5 reasons you should be in social media, even if the boss says “no”

Boss driving you crazy?  Having a hard time selling the idea that you need to be on the social web?

I know first-hand that there are still many naysayers out there who don’t understand why they need to have a social media presence. Here are five reasons that should convince even the last hold-out to get on board …

1. Social impact on search

What percent of your business starts with a search on Google? For many businesses it may be as high as 90 percent. And if any of your business comes through search or your website, then social media is inextricably linked to your future success.

One of the most important and significant changes the search engines have made to deliver meaningful and personal results is to incorporate social media results as part of the validation process for content.  Social validation and “authorship” are guiding more search results. To be part of this, you need to be creating and igniting content. Establishing authority on the web through your social media content will dramatically help you improve your organization’s search rankings over time. And almost every business can benefit from that.

2. Facebook is the Internet

A common question I receive in my classes and workshops is, “What will be the next Facebook?” A point I try to make is that the emotional switching cost to moving away from Facebook is enormously high. That’s where you have all your friends, photos, videos, and family members. It’s where you have your Farmville farm for goodness sake!

I’ve made the argument that it might be easier to change your house than to change your social network.

Research from The Social Habit, a division of Edison Research, reveals that more than 80 percent Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 are on Facebook and more than half are active every day. There is no other brand in the world that boasts that kind of market penetration. To this demographic, who either are, or soon will be, your customers, Facebook IS the Internet.

And the popular social network is rapidly spreading across every demographic and every region of the world. It is the largest media entity in history.

One interesting and significant trend is that the amount of search on Facebook has been rising dramatically, and of course Facebook’s new search engine development will further serve this trend.  Increasingly, Facebook will be the way people find and connect with goods, service, companies, and brands. It probably makes sense to stake your claim there, right? Who knows where the future will lead us?

3. Social proof

When we don’t know the truth, we look for clues from our external environment (like number or “badges” on a website) to help us make decisions.

In our information-dense world of the Internet, we’re starved for clues to help us determine leadership and authority and we readily turn to “badges of influence” like number of Twitter followers or even a Klout score as convenient indicators of power.

Perhaps the most prestigious symbol of social proof today is the Facebook “Like.” Among many companies, there is a Facebook arms race in progress as competing brands do anything necessary to gain the upper hand on this important metric. I recently wrote a post describing a company who has an internal marketing metric of “cost per like.” On the surface, this seems ludicrous but it demonstrates how strategically important this symbol has become.

This might seem a little “icky,” but it’s real. Don’t overlook social proof of authority as a legitimate reason to have an active social media presence.

4. The Trade Show Dilemma

Have you ever had to sit at a booth during a boring industry trade show?

I did, and I hated every minute of it. It was nice to network with people in the industry and maybe even chat with customers, but it was certainly not a very effective use of my time! Despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on this marketing event, we rarely sold anything, learned anything, or created any new value beyond handing out nice pens.

So why did we do it?

Because if we weren’t there, people would think something was wrong. We would be ostentatiously absent.

In this day and age, not being on Facebook or Twitter sends the same message. “Ajax Printing isn’t on Facebook? I guess they just don’t get it.” Even if you DO get it, it tells a story that you don’t get it. Having those social sharing buttons on your website is the new trade show. You better be there, even if it may not be the best use of your time.

5. Social media is the future of communications

The Net Generation – your next pool of employees, customers, and competitors – prefer to use text messaging and the social web over any other form of communication. It is the natural evolution of communications. You might enjoy reading a paper copy of The Wall Street Journal each morning, or even looking at an online version of your favorite news site. Nearly half of Americans under the age of 21 cites Facebook as their primary source of news.

The social web is where a generation is going to connect, learn, and discover. Ignore this at your peril!

So there you have it.  If your CEO is still haggling with you because you can’t prove the ROI of social media (don’t get me started) show her this article and say, it’s not just about ROI … it’s about relevance!

I’d love to hear your comments about these observations.  Fire away in the comment section!

Illustration courtesy Toothpaste for Dinner

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  • Mark, I don’t disagree, but what concerns me about the reasons you gave is they all lead to being technically in social media, but don’t lead to actually using it as a social medium.

    Search: it is a tactical use, not actually “for” social.
    The NEW Internet: So its another place to broadcast (and BTW, being big without considering other factors isn’t a reason to market there. If it was, every VC funded company would have a superbowl ad).
    Social Proof: This leads to collecting likes, not actually being liked.
    The Trade Show Dilemma: Its the modern equivalent of saying you need a website because everyone else has one. And we all remember how horrible those first websites were.
    It’s The Future: So why do it now?

    If these are the reasons for businesses to be in social media, fair enough, but I believe there is an opportunity to connect with customers, press, future employees and prospects in a real and meaningful way. A company that approaches social media is an operational series of checkboxes will get some of the benefits you outline but may miss the real potential.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here, it just really struck me that the list of “why” to be in social doesn’t touch on the more unique benefits of social media.

    — @wittlake

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  • You are absolutely right. Here is the angle I was exploring in the article (which may have been too hazy!). if your boss doesn’t get it, here are some ideas that might persuade her. So my assumption, strategy is out the door. “Social” is out the door. We need to appeal to something short-term and tangible to at least get their attention. So we are in complete agreement and I thank you for bringing your wisdom to the table today my friend!

  • Sometimes the hardest part of convincing someone to get involved is trying to get them to set aside preconceived notions that aren’t based in fact and have been made because of fear/insecurity or a gut feeling.

    I am not saying the reasons you provided here aren’t good, but when you are dealing with fear it is hard sometimes to overcome it when you can’t provide immediate/tangible proof about the benefit.

    So I think for some people you have to really dig to build your case.

  • It’s a real struggle, isn’t it Jack? I recently went through this and the only thing that really helped overcome the fear was to point out some of the issues I explained today. Maybe I’m creating MORE fear in a way .. a fear of being left behind. But that’s fair isn’t it, if it’s true. I want my clients to remain vital and relevant. Thanks so much for you great comment,

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  • These are excellent and clear reasons – I agree.
    I would like to add that sometimes the hardest part is to convey that the important aspect is to approach Social Media “the right way”. I see often social media treated as just “another” media and to change that approach requires a new perpsective on relationships.

  • Dead on the money, great post. Forwarding this to a client this morning, perfectly enforces what I have been preaching to these folks about for a week now… so Thanks!

  • First of all, Mark, #4 is an outstanding point that of never really considered. Companies shouldn’t only look at what they gain from investing but also what they lose when they fail to invest. ROI, after all, is an absolute measure. But relativity matters. What about market share? It doesn’t matter if an investment has positive ROI if everyone else in your space is achieving a substantially greater ROI on their investments.

    The thing that really bugs me is that ROI is even a thing with social media. We don’t measure the ROI of the customer service rep, the free coffee, the Van Gogh on the bathroom wall, or the new carpet in the lobby. Why? Because it isn’t marketing. It’s customer service.

    I think most (not all) companies will necessarily begin to use social media for customer service, because that’s what most (not all) customers are expecting. Has anyone ever quibbled over the ROI of a telephone? No. Customers are calling. You answer. Period. Twitter, for many, is the new telephone.

    And, as far as monitoring social media for brand mentions and industry insights, I cannot for the life of me fathom why businesses would resist.

    I think most of those who resist social media are resisting it as an end-all-be-all solution to business problems. Of course it isn’t. None of (who want to be taken seriously) is making that argument.

  • Finishing comment from below…..but just because it isn’t a savior, that doesn’t mean social is worthless.

    I think the main problem is this: we need to disentangle the terms “social media” and “marketing.” Social media is a method of communication. Can it be used for marketing? Sure. So can the telephone. But none of us judges the effectiveness of the telephone based on how well telemarketing works.

  • Howdy Mark! I have to say no matter how much I throw a tantrum, sometimes people don’t get it if they are not “into it”. I work in the banking industry where regulations are around every corner. We just started veering away from print ads to online ads. ( you would have thought I was like pulling a molar without Novocaine! )Our main banking customers are between 49-65, and although I know who is using Facebook, Twitter and the like, if the powers that be are not active in these communities, it is hard to get them on board. Even though they trust me, everything that gets posted has to be check and rechecked to make sure it is “good”. Sometimes it gets to the point that if it takes more than 1 day to pass this inspection, it’s old news. I must say, I do “spontaneously” post articles because I know those that inspect, are not even looking at these site, and I can sneak under the radar for the good of the company. Hoping that one day they will stop and say ” Holy Cow, look what Sandy built!” Wish me luck!

  • This is an interesting point Fabio, perhaps worthy of a post on its own! I am not a purist who thinks social has to be done a certain way. Actually, I think it is perfectly OK to experiment and stumble around a bit : ) At least you’re learning and heading in the right direction! As long as it is directionally aligned with a strategy and you;re making progress I am an optimistic person. Thanks for the great comment.

  • Thanks Tracy. Glad it was helpful.

  • I largely agree with you but would also contend that there certainly is an implied value to the company receptionist and art collection. We do need to measure social media initiatives. I think you would enjoy this more extensive explanation Douglas: https://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/02/19/the-social-media-measurement-smackdown/

    Thanks very much for taking the time to comment today!

  • Oh don’t get me started about banking. Yes there are regulations but usually they are being used as an excuse to hide the fear of change. There are plenty of banks doing a great job on social media. I think they will have a competitive advantage in the end! Hang in there Sandy!

  • I agree. In as much as it is feasible, EVERYTHING should be measured. If we can, we absolutely should determine the ROI of customer service, public relations, and other marketing-related departments. Social media as a marketing function should be measured all the time without exception. But I do think it is a non-sensical double-standard to measure the ROI of social media as a customer service tool, PR tool, or networking tool unless we also measure the ROI of other mediums for those same functions. What do you say about that?

  • Karen Highland

    As someone who is in the position to usher some old-school thinkers into Social Media Marketing, I appreciate posts like these, Mark. I eat up these kinds of stats.

    It occurred to me that unlike any other type of marketing in history, SMM has had more written and parsed and re-parsed about it than all the rest. There is so much developing and changing that is so different than “the way we’ve always done it,” that the status quo is being challenged at every turn.

    Think about it, in the past, a business knew they had to market to grow. They hired a marketing professional to come up with an ad campaign. They ran a commercial or print ad for 90 days, they measured their sales. They either had a successful campaign or they didn’t.

    Now we have this brave new world with different ways of doing things, different platforms, some work for some brands and some don’t. We have different measuring metrics, “engagement? What the heck is that and why do I care… how many widgets did we sell?!” It’s like we used to swim in this well defined stream that just got dumped into an ocean. We’re all splashing around trying to find the stream that works for us again.

    From the perspective of the old-school business owner, it can be fearful. They’ve invested blood, sweat and tears, and many years building a business, and now they are asked to commit to this nebulous thing that requires experimentation and trial and error. (and I agree with you, there is no WRONG way, until you experiment with it and figure out that its wrong for you.)

    So those who are leading the way need to lead with clarity. We need to be able to explain and convince, patiently hold the hands of old-school thinkers and lead them into a new paradigm. And yes, that includes remembering that it is SOCIAL, not marketing that comes first. But in the end, we’re really interested in more business, or we wouldn’t bother.

    Again, thanks for the stats and explanations!

  • The past is so done, so far back you barely see it in the rear view mirror. Which isn’t to say we don’t over schedule, rely too much on the ‘right NOW’ tech and all that. It’s reality.

    Your employees and customers, thought leaders and investors, vendors and stakeholders are online, connected, social in one way or another. Real time ain’t going nowhere.

    Your point about proof and conspicuous absence is valid; need to be seen, be relevant. But I cant bet it all in FB or any one network. So if your the ‘leader’ you should be leading, I think you should lead them – not follow the crowd or trap yourself in someone else’s sandbox.

    Be social, do social, learn social – as it works for you now and in the around-the-corner already here future. FWIW.

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  • The big opportunity that people miss is that they obsess over ROI while missing the obvious qualitative benefits of social media activities. This week, I solved a problem quickly by asking my social media friends for help. I got an answer from somebody in Spain. What is the ROI of that? : )

  • Awesome Karen. Glad i could help! But I think to some extent most advertising and marketing is nebulous. How do you measure the value of a billboard? By contrast, we do have the opportunity to measure through a lot of web analytics that we never had before. Thanks for the great comment!

  • Well said. Nothing to add to this insightful perspective Davina!

  • Great tips Mark! Personally, I’m still shocked by how many naysayers there are regarding the business value of the social web and content marketing. So I’ve been asking myself, why is this? Why do so many business leaders not see the value of investing and getting involved?

    I’ve come to the following conclusions:

    1. As a whole, we in the industry, do a poor job of communicating the real value of social and how it impacts the bottom line. We talk about measures and analytics that don’t relate to metrics bosses and others care about. As Cicero once said,”If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.” To help bosses and business leaders understand the value of social, we must make it relevant to them and ask ourselves how we explain the business value of social in their terms.

    2. We forget many businesses have been burned by companies or organizations who sell SEO, social and other services who over-promise and under-deliver. Therefore, they are understandably skeptical about “newer” marketing methods. Like in the movie Jerry Maguire, they want us to “show them the money.” We must give them some level of proof this works.

    3. We forget they have legitimate concerns about issues such as accounts being hacked (e.g., Burger King’s and Jeeps’ Twitter accounts), unflattering content being posted by disgruntled or employees who don’t pay attention (Chrysler after the Superbowl in 2011) and customer complaints. They need to understand the good and not-so-good parts of engaging in social. They must be taught for most the good significantly outweighs the not-so-good. So we need to educate them on how to handle these problems when they arise.

    3. Many of us, including me, suffer from the “curse of knowledge” and assume everyone knows what we know about the value of social. We use jargon, terms and case studies (such as the overused Dell example) many business owners and bosses don’t understand or can’t relate to. Sure, they may have heard of tweeting, liking, etc., but do they really know what these mean to businesses? And can they relate what you are sharing to their business?

    What’s the bottom line to me?
    We need to become better teachers and explain the why, what and how of social from the owners and bosses perspectives. That’s one of the reasons I really love the Businesses Grow community. So much great content and so many great teachers here who get it and are helping me become a better teacher and leader for my clients.

  • Thanks Mark. I definitely get where you are coming from, and with someone in the company taking the time to make this pitch, hopefully the more social elements will become the skunkworks part of being in social.

    One of the analogies I’ve used is email marketing. There are a number of corollaries that work here, here are a couple.
    You need to build your list. In SM, you need to build an audience over time.
    You need to stay out of the spam and ‘ignored’ spaces in email (including unsubscribe) in order to actually have the attention of an audience. In SM, this is being in someone’s key lists/circles, EdgeRank, avoiding unfollow, etc.

    Also not an ideal corollary, but when it comes to the time to see a return and setting a basis for why you need to behave appropriately, it has worked well. Would love your thoughts.

  • Loved the comic because it reminded me of my first week as a real “professional” – I was a mechanical engineer in 1991.

    I walk into my cubicle, and I ask “where is my computer”. My boss tells me “you are an engineer, you do not need a computer”. I give him that “are you an idiot” look – I wasn’t known for self-preserving patience back then – and explain why I need a computer to be effective. I got the computer and started changing the way they looked at computers and software development.

    I am sure there are many employees thinking the same “are you an idiot” thoughts about their employers if their social interactions are severely hampered. Done right, it can increase morale, make them more efficient employees as they self-regulate time spent online, AND potentially increase your brand’s visibility on social channels.

  • Chaz Green

    I get the value of social and see where it is going and the next generation. Fact is though, for the most part, the people on social media are not B2B decision makers.

    For example, I am executing on a business development campaign right now and in EVERY case a direct phone call has had a much better result than social or email. Maybe I am approaching this the wrong way but my personal experience says otherwise, I believe that a direct phone call or meeting will always yield better results.

    That said, social has been great for opening and generating leads.

    What are other’s experiences with this?

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  • Well, one point I’d like to make is that it’s not so much what you say or do on social networks, it’s what others say about you and do for you. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be you that’s available on social networks. Instead of creating an artificial presence and pumping thousands of dollars in the mandatory trade show booth, you might well be better off if you can leverage a social fanbase, a group of loyal costumers who discuss your brand, a group of employees who provide help and discuss development (crowd sourcing?). If social media are not your thing, please don’t try to be what you’re not. Use the ones that are – anything you can do to stimulate rumor around your brand is much more important than simply ‘manning the booth’.

    I also have to say I don’t think Facebook is as untouchable as you make it out to be. Sure, since it’s become de de facto standard of the day it’s pretty hard to beat – but you’ll also see that the crowds will just as easily switch to the next better thing. In the Netherlands we used to have Hyves, which was THE social network you had to be seen in (nobody outside our country knows about it, but trust me – it was much bigger than anything else out there). Still, it lost to Facebook, even though in the beginning, all you’d find there were no friends at all. So why did it happen? Because everybody (but especially young people) wants to feel special, incrowd, smarter than the rest. I think the iPhone is a great example of how this works. For years, this was THE phone you had to be seen with. The Apple brand seemd unbeatable. These days, iPhones are for ‘old people’. Hipsters don’t use iPhones anymore. Just like email is old, just like Whatsapp is loosing it’s appeal, Facebook may well start loosing to the Tumblrs of this world – or whatever the young folks will pick up and develop next.

    I guess what I’m saying is: follow the young folks. Don’t imitate them – don’t try to do what they do – enable them to do what they do best, for you.

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  • Chaz Green

    But we obsess over ROI because everything has a cost. If I can’t calculate my return then it is just a cost. What is my social presence going to cost? It’s not free. If I am a social consultant selling my services than this is an easy argument. If I am selling widgets then will the cost of a social presence bear more fruit than increasing my Adwords spend?

    My experience is that social bears no financial fruit. I am sure there are as many articles that back this claim as refute it. I am just saying this from personal experience and would welcome a model or methodology that proves me wrong.

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  • Great post!

    problem with bosses is that they are just concerned with satistical figures
    like profits, ROI, ROA, EPS and other rubish. :D… However intelligent bosses
    or bosses with futuristic vision can and should identify the potential of
    social media and should take it as an investement rather then a expense.

    another thing that I want to discuss is the future of social media or facebook.
    In last seminar participants told me that they accept the role or social media
    but they are very much concerned about its future. People believe that social
    media will be replaced by any other medium. however I don’t think its the right
    way to apprach the things. One should live in present and should not affraid
    about future. After all you are right who knows where the future will lead us?

    for the wonderful post!

  • Case in point: Please have a look at this nice infographic called http://www.rightmixmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Teens-Facebook-Social-Media.jpeg

  • The fact that I am commenting via my social media profile is proof enough. More and more businesses will heed your advice, and those that do will see themselves with more clientele.

  • Marianne Griebler

    Marketers need to be sales people too: helping leadership in our organizations overcome their fears and reservations about social media and other essential new tools. So just as do our due diligence with our customers (research, relationship building, listening) we have to apply our marketing skills to building trust with stakeholders. And you can’t rush these things; often it will take more time than we’d like. But the ROI is worth it.

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