Those of us who got on the blogging and social media bandwagon early on, have seen first hand the power that is now available for anyone or any brand to grow their businesses online. We understand that there has been a huge paradigm shift with these free technologies that allow us to have a voice equal to anyone out there. To have a voice that is able to build or tap into a community of people in our niche that can and will help us spread the word about our services or products. It might seem to us that anyone who has not done so already is way behind. But that is not so. We have been early adapters. The majority of businesses and industries have not even begun to utilize these tools at all or effectively. It may not be too late, but it is better late than never.
I have had several clients recently, that have come to me in a state of upset. They are upset that their corporate PR job was eliminated, or that their seven year old website is no longer generating the traffic it once had, or that the Flash website that they love, is not converting visitors into clients as it had in the past. I know they are upset. Things have changed and change is hard.
There is a little parable, I have used in my Psychology practice for years ( yes I practiced clinical psychology in a previous incarnation) long before Spenser Johnson’s book on change, Who Moved the Cheese. So, I ask the question now, do you know the difference between humans and rats?
If you put a rat in a maze with three tunnels and put cheese at the end of one of tunnel, the learning curve to find the cheese in the tunnel, for both the rats and the humans, is essentially the same. The difference comes when you move the cheese to a different tunnel. In this new condition, the rat will run straight to the tunnel where the cheese had been. He will scratch around looking bewildered ( yes, rats can look bewildered). He will sniff and turn around a few times, but very quickly, he will put his nose down and find the cheese in new tunnel in no time flat.
However, when you put the human in the maze after moving the cheese, he will go right down to the tunnel where the cheese has always been.He will look around, huff and puff, look pissed off while shouting that the damn cheese is missing. He will then wall to wall carpet that tunnel, and then sit in his favorite chair with his favorite show on the the big screen TV, and wait for that cheese to return, all the while grousing about what could have possibly happened to it.
Boy howdy, change can be hard for us humans. We will do anything to avoid it. You can hear people all over the country being very upset that things are different, not the way they use to be. They realize that things have changed and they don’t like it one bit.
This week Seth Godin wrote a post, The Realization is Now, that speaks to the confusion and frustration that we see in people as they struggle with the changes we are seeing all around us.
- Some people insist that if we focus on “business fundamentals” and get “back to basics,” all will return. Not so. . . .
- It takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the record business, even computers… one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than we’d like.
- It’s unpleasant, it’s not fair, but it’s all we’ve got. The sooner we realize that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we’ve got. Whining isn’t a scalable solution.
I know that there are a lot of people in business who are waiting for things to “get back to normal”. It seems prudent that they reconsider the redecoration of the tunnel where that cheese has been and take some action. There is good news about the action that they can take. Rob Peterson put out some interesting Social Media and Brand statistics that are actually encouraging. Here are a few:
- THE RATE OF GROWTH FOR “SOCIAL COMMERCE” (SALES THROUGH SOCIAL NETWORKS) IS PREDICTED TO INCREASE +56% ANNUALLY FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT 5 YEARS. … brands that use social media for sales are going to more than double their business every two years.
- 25% OF TIME PEOPLE SPEND ONLINE IS ON SOCIAL NETWORKS. That’s up from 15% a year ago
- TRAFFIC TO COMPANY WEBSITES IS -23% IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS.
- 22% OF COMPANIES NOW HAVE A BLOG BUT THE AVERAGE RATE OF POSTING IS 1X/YEAR. That’s over 1 in 5 but the average publishing rate is 1 in 52. The business building potential of blogs has not even been touched.
What I have seen and these stats tend to verify is that companies have not really begun to put into place the systems that will help them to leverage the power of the new paradigm. They continue to have websites which are all Me Me Me. Where they tell people they are great, using the Blah, Blah Blah of market speak when potential clients are much more likely to trust a recommendation they find online from a source not related to the company than to believe the hype that they read on the average company website. Does that mean that the website is dead, given the stat above which says that traffic to company websites is down 23% over the past 12 months? Not at all. It is just that how people make decisions has changed and what they expect on a website has changed. All that remains for businesses to take advantage of this is to go down a different tunnel. Here are a few recommendations:
- The website should be built on a content management system, with the blog an integral part of the site.
- The content on the site must be must be fresh, interesting and frequent (see the stat above that states that the average company blog is updated 1 time per year). This will also help with search engine optimization since Google’s algorithms for placement have also changed since the days of static websites.
- Rather than tell people what you do and why they should buy, hire or otherwise use your services, your writing and copy should “show” potential clients why they want to work with or buy from you. By doing things such as providing excellent, creative or useful content, responding to clients and questions and writing case studies, people will see you for the expert that you are and will share their experience of you, your product and your brand for you.
- This new website should be built as the hub of your social media marketing activity. You can and should build in easy ways for readers to share your posts to their social media sites. Give away free information, discounts, samples, info on specials to entice people to follow you. Make your visitors and the people that follow you on social sites feel like they are special, let them be “in the know”. Listen to them and interact with them.
- Make it personal. Give a face or faces to your Brand. If you are sending out a newsletter, or a tweet, sound like a person, not sales copy.
The statistics above make it clear that there are a lot of businesses and industries that have not begun to tap into what is available to them. Several of our clients have stepped out and stepped up embracing the changes in industries that are still for the most part in the “I am going to carpet my tunnel until the business comes back” stage.
Stromquist and Company, an HVAC controls company, started a training site, Control Trends. In March of 2010, Control Trends had 609 page views on their site. One year later they had 5,505 page views and with 227 posts, have positioned themselves as national industry leader. This in turn has funneled people back to their sales site site for purchases or referrals to other reps across the county. Eric Stromquist even struck up an online contact with Social Media Guru, Mitch Joel and interviewed Joel on this very subject.
Candler Park Flowers broke from the standard cookie cutter, impersonal, FTD style, florist site about a year ago and put together a site that reflects their own personal style and brand. Even last Mother’s day, two months into sporting their new website and in the height of the recession, they saw a huge increase in online orders from around the country. People would rather buy from a business with a face, that they can trust than these impersonal look alike websites. You should check out the online recommendations that they have racked up on Yelp and Google Places. It also doesn’t hurt that more and more consumers are savvy to the fact that you get more for your money ( there is a standard $15 referral fee) when you buy directly from an independent florist.
Lynne Splinter is setting a trend away from those boring, real estate sites that have not been under-performing for years – even before the recent recession. In a bold but savvy move, Lynne changed her site into one that reflects her niche market and is able to hone in on what matters to people in her neighborhood or people looking to move there. Take a look at Cabbagetown Chronicles and see if you would trust Lynne to know what is going on in Cabbagetown. I would call her, wouldn’t you?
As with anything new, these tools represent an opportunity not a guaranty. However, I will guaranty that sitting and waiting for things to get back to normal is not a viable strategy. You have to jump in, you cannot just turn over your social media process to a interns who are on on Twitter, and then complain that you aren’t getting results. You have to be able to try some things and find out what works best for your business or industry. Don’t be pressured to hire the Social Media Consultant who is not walking the walk. There are a lot of out of work folks, billing themselves as experts. Check out their own use and success with their own online presence before hiring a consultant. If you and engage the right people to advise and help you make this change and give it a fair shake, you have a chance to really make a big impact on your bottom line. And as Seth says,
Whining isn’t a scalable solution.