In my short experience in this game, one thing I know is true – so true in fact that it may just be basic and awfully boring to some of you! If that is you, it’s OK to leave now, this is meant for all the newbies.
When I spend some time with a client, learning about their business, their customers and their values, we then get onto their website. I deal with small business, they are mostly concerned about their own little place, not what the rest of the whole world thinks!
They watch me have the same experience their customers have when they go to the website. Sometimes they stand back, arms folded and gloat over their wonderful work. Most times they look on, cringing ever so slightly. Mostly, I find that the website could be a little prettier. Actually, never mind just pretty, some of them could be a little more user friendly, possibly designed in this decade and with a bit more of a welcoming spirit about them.
What happens when your customers land on your web page? Do you give them an experience, or do you give them information? This is 2009 we want the experience thanks.
If I want contact information about your business, I can go to the Yellow Pages (but please don’t send me there!) It might be that your information is not up to date, that your website doesn’t reflect what you are telling your Social Media person, or that it doesn’t really reflect who you are anymore. I tend to find when submitting proposals to clients, that the lead time for consulting is quite long. Usually long enough for them to fix their website, so they can work on getting people there.
When you start engaging and conversing with customers, suppliers or anyone that hasn’t previously heard of you,what they find on your site is static. So static it is so far out of date that you would be embarrassed if someone came up to you at a party and said that they saw your website and “I didn’t think you did that anymore”, or didn’t I see on your website that you had won that big account for ..(insert out of date and large company name here)”. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. I think part of the reason is that websites used to be really expensive to create. People think that they still are. Of course some of them if they were created long ago, will take either thousands of pounds to rectify, or thousands to make something new.
Let’s face it, you can no longer just hope to go with the website you created when your business was starting out, or the website you just had to have that was created with no money and just looks plain ugly, is completely dysfunctional and sends your customers screaming to your competitors. Sorry to share the news folks, but if your website looks like crap, Social Media won’t help you! As part of your “we had better have a social media consultant” budget, you may need to consider these other things:
- Is there money in that budget for a revamp, upgrade or total demolition and rebuild of your current website?
- What do you actually want your website and your social media campaign/strategy to do?
- Does it reflect your business, branding, customers, members, suppliers etc? Do you want it to?
- Are you doing SEO and link building? Do you need to – do you want to?
- What other online marketing strategies are you engaging in and do each one of your consultants know what the other one is doing?
Be prepared for change.
Yes, your website probably will change, unless it is already great and you are into this whole SEO/SEM digital marketing space. Well done you. You are the minority I can assure you. It is interesting when I go to industry events that are run and include mostly industry people, they don’t really realise that industries like hairdressers, dry cleaners, child care centres and stationers are not into any of these SEO/SEM antics!
I digress…I was talking about being prepared for change. I’m not just talking about changes to your website, but changes to your whole business. Once you start engaging with your customers (that is “listening and talking” to them by the way), they will start providing solutions or suggestions to your customer service problems, your structural or strategic issues. Nothing is off limits with social media. To be honest, I love that I can now have an input to any organisation on what MY opinion is. Personally, I never really needed Social Media for that. Of course they listen to me……….
Your business may well change. That was…your business may well change.
The way you deal with your staff, your customers, your suppliers could change. That will mean that people feel empowered to contribute to your business. This is not like telling someone how to parent their own children (boy, isn’t that a tough lesson to learn!?). As a consumer, you have the right to contribute your thoughts to your suppliers, partners and the businesses you frequent daily. They of course have the right to ignore you and do more often than not; at their peril. We all have the right to choose who we do business with, who our customers are and to say no sometimes to clients.
It is like getting a job. Don’t just be grateful that you got one, no matter how long it took you and how desperate you were. Think about what you can contribute, by all means, and make it a damn good contribution too, none of this turn up and be absent thank you! Contribute as if you were a valued member of staff. Then you can discuss with your employer just what they are bringing to the table. Your employment contract, like the contracts you have with your clients should be about relationships and should be about values – yours and theirs. If they don’t match, don’t go there. The stress mis-matched values costs you is far too great, even for the holy dollar, pound or yen.
That was me digressing again. Sorry!
I tell my customers and my prospects that one of the goals of Social Media is to drive integration with customers and share information. In this day and age, whilst we think it doesn’t always mean that, it means we will be driving traffic to your website. Are you ready to expose yourself like that?
I don’t do website modifications btw. I know some people I would refer you to, but part of my remit is not making people spend more money if they don’t have to. I don’t work like that.
It may sound to some that I am working on doing myself out of a job! This is about sharing information with people who are thinking about jumping head first into a Social Media campaign or strategy. I talk about whole of business strategy, not just a campaign. That means that you need to think about what your whole of business is saying, who you are saying it to, and how you are saying it.
Social media is not the panacea of all ills. It will create change for you, your business and your website. Are you ready for that?