Mystified by social media? Be a customer.

July 2, 2009

I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised at how many business owners, leaders, and managers there are who are really confused, intimidated, or mystified by ‘social media’.  I admit that I certainly was one of those people up until several months ago.  I was so focused on my corporate job responsibilities that I didn’t take the time to observe what was going on around me.  I absorbed marketing trends on an ‘as needed’ basis (as dictated by the immediate needs of the company I worked for).

I think that there are probably a lot of people out there in a similar situation to this.  Now, suddenly, ‘social media’ seems to be everywhere, and there are a lot of people who are really nervous about it.  They aren’t quite sure what it is, they don’t know how to use it for their business, and yet all of these social media experts are saying that they have to act quickly before they get left behind.  No wonder so many managers and business leaders are so uneasy about social media, and aren’t sure what they should do.  I think that all of this buzz and urgency is making social media seem bigger and more intimidating than it really is.

Don’t get me wrong – social media is a big deal, and it is a great thing.  It finally gives brands/businesses the ability to have conversations with their customers.  Business leaders have a better chance of understanding their customers’ needs, issues, and concerns than ever before.  They have the chance to ask customers for help in making product or service decisions.  They can leverage their customers to troubleshoot problems and can really bring their brand to life for their customer in a way not previously possible.

So since social media can be such an extraordinary tool for businesses to leverage, I’d like to provide a bit of advice to those leaders who are still intimidated or confused by it.  My advice is simple:  Before you do anything for your business, remember that you are a customer too.  You buy products and services.  You have hobbies and passions outside from your work.  Why not see how social media is used between you as a customer and the brands, companies, thought leaders, and celebrities that you are interested in?

Watch and listen.  Participate in the conversations that interest you.  Sign up for Twitter and follow people, brands, companies that interest you.  Don’t know who to follow?  Check out Tracking Twitter to find some great companies and people to follow.  Go to Google Blog Search and search for blogs on topics that you want to know more about.  Be a ‘regular person’ – just like your customers are. 

I guarantee that within a few weeks, social media won’t be so intimidating anymore.  You will begin to see opportunities for how you can join in the conversation with your customers, and how certain tools might be really useful for your business.  Sure, implementing a social media program for your business will still take a lot of thought, strategy, planning, and resources to implement effectively — but it will be so much easier to embrace it and understand its value once you can experience it as a customer.