The Real Power of Social Media: Sheep, uh, I mean Word of Mouth

People are followers - and that includes in social media.

People are followers - and that includes in social media.

Remember when you took Sales 101 in college or maybe was forced into one of those dry sales training courses at work? One of the first tenets to be drilled into you was that it is just as important to find the person who can say NO as it is to woo the actual decision maker.  Looks like the same rules apply with social media.  But that shouldn’t be surprising, because people are followers.

A recent study by Razorfish indicated that while most folks do not use social media to actively seek recommendations, they are influenced when they receive negative or positive feedback via social media – even if that feedback is unsolicited

If you are a small business and you are 1) struggling with the decision to invest resources in social media, 2) engaging in limited forms of social media but are concerned you are not doing it well or 3) just not involved in it, you need to immediately take a step back and create a social media plan. 

Look, social media is no longer a “maybe” or a superfluous add-on for when you get time and money…or free up a stray resource.  Social media is a robust business universe where deals are getting done, opinions are being changed and brands are being both praised and skewered. Let me give you a couple of recent examples from my own town.

Example 1:  Someone Tweeted out that she was joining the local name-brand gym. She didn’t ask for any advice; in fact, she probably just wanted an atta-girl for finally getting off of her duff and getting some exercise.  Instead of validation, she received a number of replies that talked about how she should not go to that particular gym for all sorts of reasons. In a matter of minutes, she changed her mind and hundreds -maybe thousands- of people read the complaints, too. They also read her note that she decided to back out and go to another gym. Ouch.

Example 2: Last Friday, a local guy Tweeted about his new car.  He got a number of very positive responses that simply validated the Tweep’s choice in vehicles  and probably caused some others to consider that make and model.

What is a business to do?

First, a small business needs to develop a comprehensive online presence that is consistent and planned across the best-choice platforms.

Second, the business needs to develop an authentic voice. The time of companies and brands living at the top of the heap is done. Finis. Kaput.  Social media is about establishing and maintaining relationships, not about arrogant businesses who believe they can still control their brand. It’s an illusion. You can only influence.

Third, the Razorfish study concluded that consumers are looking for ways to engage with businesses on these social platforms.  We’re not talking about a tepid corporate website, but a robust fan page or maybe a content-rich blog that provides some transparency and insight into the company. 

You see, people still want to do business with people, and they are still influenced by people.  Many folks are followers by nature.  That really hasn’t changed over the decades.  But, the way in which they communicate that instantaneous recommendation or thumbs-down sure has. If you’re not paying attention to it, it may be the death of you.

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