Time to get tough with the social media doubters

I’ve believed this for some time, but let others’ reservations and the fear of being labelled a crazed social media sycophant render me less vocal than I should have been.

I listened to the ‘expert’ with the marketing diploma who told me ‘social media is great for some businesses, but not all’; I listened to the small businesses – my readers – who time and time again told me they weren’t interested in or didn’t get Twitter; I listened to colleagues who cautioned its more for media or tech types and not our core audience; and I paid too much heed to the stats that showed the vast majority of successful small businesses don’t use any social media and weren’t searching for it in particularly large numbers.

I didn’t actually agree with any of this, don’t get me wrong. My conviction never weakened. I just respected people’s opinions and, besides, you’re supposed to listen to your customers, right? Wrong.

Well wrong in this instance, because they’re wrong. All their businesses could benefit from smart use of social media, they just can’t see it yet. But they will.

I do realise how arrogant this sounds, but I just no longer believe there’s a single valid argument to be made that social media doesn’t work for businesses.

How can you not want to benefit from Twitter when it gives you free access to what 78 million people think? That’s free access to what your existing and potential customers want, don’t want and think about your business, your competitors, your sector. How does it not make total 100% sense to interact, communicate and get to know your customers?

If 350 million people on Facebook share 3.5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts) each week and 80 million Facebook users are engaging with external sites via Facebook Connect – why are you ignoring it?

How is it not smart to put your business in the places where your customers spend their work and leisure time and expect to find you? How can you still avoid video when YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine?

Why aren’t you uploading images of your products to Flickr if millions of people search its library of 4 billion images every day? How does it not make sense to have your personal details and the details of your key management and sales staff on LinkedIn as 50 million other people do? If a client expects to find you this way and can’t, what does it say about you and your business?

How does it not enhance your business to use all these social media sites and more, heck maybe just even a blog, to show you and your employees are knowledgeable and passionate about your subject and to prove other people think that too?

If you’re telling me any of the above doesn’t make sense, then seriously, you shouldn’t be in business.

If you’re still labouring the same old tired excuses – ‘I don’t have the time’; ‘my customers don’t want it’; ‘I’m worried it could damage my brand’; ‘it’s hard to measure’; ‘what’s the ROI?’ – you’re either not listening, you’re wrong or you’re soon not going to be in business. Probably all three. There are no excuses, let alone reasons.

So what made me get a grip and stop pandering to the doubters? I listened to Smarta founder Shaa Wasmund (she is the boss, after all) and downloaded the audiobook of Gary Vaynerchuk’s (@garyvee) Crush It!  Why now is the time to cash in on your passion.

I’m not going to go into detail about why this is about the best book you can buy to understand how social media works and why it’s going to drive everything going forward – I’m just going to tell you to buy it.

One thing, calling it a book ‘about social media’ is actually a disservice – it’s a book about business. About entrepreneurial insight, customer service, product, killer marketing strategy, sales.

If you care about your business, buy it. Seriously, do it.

Because the sceptic in me lives on, I’m sure many of you won’t though. Indeed, some of you will simply dismiss this blog post as another load of jumped-up, social media bravado ignoring the ‘real needs’ of small businesses.

So here’s a quick experiment: Name me one type of business that wouldn’t benefit from social media or shouldn’t use it and I’ll give you a reason why they would and should.

If I can’t or three people reply disagreeing with me, I’ll donate £10 to charity. If it’s your business and you try what I suggest then realise I’m right, you donate £100 to charity (that’s a pittance to the savings and sales potential I’ll have opened your mind to). Deal?

This blog was previously posted on Smarta.com