I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met recently who, upon asking my trade, reply “I think social media is a waste of time”.
Now, rather than flicking them on the ear for their blatant rudeness, I am always intrigued as to why.
The most common reason people give me is “I don’t need it, I’m already have enough business”. This is usually closely followed by “Anyway, my customers don’t use social media”
Clearly this is an enviable position to be in. Throughout history businesses have fallen flat believing that all they have to do is stand still and it will all be fine. Like a complacent spouse, they have signed up their customers and sit back and wait for their dinner to be put on the table.
Here’s three reasons why this is nonsense
Your customers are being wooed
It’s a big world out there. 95% of adults now use some form of social media. Although some of your customers might not, you’re restricting yourself to a tiny niche if you don’t. What is worse, your competitors certainly are using it.
Social Media is not about sales, it’s about relationships and, without being soppy, feelings. People feel connected with a customer when they talk to them online, and when they are answered. People feel loyal to a company who takes the time to engage with them even when they are not spending money. So while you still might be getting their custom, their eyes are roving elsewhere.
New, hungry businesses are starting all the time, and they are after your customers. They are chatting, being helpful, giving them useful things and, more than anything else, looking like they care and are interested in what they have to say.
This is now what “word of mouth” means
Even if you have enough customers, you will inevitably lose a few, and new customers are much harder to find without a social media presence.
To put it simply: if you are looking for a new business, do you pick the one that you can research, see their customer reviews and recommendations, check out what kind of company they are? Even better, do you know that your friends like them, even though you’ve never asked. Or do you pick the one you have only driven past once or seen a ¼ page ad.
You might learn something
Social Media isn’t just a sales tool, it’s a resource for you.
Twitter and LinkedIn in particular offers a wealth of industry knowledge and expert insight to devour and share. Social Media allows you to keep a crafty eye on the competition at the same time as finding new partnerships or suppliers, not to mention quality staff. It’s not simply about marketing and flogging your wares. You are missing out on a massive opportunity if you write it off.
Clearly, I am preaching to the converted here, and the people who say such things will probably never be online long enough to see this post. However, maybe, just maybe, someone will print it off and show it to them and I can stop with the ear flicking.
There are weeks, when I need to be reminded why I chose to start this business in the first place. It wasn’t because I desperately wanted to teach brands how to engage with their customers and grow their business (although I do, honest).
I fell in love with social media because I genuinely do believe it will save the world. Not in a fanfare, Superman kind of way, or even a darkly brooding Batman, but slowly, one nibbled hashtag at a time.
Today, there are two hashtags which reminded me why.
The hashtags I love the most are the ones that burst someone’s self-importance with a massive pin. Exhibit A is VH1’s #askthicke feed, where viewers can put their questions to Robin Thicke, of Blurred Lines fame. His questionable Blurred Lines lyrics, made worse by the video, caused outrage amongst sane people everywhere and they were not shy about letting him know what they really thought.
#AskThicke Robin, you're my favourite misogynist! Would you sign a picture of an apron for my daughter? She wants to be a Dr for Gods sake!
It is a PR car crash of monumental proportions and a sage reminder that, whilst you can surround yourself with plenty of people to fluff your ego, there are other people who are really quite cross.
When did ‘like a girl’ become an insult? In the other corner, is this is a fabulous piece of marketing by Always. The video, already at 14,000,000 views challenges this notion and inspires girls to stand up for who they are and not be ashamed. It has also inspired thousands of tweets from women and girls saying what it means to them to be #likeagirl. Much better advertising than all of those girls in hotpants on rollerblades.
The reason Social Media is such a powerful force, is that it gives a voice to those people who have never had a voice before, collects it and turns it into one loud roar.
When in the past, would Stephen’s Story have been heard, outside of his friends and family.
Once upon a time, there were instances of inequality, unfairness and abuse that would largely go unchallenged. To quote Kevin Spacey in A Bug’s Life
“You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line.“
Social media gives everyone the chance to stand up.
First, everyone speaks in the same size font ** No matter how insignificant someone is, their tweet takes up the same space as Richard Branson’s or Barack Obama’s in someone’s newsfeed. It may seem like a small point but, when you think about it, is hugely important.
Second, it gives a collective power to individual voices in a way not possible before. The use of campaign hashtags, whether for charity campaigns, issues, causes or even just to challenge an established line. The most glossy, multi-million pound ad campaign can be burst with a single hashtag that catches on.
These two factors benefit groups who have traditionally less power than those in charge.
If you follow my personal Twitter feed and blog (@louloudillon), you will know that I bang on about feminism quite a lot. Women like Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent and Lauren Laverne have seen huge popularity born out of Twitter, which is spreading.
So, in a big up to the girls (and boys), these are some of my three favourite Equality campaigns.
1. To Keep A Woman On A Ten Pound Note
This campaign made international headlines, not only for its success but for the barrage of abuse that Caroline Criado Perez faced as a result. She didn’t aim to change the world in a single sweep, or fight injustice from the top, she simply said that it didn’t seem right that no woman was deemed sufficiently worthy to have her achievements marked on our currency. Three months of hashtags later, Mervyn King changed his mind and announced the Jane Austen Tenner.
I have been following this campaign for a long time. Again, not worldwide revolution but the simple point that toys shouldn’t be marketed to boys and girls separately, and girls are capable of playing with things that aren’t pink and glittery. Since first writing about it, the #lettoysbetoys have affected real change with major companies changing their entire packaging and marketing of children’s toys, most notably John Lewis, Marks and Spencers and Tesco. Not bad at all.
Laura Bate’s #everyday sexism project has been in existence for 2 years and currently has over 150,000 followers. It’s aim “Documenting experiences of sexism,harassment and assault to show how bad the problem is & create solidarity”
In the olden days, if you’d been catcalled in the streets, felt up on a train or generally treated in a substandard way, you would be told to not mind, it’s only a bit of fun and get on with it. Well do you know what, lots of women didn’t find it harmless or funny and refused to put up with it any more. Some of the examples that are reported are shocking but, little by little, it is changing attitudes. In the same camp is #NoMorePage3 – a noisy reminder that actually, some people do mind.
Obviously it’s not magic. This ad is an important reminder that Liking something on Facebook does not cure cancer. A few characters typed in your bedroom isn’t going to change the world over night. The #bringbackourgirls campaign was hugely successful in raising awareness of events in Nigeria but the fact remains that the girls are still missing.
However, social media does give you a voice, and collectively, it is a voice that people listen to. Yes there is abuse, and threats and nastiness but there are more people shouting down the bullies.
More imporantly, it’s being done with a cleverness and humour that we can all smugly pat ourselves on the back for.
Go on, I know you want it.
** (OK, so if you’re being pedantic Twitter have changed this a bit but not much).