I gave a presentation to a community leadership class last week and realized that (despite my arrogant assumption to the contrary) not all businesses and organizations are yet sold on the value of using social media. Whether it’s fear of the lack of control, tight resources or not believing they have the skills navigate Web 2.0, some businesses hesitate to take this step into what appears The Great Unknown.
Preparing for that presentation (as well as a rush job for class when a guest speaker had to cancel for a death in her family), I assembled 5 top advantages businesses and organizations can gain from social media presence. Turns out the reasons spell out the word MEDIA — pure happenstance, as I’m not nearly clever enough to create such a thing.
Multimedia storytelling: It’s so much easier to show with visuals than words, whether with video (the richest form of online content) or photos/slideshows. For example, would you rather read about our college having more than 100 student organizations or see a user-contributed Flickr slideshow with students in action? The bonus is you can embed slideshows on your own pages or share via social media.
Engagement: Your customers or clients, students or alumni are key to, and part of the narrative of, any business or organization. Interacting with them via Facebook or Twitter helps solidify their connections with you, and may help you better solve their problems. If a potential client posts on three Facebook pages looking for more info, and yours is the only one that responds, how much of a better chance do you have of earning their business? Or if you aren’t on Facebook, that discussion can’t even take place.
Direct communication: How traditional PR pushes out a story: We write a news release. We send it to editors who may throw it in the trash, put it into some kind of story purgatory or chop down to two sentences and make it a brief. Even if you get a good story, then consumers have to actually pick up a paper that day, turn to the page where it is and find time to read it. With social media, you bypass gatekeepers and uncertainty to get directly to your stakeholders. Also worth noting that our official Facebook page has decidedly more fans than our hometown daily newspaper has circulation.
Immediacy: Getting the word out, and placed in the media, can be a laborious process … albeit one that’s still worth doing. But if you create a Facebook event and invite all your fans to it, it’s immediate (and engaging and direct, as noted above). Or if something changes at the last minute, you can let attendees (or maybes) know immediately. There are other countless reasons businesses may want to get some kind of important message out instantly, and social media is delivers quickly.
Authenticity: Our businesses, our brands are not about buildings or sales figures. They’re about people. Authenticity — being who you are, telling the truth and embodying your values — is required for social media but also provides opportunities. Why not allow users to see behind the scenes at your operation in some way? Why not invite your most loyal customers to tell their stories? Why not make everyone feel like they are a genuine and important part of your story?
I’m not saying social media doesn’t come with perils, but then anything worth doing — just opening a business in the first place — comes with some type of risk. And I’m not saying delving into social media should completely replace existing marketing efforts, although they can greatly enrich, extend and complement existing marketing. Social media is more of an investment of time than of money, but it’s an investment that can reap great dividends.