Could Ignoring Social Media be Bad for Business? Part 1
In an article posted by Hollis Thomases in the April 26, 2013 inc.com post, social media is the topic and the consequences of ignoring social media are brought to light. It is a great article that breaks down several points, reasons why business owners ignore social media and the relevant outcomes to their bottom line. The line that grabbed my attention in the first paragraph of this article was this one: “But one move will have more measurable impact on your bottom line than the number of Likes, mentions or +1s will ever have: ignoring.” We have two clients that have issues with their use of social media – using this article as a guideline, let’s create two case studies from Client A & Client B, reviewing what they are doing/not doing according to each factor in the article.
Background: Micro business; 2012 was a stellar year for this business – retail sales were up 57% over the previous year. The owners attribute their successful year to the influx of customers both private and corporate who came upon this particular company through views on Facebook, Twitter and their blog, where they showcase their decorations and services, events they have managed and new offerings. In a NYC Zone A the day Superstorm Sandy struck, the entire production area, all storage and displays were completely destroyed. Out of action for two weeks, the business has floundered since November 2012, as they have received no financial assistance from NY State, City or Federal agencies. In business since 1993, business is good but sections of the business that were lost with the storm have not been reinstated – their store manager did not return so the co-owners have had to go back to basics and manage all of the day-to-day processes themselves, leaving little time for attention to social media.
Background: Small Business; 2012 was another in the last few years when gross revenue was down slightly, approximately 20%. The owners cannot explain the drop in sales but rather blame it on a weak economy and a client base that is getting older. This company has prided itself on never having to advertise. The first generation that founded the business did so when print advertising was the basic form and was astronomically expensive. Their web page is rarely updated and has been cited for broken links and misinformation, lacking continuity within the site itself. Social media usage is minimal although the owner in charge of their tech feels that an update at a holiday or two is sufficient. They do not feel social media or an on-line presence is necessary – “that’s not what we do” and “they know where we are” are two things often said when marketing is discussed. Also in NYC Zone A, the business was approved for the higher end limit on an SBA loan but nine months after the storm, they have yet to receive actual funds. They have done a complete rebuild with no modifications to design or function and on the word of their construction contractor, made no use of the tremendous social media opportunity the storm left in its wake.
Small business owners usually wear a thousand hats and have just as many issues on their plates on a day-to-day basis. Taking time out of a day to concentrate on the Social Media aspect of marketing your business may not be something that is in the cards for most business owners. But ignoring the fact that Social Media drives a major part of advertising and marketing could signal the beginning of the end for some of those small businesses.
For our purposes within this article, Client A has from their very beginning focused on their competitors, involved themselves with their industry by joining professional groups, attending seminars and workshops, and, generally, keeping an eye on industry trials and tribulations as well as shifts in marketing and client requests. Client B is a second-generational business with a rich history. The new generation of owners was eager to make their own mark on the community at large, taking the entire operation from a small facility to one serving hundreds of clients at a time. New equipment, a new plant design and a second generation client base enhanced by an economy that was making more of their customers more and more comfortable and willing to use their services made their numbers skyrocket and “things were good”.
Both companies have dealt with the economic and emotional impact of the September 11th attacks, the .com bubble burst, the housing market collapse, and the tremendous economic downturn of the late 2000′s. Client A reworked their focus many times over their 20 year history; Client B kept their focus on what they new worked. Client A had tried to advertise via traditional media early on and again after 2001, but budgetary constraints made it almost impossible to create a media campaign that was effective. Client B continued the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality – first generation didn’t advertise, and they wouldn’t either. The “tech”savvy co-owner thinks that posting a holiday menu and an old picture or two suffices for a Social Media marketing campaign.
Client A has few online reviews. The nature of the gift giving business is such that the person buying the product rarely is at the location on the day the gift is delivered. They are not the ultimate user so rarely do they give feedback unless there is a high level of interaction between the sender and the receiver. Client B has had numerous calls, notes written and now, Yelp and UrbanSpoon reviews that are not exactly glowing. However, they are one of the few remaining “old school” establishments and for that fact (and the fact that their product is impeccable), they continue to enjoy their returning clientele but they are not always happy either, but are almost intimidated and won’t say so.
As a result, neither business is well positioned to hear criticism or praise for that matter about their business and do not know what may be said about them online – bringing these possible reviews to a global level. As former Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett has stated the so-called ‘risk of ignoring’ references the dangers for companies that choose to turn a blind eye to social media while everyone else in their world embraces it. He sites the following risks.
Conversations Go On Without You
If you’re MIA, you better hope people are saying positive things about your company because you won’t be there to defend yourself. If people want to talk to you and can’t find you on social media, they’ll talk about that too, and then their friends and connections will see you’re absent. These are all the wrong kind of amplification effects.
For Client A, who has a strong social media campaign in place, alerts automatically reach their community manager as soon as they hit Google’s pages. The alerts include when, where and how the feedback or mention has come in and this gives the community manager the opportunity to respond. Client A has all e-mails funneled to one area (Outlook) and can respond to any direct feedback immediately also. Responses through Twitter seem to be the most effective as they are short, quick and right to the point – as are the users of Twitter, so a quick response is appreciated.
Client B’s community manager does not exist. Rather, any mentions on the Internet largely go unnoticed, save for a Yelp review or two, as they have set up notifications through Yelp for when a new review is received. Generally, these Yelp and other niche review sites garner a prompt response from the owner, which isn’t always the best rule of thumb to follow. Many customers as well as staffing have tried to bring the absence of a social media campaign to the owners’ attention but are answered by the set-up response mentioned in the background for this client – once or twice a year is a fine response for their social media campaign.
You Miss the 24/7 World
Even brands that have social media accounts have learned the hard way that they really can’t ever “go dark” in our 24/7 world. I recently attended a conference where Travelocity revealed a social media “war story” where a mommy blogger started complaining over a weekend on her blog about her Travelocity website experience, and because Travelocity wasn’t monitoring the social media sphere over the weekend, her complaints only got worse.
Client A often states that “The store is never really closed” – 65% of their overall sales come via the Internet, which gives them an international client base. As an ecommerce presence, the overall look, content, backlinking, etc. must be updated almost daily in order to insure high customer satisfaction levels. Even with only one day off during any given week (that being a weekday), Client A is constantly checking all areas for mentions and feedback on every level of their operations. They have the ability to not only monitor their business remotely but also can respond to any issues with service from outside their physical location.
Superstorm Sandy created “downtime” for both of these Clients. Client A’s physical location was down for two weeks – Client B’s, one month. Client A kept all their followers and fans apprised of the damages from the storm, the cleanup, work that began again, friends in the business that helped them get back on their feet, and when they were ready to resume “normal” operations. Client B posted storm damage photos with the exact same text introducing each picture on Facebook during the first week of the storm’s aftermath; a thank you to all who showed support; and not another post until the end of November, just three days before they reopened. Their Twitter account was not used. Nor were any review pages or sites that could have brought information to their client base. Client B did not even use their own website to keep their clients informed. In fact, no closure information was posted on their web site – when you arrived at the website, the business appeared to be running “as usual”. A perfect opportunity to walk your customers through the rebuild along with spreading the word about a grand re-opening was not used. Putting aside social media for a moment, as Client A & Client B are situated across a physical street from each other, many of Client B’s customers contacted Client A through all social media channels to inquire about the progress to Client B’s location, as they were unable to find any information from Client B directly. Many people outside the community these two clients are based in thought that Client B may have actually decided not to come back after the storm. Now, ten months later, some patrons do not even realize that the physical location of Client B’s business has been totally redone after being storm ravaged.
Part 2 of this series will center on concerns with hackers, competition, losing footing with existing customers, not having a presence for new customers to find the company and more. All of these issues along with decline in rank on search engine pages can lead to decreased revenue. The possibility exists to actually so damage a brand that a complete re-branding might be the only salvation for an entity.
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