The explosion of social media has presented businesses with a myriad of challenges to deal with, there's no doubt about it.
If you're a huge conglomerate you need to determine how you're going to maintain an approachable presence whilst handling the inevitable customer service issues that will come your way. Day after day I still see large companies ignoring comments and feedback that are less than complimentary... And I have to wonder to myself on what level they believe this to be an effective technique, because ignored, unhappy customers do have a tendency to get louder and louder, all the while recruiting support for their cause.
If, however, your company is smaller and you're looking to raise awareness, then the social media-powered world really is your oyster.
It doesn't matter how great you are if nobody knows who you are.
The biggest challenge for every small business is spreading their message.
Conventional forms of advertising, such as TV and newspapers, have traditionally been cost-prohibitive and in todays environment they're becoming less and less effective. The buying public are becoming more astute at filtering out what they perceive to be overt marketing messages.
Attention is now being diverted to social networks where people are sharing their news, photos and, most importantly where business is concerned, their buying experiences.
When smaller businesses take an interactive approach to social media, answering questions and offering advice where appropriate, their marketing seed is sown. Let's quickly spin back to the larger organizations who possibly believe they don't need to engage in awareness-building and therefore don't proactively get involved in conversations. Who do you suppose will gain in the long term?
When it comes down to it, we're all consumers.
I've always been a rather impassioned consumer. My belief is that if I'm going to hand over my hard-earned cash to a company in exchange for goods or service, the least they can do is appreciate my custom. I do therefore tend to get rather upset when I perceive that no such appreciation exists, and I make no apologies for the fact that I have vented my spleen on Twitter from time to time when this has happened.
Sadly most of us have experienced dreadful customer service from time to time, so in planning any social media campaign it is always advisable to start from a consumer-centric position. Put yourself in the shoes of your client and lose any biased view of your company .... Why should they come to you? This is the message the smaller business needs to define and refine.
It's not enough to be the cheapest or even to have the best product any more ... You need to be more interested in your market than ever, because whilst they may have always had buying choices, they've never had a better opportunity to talk about them so publicly.
Pay attention and get noticed!
There's no two ways about it, social media is a noisy place to be. And it's getting noisier by the day.
Those who are genuinely committed to offering value and assistance wherever possible will take home the big prize. Of course this takes time, but then no business has ever flourished without a concerted and sustained effort.
Taking heed of what your market is saying is what will ultimately gain you the advantage, so get into the habit of saying less and listening more.
A smaller business will invariably find it easier to take a proactive approach than larger organizations; it's unlikely that they will need to make anything like the same level of reactive responses. The opportunities to sculpt and create alluring social media presences are far more plentiful for smaller companies.
Without the complexities and preexisting cultures that their larger counterparts have, the small business can make significant progress thanks to a nimbler and more flexible operation.
The social media arena may be huge, but it favors the small contender!