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Why Your Business Needs to Take Social Media Seriously

Many business leaders dismiss social media as a collection of toys and games for people who like to waste time talking about what they had for lunch, bowling irritated birds, and raising virtual crops.Picture of a crashing wave

It’s true.

Social media, like the cell phone in your pocket, can be used for trivial and stupid things.

Those leaders who may be inclined to take social media seriously often point to various problems with existing social networking sites. Facebook, the leading social network, for example, exhibits a significant lack of concern not only for privacy, but users in general.

While this is also true, new site on the block Google+ is pushing Facebook to pull back a little on the privacy front and may challenge them on the user-centricity side. The site
captured more than 25 million users in its first month of existence and may yet challenge the Facebook gorilla for dominance.

In other words, the social media marketplace continues to evolve, and everything you now think you know about social media may very well be wrong in a minute or two.

Turn Haters into Evangelists

Just as the sites are evolving, our personal behavior norms online are evolving. Sure, there’s a lot of negativity out there, and much of it could come your way if your business ventures into social media. Perhaps it will take the development of ubiquitous video connections to moderate thoughtless online behavior. It’s kind of like flipping off a careless driver and then finding out he’s your neighbor. If you knew that in the first place, your reaction would be less extreme.

And that’s the point about social media: Be a Person.

If you’re worried that people will bad-mouth you online, first consider that they probably already are. Next consider how creating a personal relationship with the haters might affect their behavior – potentially turning haters into supporters or even evangelists. There’s more about this process in our series, How Can Social Media Scale?

Social Media for Online Survival

If the forgoing is still not enough for you to get off the social media dime, the most compelling reason to get into social media is for survival.

If your business has a presence online, and you’re interested in being found via search engines, you have to get into social media. Now.

Search is morphing from the mechanical, SEO-dominated techniques of today to a recommendation-based model based in large part on what people are saying about your brand on social media.

In the rapidly-approaching future, what your prospects’ friends (yes, even for B2B brands) think about your products and services is going to be much
more important to online findability than today’s page-rank-based, how-many-keywords-you’ve-stuffed-onto-your-pages techniques (a gross simplification of modern SEO, to be sure).

Social Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that businesses will no longer have the convenience of considering people as generic “consumers,” differentiating them only by gross measures such as ethnicity, location, salary, job title, and other demographics. Businesses in the future will not only have to know more about their customers, they’ll have to better know their customers and be able to relate to them as individuals.

That’s a sea change, and if businesses think they can ignore it by discounting social media or dismissing it as something that doesn’t work, they risk missing the wave.

This sea change poses a number of very serious questions for all businesses:

  • How can relating to the whole person scale?
  • Is it possible to hire enough people to establish relationships with all your prospects?
  • How will you deliver a highly-personalized product or experience to your clients?
  • How will you convert customers into supporters into evangelists?

These are the important questions, not whether Twitter is stupid or Facebook is a joke.

If you’re not working on the answers to these evolving questions, you really could miss the boat and be under the wave, not on it.

What’s Google/Motorola All About?

Bloggers and analysts have spilled a lot of ink and electrons about Google’s move to buy Motorola Mobility. The comments tend to fall into two camps: Google’s brilliant; Android’s dead.

I think Google may be playing a deeper game than many give them credit for.

Personally, I’m in the camp that thinks Google’s hardware partners will have a problem with Google competing with them.While it’s possible that Google checked out the acquisition with these partners before going ahead, I don’t think so. Not only does that not seem to be their style, why would they tip their hand to competitors who might want to mount their own bid for the struggling Motorola?

It seems to me that Google is too smart not to know that owning a hardware maker might alienate their hardware partners, and thus the plan may be to spin the hardware portion of Moto back out, keeping the patents and possibly some of the talent.

Taking a look at Google’s play at buying wireless spectrum back in 2007-2008 might be instructive. At that time, the ink and electron spew was all about two things: Could Google really change their business model to morph into a telecom provider, and would they offer free, advertiser-supported services on the bandwidth if they obtained it?

It turned out that Google’s spectrum bid was a ploy to force the price up so the winner had to be more net neutral, based on “open access” requirements set down by the Second Report and Order released by the FCC.

That wasn’t as it seemed either and I suspect we’ll be hearing about plans to sell Moto Mobility to HTC or Samsung in the future.