Should I Be Using Social Media For My Business?

At Solidus, we get this question all the time from customers and potential customers. The answer: If you’re in business, YES! I have heard the sentiment a number of times from our customers: “I don’t feel like telling people where I am all the time or what I had for breakfast.” While some people use social media to broadcast the mundane details of their lives, for businesses, social media is a platform for providing information about your business and industry, starting conversations, and listening to customers and potential customers.

Why Should I Be Using Social Marketing?
Because that’s where people are spending their time. Recent research suggests that “nearly half of Americans use social media.” According to a new survey from Arbitron and Edison Research, 8% of teens and 77% of people from 18 to 24 have profile pages; 65% of people from 25 to 34 and 51% of those 35 to 44 also have profile pages. Also, 30% of Americans who have a profile on at least one social networking site visit them “several times a day,” which is a significant increase from 18% a year ago. There are currently around 400 million users on Facebook – if it were a country, it would be larger than the United States.

Of course people are using these sites for pleasure and to connect with friends, but they are also following brands and looking for information for purchasing decisions. The “2010 Social Media Report” released by ForeSee Results reports that 69% of online shoppers regularly use social networking sites to interact with their favorite brands. Approximately 56% of respondents reported using Facebook to interact with brands.

We hear a lot of “the type of customers I am looking for are not on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.” I don’t think that this is necessarily true, since the fastest growing users of social media sites are over the age of 45. Also, even if your target customers (in terms of age and demographics) aren’t currently part of the social networking craze, they will be – and, probably sooner than you think. “Over half of all consumers say that they have already purchased something – or switched to another brand or retailer – because of a recommendation they got through a social media site,” according to Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Marketing.

I Have Doubts about Using Social Networking for My Business
A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, “Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media,” as indicated by the name, looks at the pros and cons of entrepreneurs who have engaged social media for their businesses.

A survey released in January by the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business and Network Solutions LLC, reports that last year, social marketing adoption by businesses with fewer than 100 employees doubled to 24% from 12%. The WSJ also article cites stats about entrepreneurs who say they have lost money on their social marketing efforts. I can’t believe that this true, and the article does give details regarding how they are losing money. I would argue that the organizations that are being cited here did not plan effectively or have people who don’t know what they are doing running their social media efforts.

The article tells the story of a woman who purchased a $1,900 folding kayak after she saw a Tweet on Twitter. Of course this type of result is not typical in that the value of using such sites for business marketing is usually more of a long-term relationship-building activity than a direct sales channel.