At several recent industry conferences I attended, social media was the topic of much conversation. Everyone wanted to know what this new phenomenon is and should they be doing it. I think the discussion warrants a closer look at the Internet, which is, of course, the medium that social media exists within.
Any discussion about the Internet first needs to start with all of us thanking Mr. Gore for developing it, right? Now that the political satire is out of the way, we can proceed with a more intelligent discussion of this great tool. Or is it a tool? The Internet definition of a tool is: A device that aids in the accomplishing of a task. So, by definition, the Internet most certainly can be considered a tool. While it does not actually accomplish any real manual work, it can supply knowledge and information to assist us in accomplishing our work.
Like any information source, it’s important that it is a trusted source of information. When receiving any information on an important project, it’s always important to verify the source’s credibility. Just like when you’re making an important purchase for your business, you need to research the product sources and validate their claims. This is where it gets complicated on the Web.
Just for fun, I Googled “body shop” just before writing this article and turned up 144 million results. While Google is an excellent search tool, 144 million results, at 10 per page, would require a significant part of our day to sort through. It’s true that you can narrow your search topics and get a shorter list, but even so, give it a try. Just type in something that you’re interested in and Google away. Look at the top lefthand corner and see how many results there are. Out of all those results, how many are accurate or even relevant to what you’re actually interested in? This is the phenomenon called “information overload.”
So far, we’ve only looked at the Internet from one point of view: ours. Let’s turn this around and see how it reflects on our business. How will your shop stand out in those 144 million search results when one of your customers Googles “body shop” to look for you? Even if she narrows it down by putting in your city, will you show up? How many pages back will you be? Few searchers ever go past page three of results when looking for a provider. All of a sudden, word of mouth and customer loyalty look pretty good, don’t they?
If you think I’m trying to discourage the use of the Internet, you’re wrong. It’s a tremendous source for businesses and can be a time-saver, too. It just needs to be kept in perspective, which leads me back to the initial subject of social media. The real value of social media is just that: social, or keeping people connected and sharing information. To the extent your business wants to communicate messages and information about itself with specific groups of people, get out there on the social networking sites and communicate. Note, however, that you’ll need to monitor the amount of time spent doing it and your results. It’s really just another form of customer interaction and communication.
Today’s business owners are faced with many opportunities to gather information and communicate. Each of them should be evaluated for their effectiveness and utilized appropriately. I’ve communicated many times that change is good – it just needs to be well thought out and done for a good reason. See you on the information superhighway!