When you can connect with prospective clients in the social space, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level; that kind of relationship can make the difference between getting the deal at the end of the cycle or watching it go to a competitor who played a better game.
6. Community is more that just a buzzword; it’s the future of business.
Communities have always popped up around products and brands, from the car enthusiast clubs of the early 20th century to the bulletin boards and newsgroups of the early days of the Internet. As the world becomes more and more connected, businesses need to be able to identify where those online communities are and what they’re talking about. They also need to engage the leaders of those communities, making them an integral piece of their effort to stay connected with their customers.
As brand and product communities become more and more prevalent, the companies who create a space for those communities to thrive will be the winners in their industries.
7. It’s not a fad.
Make no mistake: the world is becoming more social, not less. When someone tells you that social business is just the latest fad to overtake the business community, remind yourself that radio, TV, the cell phone and email all had their detractors, too. As companies like Facebook and Twitter have demonstrated, people want to be heard; that includes your customers. Ignore them at your peril. Chances are pretty good that your competition won’t.