Why Do Social Media For Your Company? Perception vs. Reality

Why use social media for your businessThe other day I was talking with one of my newer clients about social media. We were just a few hours into a new project that included getting his company’s social media properties in place and setting up an integrated social media engagement strategy. He suddenly said something roughly like this, “Now I get it. Social media is not some automatic tool for marketing your business for free. It’s actually about building something longer term and it takes effort. It’s about community management”. The light bulb had gone off.

No Easy Button

I know a lot of companies are still thinking that there exists something called “Easy Button Marketing“. Because they haven’t really leaped into social media, they initially think that companies just need to get their social media accounts and pages in place (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest), and an “insta-community” appears, ready to “join”, “follow”, “subscribe” or “like”. Ready to engage on their platforms and ultimately, ready to buy their products or services.

Social Media is not an automatic way to market. No, it takes some time and effort to build a foundation. But it can be very powerful once that foundation is in place. Of course, the initial stages of platform-building can be dramatically sped up if you leverage an already big brand or if you’re small but creative. The creative part is the fun part.

Not One-Dimensional

In addition, business owners often consider social media one-dimensional. Merely a way to blast out the brand message and promotions. And okay, maybe a little chatting with the audience, but not too much! No, it’s actually a lot more than that. In fact, the blasting can limit the success of a social media strategy. People are looking for a lot more than brand messaging and promotions these days.

I wrote up a few ways that the client could use social media and I thought this would make a great discussion topic, so here’s the list.

Some of the best ways to use social media for business include…


1) To build a platform

Building connections with your audience and industry influencers that allow you to communicate with them (two way) and to (occasionally) market to them.

2) Turn one-time encounters to ongoing relationships

To turn one-time interactions with someone into a longer term relationship (by getting them to like your page, subscribe to your YouTube channel, to follow you on Twitter).

3) Spread your brand and messaging

To get your brand identity distributed via the web of connections that each of your “fans” or followers are connected to. Each time they interact with you, it messages their connections and spreads your brand.

4) Content Distribution for content marketing

Social media works as a key distribution platform for your content marketing strategy. If you create compelling content, social media is an ideal way for other people to distribute your content to maximize your reach (and have more people see your calls to action within the content).

5) A way to engage industry influencers

To find, meet and deepen connections with industry influencers. To build social capital by sharing, liking, featuring their content and engaging in discussions with them.

6) A way to develop social proof

To build credibility and “social proof” for your company by having an active and thriving fan base.

7) Learning and feedback

To get feedback and input from your audience. To learn how they communicate, how others market to them and how they like companies to market to them.

8) Deepen engagement cross-platform

To take followers from one platform and to introduce them to others, deepening engagement and connection.

9) Customer support (whether you like it or not!)

Learn about, react to and resolve customer support issues. You can’t control what someone posts online so how you react is key to the impression you’ll make with your audience.

10) Research opportunities

You don’t need to passively sit back and worry only about your social media platforms. You can learn about what competitors are doing, what potential partners are doing, what suppliers are doing or what customer are doing on their own platforms.

It’s not a “Tools” discussion

Social media is not a tools-focused discussion. Let’s do Facebook! Let’s do Twitter! It’s a nuanced but powerful set of interconnected platforms which begs an over-arching strategy to maximize success.

How else do you use social media for your company?

This list above is not exhaustive but that’s where I’d love your help. What do you see as the best uses for social media for companies, large and small? What am I missing?

What strategies do you use to build your brand and platform online?

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  1. Fabulous post Tom! At the moment I mainly use Facebook & Twitter for my business. I use Facebook to engage & build relationships with my customers & I use Twitter to network with my peers & other people I like to meet. I’d like to get into Google + at some point, but I’ve just not jumped on board yet.

    I love the list you created in your post. There are a lot of things in that list that I do, but I definitely see some things that could be improved on. Thanks so much!
    Meagan recently posted..Is Your Perfection Holding You BackMy Profile

  2. Thanks for great, real post and all the useful comments from everyone above. This is exactly what I tell my SMB clients and prospective clients. The BIGGEST challenge I come up with is: “Will this generate sales for me? If I use your social media services and pay you per month, how will you make sure I will get leads, drive business and close deals to cover these expenses?? What is my ROI??”. Its a challenge to get that light bulb to go off with SMBs that Social Media takes tames TIME to create business, it doesn’t happen over night. Its a long term investment. Its not the hard sale, its the soft sale…but with tight budgets, some SMBs still prefer to get concrete leads from shows or in-person networking meetings…
    Just wondering how you deal with this?

    • Yasmin. I agree, that can be a tough discussion. A couple of things I do are to show examples of other people having success and how they’re having success. How are they driving engagement and how do they turn it into business? Also, I have a diagram that I use to show where social media fits into the business flow which I think helps as well.

      As for ROI, social media can take time (as you know!). So, the more focused they are about where and what and why they’re doing things, the more efficient they can be. For example, I use social media primarily for distributing content via content marketing so I have a map of how social media fits that strategy and I can measure the effectiveness (roughly) in terms of list sign-ups, webinar attendees, conversions, etc.

      In the end though, if they’re not willing to take a small leap of faith or are not inspired at all, it may be doomed. It’s like pushing a horse that doesn’t want to go. It will be a slow and painful journey and the end point may be all but pre-ordained. I think to do social media well requires some faith, a vision, an idea of a fit with their business model, and enthusiasm. What do you think?
      Tom recently posted..Why Do Social Media For Your Company? Perception vs. RealityMy Profile

  3. Nailed it, Tom :)

    “It’s a nuanced but powerful set of interconnected platforms which begs an over-arching strategy to maximize success.”

    This is quite a different way of looking at social media, and one I recommend.

    Well-done, sir, well done.
    Jason Fonceca recently posted..Success Is A Story (And You’re Telling It Wrong)My Profile

  4. Great list, Tom. The only thing I would add is that despite the larger strategy at play, I find it is so easy to spot the brands whose engagement with users on Twitter/Facebook is sharply edited to fit within the cookie-cutter mold of their “social media strategy”. This leaves no room for surprises, like the emergence of a new customer demographic that you weren’t targeting or a possible JV collaboration. While I think having an overarching strategy is key, the other side of the coin is not to become a slave to that strategy. Nimble. Flexible. Be a real person interacting with others.
    Annika recently posted..Marketing with an ugly ass websiteMy Profile

  5. Thank you for posting. Social Media should be will manage since it represent a identity of company. And people also are into social media.

  6. Tom,

    Great ideas here!

    I have been living in “social media confusion” lately, but this post clarified things quite a bit. Now I’m able to see that there are lots of possibilities when it comes to social media for business.

    In fact, just today I was thinking how to turn one-time visitor into a follower and your post answered that question (by using social media or at least that is one option to do it).

    Timo Kiander recently posted..PSD Video Tip #5: Get Rid of Cell Phone DistractionMy Profile

  7. Blast! Not a silver bullet?
    How weird that online people like to be treated as peopple too! ;-)
    Kitty Kilian recently posted..Joy, Seduction, To Hell: all togetherMy Profile

  8. I love social media and it does take time to do. One has to be genuine, and give great content. What I resonate most with this post is “social proof” because when someone sees that you are giving your time and giving good content, they will be more willing to share with you.
    Also, I found one of my secret weapons is commenting on a post. When commenting, it should not be a one liner, that shows that it could be an automated comment or someone that didn’t read the post.
    A good comment has brought me many people in my stream.
    You ask what strategies do we use for our stream? Mine are the following: Join a tribe (a group of people that will syndicate your blog. Reciprocity is the key here, LinkedIn which is my secret weapon for years now, My blog which is my home base where I direct people to and have a call to action, FB, Twitter, Youtube and many various social sites,
    Yes, it takes time, but I rather have organic growth than anything else. I know each and every person on my social sites and loving it!
    Thanks for this awesome post
    Donna Merrill
    Donna Merrill recently posted..LinkedIn – My Secret WeaponMy Profile