June 20, 2012

Rachel Strella

Explaining the Value of Social Media to a Reluctant Audience

By Rachel

I’ve been talking with a prospect for a few months about the possibility of utilizing social media for his local business. At first, he seemed really interested, but each time I speak with him, he has a different reason for hesitating. Most recently, he made the comment that social media might be ‘going away’ because of Facebook’s IPO and the subsequent decline in its stock price. He said he had also read that major advertisers were pulling ad dollars. As a result, the prospect said he needed more time to think about it.

I agreed that Facebook took some heat, but I explained that Facebook does not equate to ‘all things social media.’ In fact, for their purposes – especially as it relates to advertising – it’s just a small piece of the pie. I reminded him that my recommendations included integrating current direct mail offers with a Facebook campaign as well as establishing a presence on LinkedIn, showcasing expertise on a company blog and adding a video component.


Unfortunately, this story is an example of the many challenges social media professionals face as we attempt to explain the value of social media to a reluctant audience.  Some are hesitant to embrace it because they think (or even hope) that it will go way. But, the reality is that social media will evolve and change, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

Last week, Twitter announced that several content partners could integrate photos and videos directly into users' Twitter feeds, which would bypass the traditional 144-character post limit.  This was surprising, as the character limit is a hallmark characteristic of the medium.

And recently, Pinterest has taken the social media world by storm, despite the fact that several similar social sites existed before it (Instagram, Tumblr).

Even Google+ has had a roller coaster ride. The medium received a lot of hype attracting users with ‘invite-only’ acceptance and making tweaks to its interface to correct the things people disliked about to Facebook. Eventually, Facebook improved its customer service which led to a leveling off of the medium. But, Google doesn’t back down.  Hangouts continue to be a popular attraction, the partnership with Android and easy Gmail integration keeps the new users coming, and somehow Google+ continues to attract the male population in a way that Facebook has not. And, of course, Google has the SEO factor which has a primary stake in the online world.

Some use Facebook as a barometer for measuring the climate of the social media industry, and while it’s a big factor, it’s certainly not Mother Nature.

As I said earlier, I predict that social media will continually evolve and change. I also believe that it will be easier to grow along with social media, once you already have an established presence.  It’s important to dip our toes in and get a feel for it. Once we test the water, we can dive in.

How do you explain the value of social media?

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11 comments on “Explaining the Value of Social Media to a Reluctant Audience”

  1. In the 1990s, many wondered whether their business needed a website. No reason not to expect fence-sitting in the social era, though I'd agree a social presence is far more strategic and resource-intensive than putting up an HTML billboard. Unfortunately, Facebook (and its flawed IPO) is being used as a further excuse, despite the fact that Facebook may not be the best “foot forward” for a business (especially in the B2B space). Chris Brogan said he hasn’t made a dime (clients, speaking gigs, book deals, etc.) from Facebook. Maybe it’s time to stop looking at all the bandwagons, and focus on selected social tools and strategies to help companies incrementally add social into their existing sales, marketing and public relations mix.

    1. Great point about websites, Joel! We can expect that when there is something new (and time or money-intensive), that there will be excuses and pushback.

  2. Rachel,

    I'm curious to see if you've gone beyond discussing the value of advertising into providing an active Facebook (or social media) presence with a sound and strategic content strategy?

    Of course, a lot of the time, the value of this contributes to creating trust and brand loyalty, which is often hard to monetize. Have you had the ROI discussion yet from both bases?


    1. Taylor,
      Absolutely! Advertising was only a suggestion as part of a Facebook strategy to start building fans (in addition to integrating with their direct mail campaign). Moreover, I suggested a LinkedIn account, a blog, and video.
      The prospect has a well-established business with loyal clients. The employees are also very knowledgeable and passionate about the business. The whole idea was to work with that knowledge and share content on the blog and social the social media outlets.
      ROI was a thorough discussion with the business development manager. He also understood that the business has a trusting audience and a solid brand, which is why I was baffled at the hesitation. Ultimately, he still doesn’t know enough about social media – at least from the standpoint of being familiar with it – to fully want to embrace it. Some of it may be generational but I think a big part of it is the thinking, “Well, we’ve done business the way we’ve done it for years and never had a problem, so why would I add social media if we don’t need it?”

  3. I enjoyed reading this post Rachel. It was just today that I had this conversation with a colleague. Social media is a such unique form of online public relations and digital advertising that continues to evolve and cannot be ignored as a part of any integrated marketing mix. With reluctant clients, like anything else, "no" often simply means "not right now". I say, continue building that relationship (and drip on them every now & then) for when they have their "aha" moment - you'll be right at the top of the list of people to call to get going right.

    As always, good vibes your way!

    1. Monique,

      Thanks for reading and sharing. This morning in my mastermind group, someone said that it’s difficult to educate and provide a service for clients at the same time. It’s important to make sure you’re matched with a prospect that understands the value you bring to the table. As social media professionals, we are ambassadors first and foremost. Sometimes they 'get it' and sometimes they don't.

      Keep fighting the good fight!


      1. Stella,

        You obviously know what you are doing, and have recommended some great social media strategies. I was the CEO of a large Steel manufacturing facility, and was fortunate enough to go by established reputation, but if I was starting up in today's climate, I would definitely use social media marketing as part of my advertising program. Currently as an online nework marketer, I use it almost exclusively, and integrate many aspects acording to my needs.

        Trying to integrate social media into a company's overall advertising is hard for some owners to understand. The learning curve is very complicated to them as they think in context of what has worked for them in the past which was easy to understand and the conversion rate was easy to obtain, hence they could budget advertising dollars to areas best spent at a time when advertising dollars are critically low .

        I think if you could show them how spending time learning in this area could impact their bottom line, and work out a coaching relationship to help them expand their business expotentially, you would succeed in forming a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationsip with them. You could showcase your success, the referrals would then follow, and you would rapidly expand your client base.

        1. Hi Diane,

          Thanks for the comment and the compliment! I'm so glad you understand the value of social media. It works best when integrated with the word-of-mouth that comes from having a strong reputation.

          You've made some good points here. The tough part is getting them to take that leap, even into coaching. Sometimes, though, I find it's OK to walk away if they aren't 'getting it.'


  4. Rachel,

    I get somewhat perplexed when I reference "social media" and a client comments about their feelings about "Facebook". The last time I checked there are 100s of different social media platforms available and that number grows each day. While Facebook is usually a good place to start, certain businesses would benefit from using different social mediums. For example, people that have a food truck have a much better following using a location-based social medium, such as Foursquare, to let their fans know where they are at all times.

  5. Hi Rachel~

    Love your blog on this topic! You know I sing the same song as you. Not only with my business clients but with all the volunteersand clubs I am involved with in Sertoma, a non-Profit group in which I am the Regional Director.

    I love Joel Don's comparison to the 90's battle of convincing a business they needed a website. That is so true.

    I've found the best way that I have been able to convey the importance of using ANY form of social media (my most recommended are Facebook Fan pages, Twitter, YouTube and Linked In for B2B) is for the business or non-profit to have a new place to 'tell their story'. Businesses invest a lot of money into developing their 'brand' (Think Nike, McDonalds, etc)
    so why sit back and wait for people to find you and your website? Get busy and get social!

    Sometimes I think just the phrase 'social media' makes a clients eyes twitch a little, mostly from the fear of the unknown!

    I applaud the companies that have 'gotten it' and either staff someone in their organization to be the Social Media Manager or have hired outside professionals, such as you, to take advantage of how this can enhance not only their business's brand, but their reputation (quick reactions to negative social media (viral) posts are crucial!) and customer engagement with their services or products.

    And, yes. I agree that sometimes you just need to walk away. Some day that business owner will have a light bulb moment and hopefully will come back to you, the person who tried to flip the switch in the first place!

    Keeping up the good fight with you!

    1. It's funny you mention the light bulb because that's exactly what I reference in the introduction to my upcoming product. I find folks are either a) still hoping social media will go away b) hesitant to embrace is cause it's new and they are scared and/or make excuses c) realize they need to do it but don't know where to start and/or continue to make excuses or d) realize they need to do it and put the resources in place to make it happen. Unfortunately, I encounter the first three all too often. My job is to get them to move closer to the 'd.' There are days I feel like I am more of an ambassador for social media than anything else. It's funny, though, I continue to learn amazing things every day about social media. It's truly a crazy thing - but a good crazy thing. Now, I can't even imagine what life would like without using social media everyday (occupational hazard maybe!!). Honestly, it's woven into my existence. I'll keep fighting because I know those that make the leap - I mean really become a social business - actualize the gains on social media and never go back.

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