How many articles, posts and tweets do you read about how to grow your business with social media?
Why do we as entrepreneurs and professionals apart of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) think it's that easy to grow? Who decided that social media was a good lead/revenue generator?
Social media shouldn't be used to grow revenue, but this is exactly why so many get into social media - to grow revenue and increase leads.
Getting into social media to increase leads and revenue is the equivalent of trying to put a screw through a 2x4 with a butter knife.
Why would you use a butter knife when you could use a screwdriver or a drill?
There is a serious delusion running rampant in the world of marketing that social media can increase your revenue and it needs to be cleared up.
Did I put my foot in my mouth?
Fifteen years ago the predominant thought was that you needed to have a website. This is still the case, but the reasons are very different.
I recall hearing that a website was like a virtual salesperson who could sell around the globe every day at any hour. We needed a website because it would help our company grow while we slept. And what happened? Some grew with their website but the vast majority of people and organizations did not grow with their website. It's just one tool used to communicate to the marketplace that we need to have.
And now we have social media.
While it is possible to grow using social media, this applies to a select few businesses.
I know several bars, golf courses and restaurants that are experiencing revenue growth as a result of social media. These companies usually promote their special of the day or a specific promotion tied into a referral system that spreads among the social media universe. This works because it does not take a great deal of investment or decision on the part of the customer to buy into what the company is selling.
If the customer is hungry and the special sounds good to them, they'll check it out. If a golf course offers a promotion on 18 holes for the weekend, why not get out with some friends and take advantage of it? If a bar offers a free $10 coupon, you'll spread the value to your friends and family. These companies grow with social media.
They grow because buying into what they are promoting is easy. But when it comes to professional service firms or organizations selling products that might be a little more expensive, it's not as easy to grow using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
What really happens?
What happens when the struggling entrepreneur who put everything they had in their business is told by the world they can grow with social media?
What happens when a sales professional trying to make a commission to feed their family and keep their house is told they can grow using social media?
What happens when a marketing professional within an SMB is trying to keep their job by generating leads using social media?
They find out very quickly that social media is not a tool they should be using to increase leads and revenue. These are people with real problems who need options to build leads that convert into revenue. To think social media will be the savior to drive growth is unrealistic.
Sell to me through social media and you lose me
I used to follow some professionals who tried to grow using Twitter. They would pose questions to me and ask to move the conversation to email. Thinking this would make more sense, I agree. Once we get into email they went from having a conversation to educating me on their services/products and they tried to sell me on it.
Not only is this annoying but it destroys all credibility, trust and confidence they may have had prior to this experience.
This is not the approach to take when using social media. I didn't trust them, I had no confidence in what they were saying and they had absolutely no credibility with me. There was no way they were going to be successful selling to me.
These people need to change their approach to social media from "grow using social media" to "building credibility, trust and confidence using social media."
To do this they need to focus efforts on providing guidance, sharing insights, getting involved in discussion and most importantly learning and listening to the people in the marketplace.
This is how the vast majority of us need to be using social media.
Credibility, Trust and Confidence
Entrepreneurs and SMBs need to approach social media with the overarching strategy of building those three important elements of credibility, trust and confidence.
This takes time and a concerted effort, just like anything in business. But this is a relationship building tool for most entrepreneurs and SMBs, not a revenue generating tool.
Use social media to get to know your marketplace, to converse with them, to develop stronger relationships; it can even be used as your frontline customer service tool. But don't expect a great deal of revenue growth from using social media. If you want revenue growth, it would be best to choose another tool from your tactical tool belt.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who believes many organizations are wasting their money on ineffective marketing tactics, many professionals and students feel lost because their actions don't translate into positive results, and all three groups are too comfortable blending in and following the status quo. He is driven by the desire to refocus their efforts on what needs to be done to resurrect the impact of marketing.