I went fishing with my son a few weeks ago after we got a hot tip from a mate about a great little spot. We caught loads of fish. I reeled in 11 salmon in under one hour and my son filled his bucket.
We were over the moon as we walked back to our Jeep and I said to my son that I didn’t think I had ever caught so many fish in such a short time. “It’s a lot of fun when there are fish in the water,” he replied.
It was a simple comment but so profound; you need to fish where the fish are. And for Australian businesses, the fish – which in this case are your customers – are swimming in the social media waters.
As a society, the time we spend on social media sites has grown phenomenally and continues to increase. It is no longer a niche product. It’s now a media forum comparable to television, press and radio. And businesses can no longer afford to ignore it.
People join groups, communities or simple conversations that are organised around attributes such as products, institutions, lifestyle choices, locations and even politics. They are interacting with one another quickly and effectively and sharing their opinions.
Consequently, social media should matter to your business. It should be your primary vehicle to communicate with customers and employees for the foreseeable future.
Start the conversation
If you don’t have a social media plan, you really need to start putting something together or at least start the conversation. How many of your employees already use social media? At a guess, I would say almost all of them. Now ask the same question of your customers.
Engagement is the key. Building your social space is similar to building your business space – it requires effort and planning. What you need to realise is that information – positive and negative – can spread uncontrollably, geometrically and seemingly without cost through a so called “friend of a friend” network – something akin to ‘word of mouth on steroids.’
To preserve and build on customer and employee trust in this forum, your company needs to be a part of the social media sphere.
Smart phones and mobile devices are also completely and unashamedly geared towards social media platforms.
Apple favours Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, Google has its own smart phone and platform but supports all, while Samsung seems to dabble between all forms of social interaction.
The fact is that people are more readily buying smart devices to get information and have a mobile social experience as opposed to buying PCs. If your business wants to communicate with these people, if your website is geared towards PC and not mobile, it is already redundant based on these facts.
Don’t believe me? Search Google for the latest Smartphone versus PC sales statistics. You will see smart phones have already outsold PCs some years ago. Tablets may well be the death of them. Nevertheless, PC sales are dropping by double digits every year.
It’s about you too
This is not just a marketing issue, it needs IT involvement. There are so many benefits here for a switched on IT department that’s willing to mobilise and simplify tools and information. The learning curve for the workforce is largely removed because they are already using similar platforms.
Social media requires constant attention and refocus. Many businesses are still trying to cope with this side of the cause and affect associated with being in this arena. There are plenty of apps and vendors around that can help with social media management platforms.
Plan information for your audience
One thing to watch out for is what I call “social momentum syndrome” or SMS. This is where an organisation feels that putting up any information is good enough for the sake of momentum. Guess what? It’s not. Useless information for the sake of engagement on Twitter is still useless information.
Some companies – and people for that matter – have a really bad case of SMS. They’re not worth following.
So why include social media as a business strategy? It’s hard to quantify the exact return but with social media you can reach large audiences at a very low cost as often as you like. This will give your organisation another medium to promote and target information to your staff and customers.
I understand there could be a risk that the effort invested in monitoring and responding to social sentiment may outweigh the immediate benefits.
However, I have no doubt that the future of many businesses could be determined before they realise they have an issue with social media.
Largely at this stage, it’s about changing or modifying social sentiment. Get used to it – your customers expect it. It’s time to go fishing.
Rodney Byfield is the CIO at Metro Tasmania, a large passenger transport organisation in Tasmania. His blog, “Singular CIO”, is at www.aussieicon.com.