I don’t want to come off like one of those old curmudgeons railing against “the terrible music the kids listen to these days” but hey, there are times when alarming trends are worthy of a rant or two. The subject of my ire? The lack of substantial business expertise provided by too many social media “experts” who sell themselves as business builders.
At its heart, the business-building aspect of Social Media is pretty old-fashioned; it simply uses high-tech methods to help small businesses enhance their client bases through word of mouth and person-to-person connections. Consumers looking for a service or product tend to gravitate to businesses recommended by friends and peers in their personal community. The kinds of recommendations that were shared--in generations past--by people standing in line at the corner market are now shared by people browsing online at their desks.
This simple principle seems to be lost on too many web gurus who are dazzled by the potential coolness of their tools, seemingly ignoring the fact that facebook/twitter/google+/pinterest/youtube/linkedin/blogs/ning/flickr/digg/whatever are merely methods to be used toward connecting with people with each other. They confuse the ends with the means.
Now, for me to point out that the media world has long gravitated to glitz over substance is sort of like complaining that toddlers have long prefered chocolate cake to strained peas, but the point is small business owners are suffering and many don’t even know it. They are over-spending their own limited funds for minimal, if any, returns. Paying for thousands of fans on Facebook is worthless if none of them is a potential customer!
This problem has kicked into high gear with the flood of recent college grads presenting themselves as social media-based business gurus. Aside from some admittedly impressive web site design skills they bring to the table, they offer less than meets the eye. True, most did come of age using digital media so their comfort level is such that these tools are second nature to them. But the downside is that they have minimal life experience, no business experience and little business training. Simply giving their clients a presence on an array of web platforms is meaningless if there is no substance framing products or services in a way that reaches the client's key marketplace.
Here’s the bottom line: When selecting someone to help with individual social media promotion, business owners might do well to keep the following questions in mind:
Does your web-based promotions maven have an understanding of how to sell YOUR specific product or service… or is she just interested in promoting her own business at the expense of yours?
Will your web guru dedicate enough time to learn about your business, your customer’s needs, and how your customers think? Will he interact with the product itself or chat with your sales people or spend time on the sales floor listening to customers?
Just remember, it’s your money. And in this high-tech version of the Emperor’s New Clothes, it's hard tell whether he is dressed like a king or is stark naked… when the Emporer exists solely in cyberspace.