by Christian Gruita, Owner, pixelmetaphors.com
The Coming of Age of Social Media
We live through times of unprecedented opportunity, opportunity that our parents or grandparents didn’t even dream about. Internet makes it easy for anyone to learn new things, start a new business, promote an event.
20 years ago, we were very excited about email. We read every email, every word of it. It was a new thing, we even made a movie about it (“You’ve got mail”). It’s not the same today. We probably delete many of the emails we get, some without even opening them.
Where is the excitement today? Sure, social media. It has our attention. We’re not excited about direct mail (it probably has the same fate as spam, it lands in the trash), TV ads (most people I know either record the shows or simply grab their phone during a commercial), banner ads, video pre-rolls and the list goes on.
Some are still ignoring social media, just as many people thought Internet was a fad (“It’s only for academic purposes”), the mobile phone (“why would I need it? I don’t want people to reach me all the time”) or Facebook (“I’ll never get a Facebook account, that’s for 20 year olds”).
Is Your Business Invisible?
A sure way of being “invisible” in today’s world is to ignore social media. Whoever doesn’t use it misses out on a tremendous opportunity. We can reach a massive audience for a tiny fraction of a TV ad cost.
When talking to small business owners, some don’t see the need for social media. “The main vehicle for us has been word of mouth”, they say. While it’s true, nothing beats an enthusiastic recommendation from a friend, times are changing. Today, for many business, even word of mouth is not enough anymore.
Those businesses using social media will simply get further, will have a much greater impact. Even if they’re still relying on word of mouth.
Content is King
Being engaged with the audience through social media is hard. Putting out content on a regular basis and answering questions on the platforms we’re using is not easy. It takes a lot of effort. After all, we’re running a business, and all this takes up a lot of our time. Also, there’s not an immediate gain in it. This is playing for the long run.
Now, assuming we believe in putting out content on social media, how do we do that? What do we write, or what do we post?
I’m a big believer in providing a service for the community. While I’m seeing a lot of posts promoting the services of the business (which provides value for the business owner) I think there’s more need for providing value to the community by offering free advice, educating the customers, answering the questions they might have. If all we’re seeing coming from a business is content promoting their business, we’re gonna shut them off. But if I, as a customer, see that a business is taking the time to educate me, to provide value to me, I’ll be more willing to “see what else they have”.
The Good and the Bad of Different Content Types
There are several ways to put out our story: text (blogging, or text content), images, sound or podcasts and video. Which one should we use? It depends on our strengths (what we enjoy doing and what we’re good at) and the nature of our business.
Video – I think video makes sense for a lot of businesses and it’s also the most powerful. It’s somehow funny, a lot of people think they need fancy equipment to record video (which they don’t, the cell phone is good enough, there are even movies and documentaries being recorded using the cell phone). When it comes to Facebook, they promote video ads more than anything else. That’s why Youtube is so successful, because video is so powerful. Vlogging is also so popular today.
Images – Imagery is powerful, too. Some say infographics are dead. If they are, my question is this: would someone rather read 4 pages of text (which we were willing to read 20 years ago) or look at an infographic, which explains everything in a second? We live in a world that has a very short attention span. Unless we caught the attention of the audience right away, we lost it. They’re gonna move on to something else. Sure, there have been enough mediocre or overly self-promoting infographics out there, but the statistics show we still like a well-made, aesthetically pleasing and useful infographic, as they grow traffic.
Podcast – Podcast is a good way to get the word out. Another example of a way to reach a massive audience for a small cost. Who would have thought it possible before we got podcasting? The only way back then was radio. Meaning, it was up to radio producers to promote one or not (I’m not trying to shed a bad light on them, I’m just saying we don’t depend on them to get sound content out anymore). Also, it’s many commuters’ way of making the most out of the time while stuck in traffic. Especially in a city like Atlanta. We’re in control of what we listen to, as opposed to listening to random radio shows or news radio. Plus, we can expand out skills. On a side note, for commuting, I think public transportation is better than podcasts, as then (while sitting on the bus or in the subway) one can do a lot more than listening to a podcast.
Ride The Wave
The businesses that are not using social media are, for all intents and purposes, invisible. There have been skeptics from day one, some even mocking one medium or another. I know I have been influenced by that, listening to influencers making statements like “this Twitter thing is out…who in the world would ever care what someone is thinking at a certain moment!?”, or “who in his right mind would give out his credit card data and make payments online!?” (here, granted, there is a lot of cybercrime, and growing every day, but the online payment industry is doing very well), or, similar to that, Facebook, about which many people still believe it’s only about sharing pictures of kids when in fact it’s a money-making machine and a very disruptive marketing tool.
One thing I learned in stock trading is to ride the trend. When there’s a trend up, you buy, when the trend is down, you sell. You can’t fight the trend. Right now, the trend is social media. If we’re not using it optimally, someone else is. And that someone could very likely be your competitor.