At a networking breakfast last month, the owner of an engineering firm wanted to know why anyone would use Linkedin, Twitter, blogs or any social media in their business. He couldn’t have been any more blunt.
“Why the hell should I waste time on that?” the owner said.
My answer to him, and you, is just as direct. Don’t.
If you think your business should jump into social media because you saw a story about the growing popularity of Twitter on the nightly news, or a high school pal just sent you a Facebook friend request, forget about it. If your competitors are blogging and you want to keep up, move along.
But you should consider how to add social media to your business marketing plan when you want to:
• Listen to what people are saying about products and services they want and need;
• Join or start conversations about those products and services;
• Share what you know in ways that attracts customers, or business partners or expands your business network;
• Redirect some of your time, or your employees’ time to using social media as one of your business development methods; or,
• Find networking and sales opportunities quickly.
Yes, there is a payoff with social media. There’s real business to be done. Back in February I created a Twitter page for Jaap-Orr, the Cincinnati advertising agency that’s an active member of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. We started by talking about their new pet project, birdhouses made out of recycled paper. They didn’t advertise a sales price for the birdhouses or even mention they had launched this new business. Instead, they started sharing information on Twitter about green-friendly products, about what they heard and saw that week at a conference for high school science teachers, and details about bird migration and populations that only birders could love.
That was on a Friday afternoon. By Monday afternoon, Disney World in Florida found out about the birdhouses and ordered 400 to use in an educational program at Epcot in Florida.
During the next two weeks, a reporter for the New York Times read about the Green Bird House project on Twitter and called Jaap-Orr owner Steve Jones to write a news story about it. Jaap-Orr and its Green Bird House project also searched user profiles on Linkedin to learn that the education director of a national park in San Francisco wanted to buy recycled birdhouses for sale in the park’s gift shop.
These are powerful examples of how using social media like Twitter and Linkedin helped our friends at Jaap-Orr attract attention and make sales they otherwise would not have achieved. Importantly, Jaap-Orr is now participating in online conversations with people interested in green topics. That’s critical as it breaks into the green products business.
Now you’ve got my best answer to the engineering company owner who asked why he should waste time using social media.
This was originally written for the Business Journal published by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the Small Business Expo on May 28. I’ll be leading a discussion for the Chamber’s Tech Friday’s program about how to engage your customers using social media. Details and how to register.