Northern Territory businesses DO NOT need social media

Screenshot from Social Media RevolutionThis sweeping statement is as wrong as the opposite side of the coin, namely, Northern Territory businesses DO need social media.

The simple fact is that there is NO one size fits all answer to the question, does my business or organisation need to be using Facebook, YouTube, etc?

This week, again, in one of my small business-focussed, Web2.0 Sales Opportunities workshops at the Business Enterprise Centre NT, I was challenged by a participant who said they don’t want or need to use social networking or social media for their business.

My response is the same as always: my job is not to coerce or force anyone into using these online social tools, my job is merely to alert you to their existence, show you how they can be used and then, if you wish, think through their relevence to YOUR business.

And so, today, I want to bust some myths and save you from the carpenter for whom the solution to every problem involves nails.

The intoxicating lure of Web2.0 tools

The head of the ABC, Mark Scott, was in Darwin recently and showed a video clip that I use in my workshops about the Social Media Revolution. If you want to see it, look at The RITE Series homepage.

It shares a number of important insights into how social media and social networking tools are seeping into our daily lives.

One of the most important is the insight that in the UK, half of all mobile internet traffic is to Facebook, and it poses the question about what this means for customer service. Good point. Now, if I get bad or good service, I can rave instantly online to hundreds and then thousands and then millions of people through a quick status update on Facebook via my mobile phone.

But then it makes two outlandish claims that really hurt the chances of Web2.0 evangelists being taken seriously by traditional business people:

  • We don’t have a choice whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it
  • The ROI (return on investment) of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years

Here is why these two terms just don’t sit right with me, especially from a Top End perspective.

Firstly, we DO have a choice whether we use social media channels or not, just as we have a choice whether to give good value or service, advertise in traditional media, or use internal systems to make our operations more efficient. Each of these decisions has repercussions.

Just this morning, I read a note from the president of the eMarketing Association in America, Robert Fleming, who said quite bluntly that you DON’T have to have a social marketing program because if you cannot allocate ‘time, money and energy’ to make it work, going off half-cocked could be worse than doing nothing at all.

It is true. I would much rather NOT have my expectations raised, as a consumer, by your invitation to contact you via email or Twitter only to be met by silence. It is as bad as sweeping marketing promises that are impossible to meet.

Secondly, failure to use social media will NOT wipe your business off the planet within five years. I am willing to bet that local excavation companies, certification training companies, local delicatessens and a myriad of other Territory businesses will still be here without lifting one, online, social finger.

An increasing number of customers for these businesses might find them after asking friends for recommendations within social channels (eg, does anyone know a good plumber in Katherine?) instead of looking in the newspaper classifieds or the Yellow Pages, but their absence from these places will not be fatal.

Are we off the hook? Can we ignore social media in the Top End?

No. It doesn’t quite work like that.

For businesses that feel busy at the moment, habit will prevail for longer than it should. I am surprised by the number of business people who just keep running ads in the NT News, Darwin Life, local television stations, local radio, etc, without knowing conclusively whether that spend is delivering value. Don’t get me wrong, it is fine to be using traditional advertising for your business, as long as you are deriving tangible benefit. Good salespeople at these media outlets will spend time understanding your business, its target market and your goals before prescribing an advertising package. Better still, you will have a clear understanding of that yourself.

The danger with the business-as-usual approach is opportunities could be passing you by.

As I walked through the Darwin streets this morning, I was struck by the number of people, like me, wandering along with one eye on the footpath and the other on their phone with little fingers tapping messages or navigating websites, apps, etc. While this should be a sign that the social revolution is real and your online visibility is becoming increasingly important, I stop short of saying it is absolute proof that you must move now.

For each of those phone-gazing Darwinites I saw, there were tenfold, twentyfold, heck, even fiftyfold other people NOT using a screen to navigate this world.

So my question to leave you pondering is this: Given there are 70,000 Territorians using Facebook to connect with others, plan social gatherings, or share commentary on the world, around 1,000 on Twitter and more than  8,000 using LinkedIn, and given that access to these circles is free, does it make you wonder what you mixing in these circles could do for your business?

If you answered yes, then The RITE Series will be a great place to start, to pick up some thoughts and, come October Business Month, download a Territorian-flavoured guide to smart ways of using these social tools.

If you answered no, then I wish you well and ask you to put a note in your calendar, five years on from today, to contact me to let me know whether you are still in business, out of business, or finding ways to adapt to the social marketplace.

Please add your thoughts below – remember, if we use your comments in the ebook being produced in October, you will be given attribution.


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