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Grant Criddle
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Regina, Saskatchewan Canada
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FOOLS JUMP IN (or do fools wait?)

Should I or shouldn't I? Companies and entrepreneurs are slowly but surely adding social media to their marketing mix. Have you jumped in or are you waiting "to be sure about it" before committing?
Written Aug 04, 2009, read 898 times since then.
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I'm sure that you've heard the phrase "fools jump in." I'm not even sure from where that time honored saying originates, but it sounds like something my Dad probably said to me at some point. I suppose it's reasonable advice, but on the other hand, history is littered with individuals and companies who waited and waited...and waited, before adopting something new and/or different. Often, waiting or not "jumping in" produced quite unfortunate consequences. There are many examples of that, but here's a famous one:

Remember the telegraph? Not likely of course, so let's go back in time to 1876 for just a moment. At that particular time, Western Union had a complete monopoly on the telegraph, which was then the world’s most advanced communications technology. The company was rich and powerful and really had no competition, so when the president William Orton was offered the opportunity to buy the patent for a new communications invention, he treated it as a joke. They were asking for $100,000! Orton wrote directly to the inventor. "Mr. Bell, after careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities… What use could this company make of an electrical toy?"

You know how this story turns out don't you? The young inventor was Alexander Graham Bell and having had his proposal not only rejected by William Orton, but ridiculed as well, he instead kept the patent. Before long, his American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) had become the largest corporation in the USA. The Bell patent that was offered to Orton for a measly $100,000 became the single most valuable patent in history. Orton realized his mistake almost immediately and attempted to block Bell's patent and play catch up, but the game was already lost. He'd simply missed the opportunity.

Sometimes, people simply miss the clues that signal a coming change. More often however, even if something seems beneficial or is clearly something that improves on outdated methods or products, there are always those who simply will not jump in! Fear of change, uncomfortablity with a new process, etc, gets that old advice kicking in. "Lets just wait and see how this pans out before doing anything hasty."   

Companies and organizations are slowly but surely integrating social media into their marketing mix. With this general growth comes a certain amount of curiosity about what types of companies are adopting social media strategies, what platforms they're using, and how how they use it to help their business. Who adopts these new tools and methods and who doesn't? Whats' working best?

Many surveys and polls dealing with these questions have been published over the past while, and some interesting trends seem to emerge. One is that it is enterprise scale companies and big brands such as Starbucks, General Mills, Ford, Wal Mart and others like them that appear to be among the earliest adopters of social media platforms and tools. On the other hand, small businesses as a group don't seem to have yet jumped in with both feet just yet. This according to a survey I recently ran across.

Discover Financial Services publishes a monthly report called Small Business Watch, and a recent “Poll of the Month” focused on social media. Some interesting responses by the small businesses polled:

  • 38% are members of online social networking communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or My Space
  • 45% of those who belong to an online social network actively use it to promote their businesses
  • 62% percent of small business owners still do not have Web sites for their businesses


That last 62% stat kind of blew my mind at first, but then I thought about it. I primarily deal with small businesses, and I've definitely found that a good many either do not have a business website, or they have one that does not help their business in the least. Because I believe strongly that one of the key goals of a social media marketing strategy is to encourage people to visit your website, it's a significant finding from my perspective.

More significant than that however, is that when small businesses do go ahead with some social media marketing activity, a large percentage of them will report positive results that often include increased generation of qualified leads, more exposure of their business or their brand, and increased traffic to their website.

It bears keeping in mind that it takes time to develop relationships that lead to actual business, whether online or offline. The best results are always reported by those who spend time and effort with their social media marketing efforts, as well as some fine tuning as they go. Companies and/or entrepreneurs who spend a minimum of 6+ hours per week on their social media marketing report the best business results.

So what social media tools or platforms should a small business start with? The available data, information and research is fairly consistent. According to just about every poll and survey I've seen, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook are clearly the top four social media tools used by marketers, with Twitter now leading the pack. Other social media tools such as bookmarking are definitely useful and have their place, but they pale in comparison to the "big four" I've mentioned.

If you have not yest started incorporating any social media tools into your business marketing, I recommend starting with one of those four, one that you can commit some time and effort to. For instance, get a Twitter account and start tweeting. But don't do it blindly without purpose. Figure out what value you can offer to your "followers" and implement a strategy. Will you update followers? Provide special reports? Sale notices?

As you get comfortable with one, add another...then another, until you have presence in all - a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook Business Page, a Twitter account and a blog. Link them together and wrap them around your website (along with any offline marketing you do), and voila! You have an integrated social media marketing strategy. Wasn't that easy?

As I mentioned earlier (and in past articles and blog posts), social media marketing is not about instant gratification. It is a process that must be patiently cultivated in order to reap benefits. That's not to say that you cannot measure results. It is to say that the results you are measuring will often be in terms of relational metrics such as followers/fans, blog comments, site traffic, etc.

You've probably guessed by now what my underlying theme for this post is right? DON'T WAIT - JUMP IN! At least get started :) The impact of social media will only grow and its importance to business is here to stay in one form or another. That's because it is based upon something that's as old as the hills...reputation and word of mouth marketing. With online tools, it's just a lot faster now.

Learn more about the author, Grant Criddle.

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