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There is a lot of buzz about social media marketing these days. We have all heard it, and no industry is immune. All of the facts and figures point to the inevitability that your business will be affected by this turn in the marketing tide. This all got me to thinking about the dilemma that social media poses to each and every business entity.
The dilemma is in weighing the cost of participating versus the risk associated with not embracing social media marketing. So how can you mitigate your risk? Spend a moment with me to understand why you should not overlook social media for another minute.
Social Media Marketing: Now or Later?
The part that may be the hardest for many companies is that this shift in the marketing tide has occurred during an already frightening time for business people. Companies who used to advertise in newspapers have found that they are largely ineffective. This has further added to the already obvious demise of print media. Similarly, television is losing the marketing battle at an astonishing rate. Your local affiliate stations used to receive a piece of the national advertisers spending, and that was cut by the major networks. This is all happening because the Internet has fully eclipsed all other media in both total adspend and consumer reach.
I can give you a long list of the things which have added to the social media boom, but I do not think I will need to explain this. You know it is here, and you are quite possibly feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. It is a huge transition. It is kind of a big shuffle where everybody is just trying to find their way and hope when it all settles that they will have made the right choices and that they adapted to the new rules of marketing soon enough to be effective. This really is a dilemma of when to make a quantifiable effort: will it be now, or will it be later? When should you adopt the new rules of engagement? Are you too late? It is too soon? The questions are so plentiful and pressing that I have watched it paralyze many would-be good business decision makers.
Social Media Dilemma: Risk vs. Risk
Perhaps you are just warming up to the idea that this “new” media is where things are going. The fear of jumping in is really pretty normal. After all, it is hard to believe in something after you have watched all the things you always knew about business and economy suddenly change. Most of us were always told that our home would always be a great investment. That seems to be a bit shaky now, although it will certainly return. We thought companies like General Motors, AIG, and others were unshakeable and that the whole world economy could not all just collapse. Things have changed, and amidst all of that change around you, the thought of spending what seems like a fortune in order to effectively participate in a marketing method with a whole new set of measurement metrics probably feels a bit uncomfortable at best.
So what will make all of this feel better and help it all make sense? The answer is this: If your competition does it sooner and better than you, the cost of lost opportunity will be greater than any other potential risk.
Social media marketing is truly not as new as you may see it on the surface. In many ways, it is the way it used to be done in every company, for as long as business has been done. The tools have changed a lot, but the communication basics are that if you develop a warm market, your business will always perform far better. Your sales process will be much smoother. Your brand image will be enhanced by the added customer satisfaction. The list of benefits to the added communication of social media marketing over advertising as usual should not be so hard to understand. All the same, as a social media and Internet marketing professional since the mid-1990s, I still often feel like I am trying to explain the color blue to a person devoid of sight.
A Picture of Social Media Marketing
I want to provide you with a mental picture of social media marketing. Work with me, please. Let’s say that you are about to walk out the door to drive to your local Wal Mart for a couple items. You are going to pick up a garden hose, some razor blades, a new alarm clock, and a few other items. As you head for the door with your car keys in hand, the doorbell rings. You get to the door and there is a salesperson standing there to greet you. They are with a company you have heard of, but you have never met this person. He says that he has all of those things you planned to pick up at Wal Mart. He has the garden hose, the razor blades, and even the alarm clock, and he happens to have them right there. He even has the brands you would buy. How does this feel to you? Are you a bit uneasy about it? Many people have answered this question for me, and it seems that the vast majority would still get in the car, drive to Wal Mart, sort through the aisles, wait in line, and return home. The trust factor compels them, and the guy at the door just did not have the trust yet, regardless how hard he tried.
I have a new picture for you. The person standing at the door is somebody you have had some brief communication with, and you realize you have some mutual friends. It warms up with a bit of friendly conversation, and what do you know. You belong to the same social group. It all starts to look different now, does it not?
The differences in these scenarios are very similar psychologically to an advertisement compared to a social media approach. In addition, with a social media approach, it is altogether likely that the phone rang before you even grabbed your car keys and a friend was on the other end to let you know they were sending the hose, razor, and alarm clock guy over. It has a completely different feel, and it is the reason that advertising has always been an uphill battle compared to proper relationship marketing.
Social Media Fears: The Biggest Dilemma of All
Now that I have walked you through an analogy of digital social media compared to yesterday media, let us look at the worst social media dilemma of all. This time, you are in the selling position, and you are the guy at the door. Answer yourself this question: do you want to be that guy at the door trying to peddle your goods, or would you rather be the hose, razor, and alarm clock guy who took the care to build relationships and will be walking up to the door already announced.
If you fear what happens if you embrace social media marketing today and that it may not work for you, the greater question should be in which hose, razor, and alarm clock salesperson you want to be. If you leave it up to your competition, your cost will be much greater indeed, because the deepest cost is that of missed opportunities.
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