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The business of social networking

This is an edited extract of the award-winning book, Relax! It’s Only Social Media by Luan Wise.

 

The business of social networking

Frightened of social media? There’s no need. It’s nothing new! The book begins by looking at a brief history of social media, the evolution of marketing and the business of building relationships. When people know, like and trust you, they will do business with you. Social media is a supporting tool.

How often do you sit and think ‘I need to post something on my Facebook page’, or ‘I need to do something on LinkedIn’?

How does it make you feel?

Do you (a) look at your to-do list and try to find something (anything) else to do instead, (b) sigh and post the first thing that comes into your head, or (c) take a quick look at your marketing plan and check off the next piece of content?

As a seasoned user of social media platforms, it’s sometimes easy for me to forget what it’s like to be a beginner in using social media. I don’t believe I experienced any fears when I set up my LinkedIn account in January 2008 or my Twitter profile in March 2009. Once I took the decision to look at what social media was all about (OK, I took a little bit of convincing by a very early adopter), I simply wanted to explore what these new tools could do for me and the business I was working for. I wasn’t on social media because it was the ‘done thing’ – I was there to explore new opportunities.

Eight years later, it feels like social media has become over-complicated. It’s become misunderstood and surrounded in mystery and the dark arts – just like SEO (search engine optimisation). A plethora of social media experts have emerged to show individuals and companies how to use the various platforms. But knowing how to use them isn’t the same as understanding why you should use them.

There’s something about social media that makes some people (perhaps you?) bury their head in the sand and pretend it’s just not happening. Others may feel fear and anxiety.

I believe these fears are not unique to social media. People have always been afraid of the unknown (and change). All businesses fear bad publicity, losing business and employees, don’t they? There’s also the barrier of lack of time and resource. Again, these factors are not unique to social media. While some people do appear to be documenting their entire lives online, it’s not necessary to do so.

I have discovered that people who have not had the opportunity to explore social media are somewhat fearful of ‘joining in’, particularly within a business context. There’s a fear of simply not knowing enough, and therefore people hold back. Even people who have had social media profiles for a while have told me about their fears of not being able to use social media intelligently, relevantly and sustainably, and have said they don’t know where to turn to get the answers.

Social media is not just about technology

Yes, social media is about technology – it enables information to spread more rapidly and more widely than ever – but if you strip away the technology from social media, we can see the activities we have always done.

LinkedIn has replaced the Rolodex and those nice books with plastic inserts for collecting business cards. We no longer send postcards when we’re on holiday – we post on Facebook, uploading photos from our smartphones. Birthday and festive greetings are also taking place online, much to my disappointment; I remain a huge fan of sending cards via the postal service.

Technology has cleared our desks, and the mobile revolution has put power in our pockets. Today’s smartphone has more power than the last generation’s computers, and it allows us to do more things faster – but what we do is not really different, or new.

The evolution of marketing

Stories have been shared in every culture as a form of education and entertainment since symbols were first painted on cave walls. Stories have been told using music, dance and art as well as the spoken and written word. Storytelling is a way of sharing and interpreting experiences.

Just as we have progressed from cave paintings, marketing has moved on from simple exchanges of trade to a period of mass production, to a time of pure sales orientation, and finally to the realisation that we need to have a marketing responsibility that focuses on the customer, not just the product. Over time the media channels we use to communicate and build relationships in business, have also experienced a significant pace of change:

  • Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million listeners.
  • Television took 13 years to reach 50 million viewers.
  • The internet only took 4 years to reach 50 million users.

Previously, marketers controlled their dialogue with consumers through television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Everything was broadcast. Now conversation is two-way, it’s happening in real time, and it’s as much user-generated as it is advertiser-generated.

Just as television changed media consumption from listening (radio) to watching, social media has created media producers. It is now possible for anyone to publish content, from anywhere, at any time – and it is also possible to consume content from anywhere, at any time.

Networking

If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.

Zig Ziglar

Business networking is all about making, and leveraging, connections to build relationships that can create or respond to business opportunities. Many business people (me included) believe that good networking is a more cost-effective way of building awareness, and generating new business, than paid-for advertising efforts.

But that doesn’t mean it’s quick, or easy. Good networking involves identifying the right places to network, finding the right people to network with, and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships. By its nature, networking involves building credibility and trust. When people know, like and trust you, they will do business with you.

Good networking is also about people being able to find you when they do an online search for the skills you offer, and having an effective online presence on the right social media platforms is the key to achieving this. Chapter 3 will look at how to make a good first impression on social media. Chapter 8 will review how to measure your success

Once you have made connections, you have the opportunity to become known among a wider network. Online networking lets you network 24/7, regardless of where you are in the world. Just as technology provides a new solution for the business card holder, we must not forget that social media provides support to real-life networking, allowing you to prepare for meetings, follow up meetings, and keep in touch with ease. There’s no more letting people you haven’t yet met in real life know that you’ll be wearing a red carnation or carrying a newspaper – they can see what you look like on your LinkedIn profile! And with a status update or two a week, it’s easy to stay in front of people with news of what you’re working on. Through effective networking you can become the known and recommended expert, so that when a need arises you’ll be at the front of their mind and they will consider you for the opportunity.

Relax!

  • Technology, and social media, enable us to do everything we’ve always done – just faster, and with greater reach. The mobile revolution has given us more power.
  • There’s really nothing unique about social media for you and your business to fear. It’s just another channel. Change is inevitable. People will talk about you. Employees will leave your business. Don’t fear social media because of this.
  • Just like television and radio, social media is a channel for communication. It is new, but it has not replaced traditional channels. Indeed, social media works best when it is integrated with other channels, and across business functions.

Luan Wise is running the Content Marketing Summer School from Monday 23 July. It will run for six weeks and costs £199 including VAT.  Visit Luan’s website to sign up and for more information.