Ever since they gained traction a few years back, this blog has been very bullish about one of the great features of social networking, special interest Groups, even going so far as to go with the headline: There is gold in social networking Groups.
And as reported here a few weeks back, my own business finally earned some new business out of a small business Group after finding that we were exploring in the wrong mine all along. In this case it was Facebook that yielded the win instead of the LinkedIn Groups we had invested so much time in.
The richest vein of gold continues to lie not in the number of connections you get, the raising of your profile via intelligent post responses or even the search engine traction a good Group discussion can provide, but the amount of callouts for recommendations for the provision of … well, pretty much everything.
Free and constant business leads
Because, as you read this, a prospective customer in a Group of people that make up your core market will be posting a callout for recommendations of the very product or service you provide.
It might be in a Facebook Group, a LinkedIn Group or one of the niche ‘sNetworks’ like Pinterest or Savvy SME.
Or it may not be in a Group at all, but in the ordinary feeds of your customers.
Take the one that appeared in one of my favourites (and thus far most effective) ‘I am a business owner in Victoria, Australia’ (Facebook) at the weekend. In fact, it was 10.30 on Sunday night (recording these kinds of details is another little advantage of social networking!).
Hi guys, I have just started a telecommunication consulting business, however, there are still few things that needs to be completed – business card printing company or website design company. Any good suggestions at all?
Of course any self-respecting provider of these services would respond as quickly as possible with their best foot forward.
And therein lies the rub.
Everybody’s working on the weekend
Because the post was made late on a Sunday night, and because it came via Facebook – a personal social network (as distinct from business ones like LinkedIn), the temptation is to down toys and put your business forward as a prospective provider.
And if you think most would wait till working hours, think again.
The first response came no more than four minutes after the post was made. Yes, at exactly 10.34. By the time I had seen it around midnight eight others had made their pitches or recommended others – which leads to a dilemma that most small business operators don’t need.
When do we switch off?
With the amount of responsibilities a business owner already brings home, the last thing they need is to feel they are ‘on call’ to have to respond to this kind of callout.
But the alternative, missing out on not only a qualified lead but the opportunity to promote yourself to others in the Group for free is equally annoying and obviously detrimental to the business as competitors get this valuable ‘free kick’.
I certainly don’t advocate having work further intrude into the leisure time of the operators of business of any size. We all very much earn our time off and owe that to our partners and families.
Equally I don’t want my competitor getting hold of this ready-made business opportunity.
It’s yet another side-effect of the ‘always on’ world we now live in and one that will sit differently with different business operators.
Would you give up part of your decreasing leisure time to promote your business on social networks?
Craig Reardon is a writer, educator and operator of independent web services firm for SMEs, The E Team.