Who social media REALLY works for
Regular readers of this blog will realise that it isn’t easily swayed by what’s fashionable in the world of web marketing. This blog is about the impact of the online world on smaller businesses and many of the online rules that apply to large business are significantly different for smaller organisations due to their limited budgets, time, skills and resources.
This blog has viewed much of the hype surrounding the web with more than a degree of suspicion – much to the chagrin of those with a vested interest in spinning much of the online hype.
Social networking’s slanted playing field
Take social networking for example. There’s little doubt that the phenomenon is a genuine communications revolution. In less than a decade it has taken the world by storm as billions of people stake their claim to their own little parcel of cyber real estate. But how small business can harness the wave of digital data to provide profitable benefits has not been clarified.
Because, as has been pointed out here before, social networking is predominantly about people, not organisations.
That’s not to say organisations can’t play a role in this fascinating new game, it’s just that the rules of engagement are still tenuous to say the least.
Horses for SN courses
What is becoming clear is that the promise of social networking is not only dependent on your size, but also on the category of business you occupy.
What’s emerged over time is that social networking suits some industries a lot more than others. The notable exception is professionals’ network LinkedIn, which by its nature thrives on information pertaining to all kinds of business.
Given that we are now starting to see real results from social networking we can identify attributes of businesses which are likely to gain a tangible benefit from engaging in it – regardless of their size.
1 – ‘Passion’ products and services
There has always been a correlation between passion and online marketing benefits. For example, people are much more likely to sign up to the eNewsletter of a fashion retailer or garden supplier than (with all due respect) the manufacturer of paper fasteners.
The simple reason is that the greater the passion in a given interest (like fashion or gardening) the more likely the consumer is to seek a relationship with the provider.
The same goes for social networking. Consumers are far more likely to be interested in news and offers from a fashion or gardening page than from a maker of paper fasteners. Which means if your business is involved in a subject that people are passionate about you are likely to succeed at social networking.
2 – The information rich
The next type of business likely to succeed with a social networking presence is one with constant development and/or high levels of expertise. Because many of those developments impact on consumers and business operators access to industry news and information is valuable to them. The result is that they will be more likely to “like” or befriend organisations whose information is reputed to be reliable and trustworthy.
If your industry is static in terms of change and development (again paperclips provide a great example), there probably isn’t a great deal to engage with your customers and prospects about.
3 – Classified goods and services
Many businesses operate in an environment of high turnover and short availability of products and services -- real estate agents, car dealers, antique dealers, etc. In the past those businesses were well served by classified advertising.
Due to their “newsy” nature products and services sold that way lend themselves very well to social networking because they can quickly and cheaply be communicated and “viraled” to thousands of qualified prospects.
4 – Regular discounters
As the new billionaires of deal engines like Groupon, Spreets, etc will attest, consumers love to get wind of a discount and to tell their friends about it.
You don’t need to join a deal engine to spread word about your short term deal. If your offers are worthwhile and regularly available people will be motivated to befriend your social networking page so they can be among the first to hear about offers and take advantage of them.
5 – Event providers
Those businesses organising and offering events – sport, entertainment, education and exhibitions – stand to gain from a strong social networking presence because potential attendees have a vested interest in receiving information about the events, particularly if there are early bird or other offers associated with them.
There are plenty of examples of businesses fitting into one or more of those categories which have enjoyed social networking success.
Social networking is about engagement with people and if by its nature your product/service is not “engagement-friendly” you will be throwing good money after bad in a vain attempt to make it work.
If your business fits into one or more of those categories you should make haste to adopt and embrace social networking as part of your marketing plans and strategies, thereby taking advantage of a ready and willing “friend” base.
Care to offer a different opinion? Tell us about it by posting a comment below.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.