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The social media boom is here; don’t be a bust

Every time I’m in front of an audience I ask two questions:

1. How many of you have some social media involvement? (Almost everyone raises their hands.)

2. How many of you wish you were better at it? (Almost everyone raises their hands.)

And keep in mind this is from a (supposedly) sophisticated group of people. They all have smart phones, most of them get personal Facebook notices on their phones, but for one reason or another they have chosen not to enter the world of business social media. Many are on LinkedIn and have a few connections, almost none of them tweet and even fewer have their own YouTube channel.

What’s your social media status?

Reality: Some huge companies have gone all out in social media while others have their heads buried in the sand or are playing “me too,” because they woke up one morning and found their competition gaining ground through a prominent and active social media presence. Still others are claiming “regulations” are keeping them from engaging.

Here are a few examples of big companies taking big advantage of business social media:

  • Starbucks is asking customers’ opinions and soliciting customers’ ideas (where do you think the idea for that little green stopper splash stick came from?).
  • The CEO of Sun Microsystems blogs daily.
  • Burger King is continuing to let customers “have it their way” online with information and coupons.
  • IBM is utilizing every aspect of social media and has plans to double their efforts in 2011 by trusting and encouraging their employees involved on a personal-business level to their individual customers.
  • Ford is using social media as a PR communication device and consumer sounding board and feedback opportunity.
  • Comcast is tweeting individualized customer service help messages.
  • And as if they weren’t customer-service-dominant enough, Zappos tweets their service responses, and as a result receives thousands of positive tweets.

All of these companies, B2B or B2C, emphasize the same word in their philosophy and their outreach: community. They all recognize that their customers have a voice, and by listening and responding to them, they’re discovering benefit and profit.

These are not isolated examples. They are typical examples of how big business is using the power of social media to inform, communicate, serve and sell.

How are you doing? What’s your “community” strategy? Who are you listening to? Who are you responding to? Or are you still answering your phone and “serving me better” with nine options? Pathetic.

Here are 6.5 tough questions designed to make you think, plan and act:

1. What are you doing about the social media opportunity?

2. How are you attracting customers and prospects?

3. What’s your value message beyond product offerings?

4. How are you engaging customers and prospects?

5. How are you connecting with the people you engage?

6. What’s your social media doubling plan for 2011?

6.5. What policies, trust issues and lawyers are holding you back? Get rid of them (no play on words intended regarding the lawyers).

Those are painful questions that need answering before January of 2011 rolls around.

Reality: And while you sit around strategizing and legalizing a business social media plan, your competition is laughing at you, hoping you’ll delay even more.

Tweet power: I tweeted this quote last night: “The more you hold your people back from using social media at work, the more your competition will kick your ass.” Less than one hour after it hit the Internet, more than 50 people had re-tweeted it, and more than 100,000 were exposed to the message. And me. For free.

Reality:

People have made the following statements, or asked me the following questions, over and over:

  • How do I use business social media to attract?
  • Isn’t social media for kids?
  • I have never tweeted.
  • I tried it and didn’t get any results.
  • My boss won’t let us use Facebook at work.

Huh?

Reality: Individuals (like you) can safely set up their own value-based, value-messaging business page on Facebook inside the parameters of whatever guidelines your business has. And you can do the same with twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Problem: It requires hard work

Major clue: Start today.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of “The Sales Bible” and “The Little Red Book of Selling.” President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs sales meetings and conducts Internet training on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com.

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