Social media is hard. Success is hard. There comes a point in your business or life when you have to decide if you’re going to hangout by the water cooler with people who are also talking about why they can’t get ahead – or do the hard work that will make you a Linchpin in your office or in your industry.
Social media communications is much the same. It’s not a mystery why Ford crushes their competition in the social media space – they have been doing it for over 5 years. Here in Canada we have been actively training their dealer network since 2010.
In his ground-breaking book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell he talks about in-depth research that points to the fact that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at a subject or industry vertical. Olympians train for years for their moment of glory. Top performing insurance sales people make 50 calls a day for a decade to get to the top .5% of their industry. Google is an overnight success that was founded in 1998. You get the picture.
Jim Janz, multi-millionaire and direct selling pioneer once told me that it takes 6 months to look like a leader, 12 months to become a leader (in his business) and 18 to 24 months to build a loyal community that trusts you and follows you.
Taking into account what Jim shared with me – I recently had a client tell me they were going to no longer be proactive and invest in their social media efforts. “We have been doing this for months and the ROI isn’t there yet.” Seemingly wise senior executives are doing this en masse – it took them years to build their brand and trust but somehow community building and proficiency in doing so with social media should somehow defy all other conventional business rules – it takes time to build something that will last – they just want to write a cheque (that’s a check in the USA) like they’re buying a TV ad and have instant results – it doesn’t work that way.
There are 1.3 billion people globally using social media to connect, collaborate and yes make buying decisions. It’s hard work to get their attention, add value, build a relationship and convert them to clients. The reality is social media and social networks are here to stay – in fact they are becoming the primary drivers of buying decisions by senior executives and the general public.
1. Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals (Hubspot)
2. Social networks influence nearly 50% of all IT decision makers (LinkedIn – learn more at TechConnect ’12)
3. Out of 53% of consumers who said they use Twitter to recommend companies or products in their Tweets, 48% bought that product or service(SproutSocial)
4. Twitter is the #1 online channel for influencing purchasing decisions surrounding electronics (Mashable)
5. 15,100,000 consumers go to social media channels before making purchase decisions (Knowledge Networks)
6. 49% of consumers use Facebook to search for restaurants (Mashable)
7. 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions (SproutSocial)
What’s the solution? Eventually you need to become a social business. If your customers prefer Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as communications tools over the phone (as in voice calls) and watching TV – then why force them to use email and the phone? While you’re resisting change your competitors are building community and gaining future customers (some of them yours).
• What’s the natural buying process that my customer follows?
• Where do they get their information?
• Who influences their buying decision?
• How do I get above the noise of my competitors?
• How to I connect with them personally and build real rapport?
Social media and social networks when combined with a solid strategy and plan are the answers to these questions. But it’s a discipline and a shift for many in the way they do business. It’s not a silver bullet, and it’s not an ad campaign you can support for a few months and then move onto something new. It’s about building a community and also building competency in all departments in social media communications.
So here’s my pitch. If you want instant results, with millions of followers and massive brand recognition and no need to engage or empower your staff to be social ambassadors… don’t use social media – BUT realize that that “nice to have” social media competency will at some point become a need at the crisis level.
If you’re willing to pay the price, invest the energy and forge bullet-proof relationships with customers in the next 24-36 months then maybe social media is something you’re ready to invest in. What it isn’t at first it is at last. Investing in building a large community and real relationships online creates an asset that can keep paying for years – but anything worthwhile take effort and discipline.