The past few years online have been an interesting ride and things are only going to get more interesting thanks to Social Media. We are all consumers and now through Social Media the strength of our voice and influence is amplified by the size of our networks (see my previous post 4 Metrics of Social Media Impact). On the other side of the coin many of us are also our own company and brand, this is particularly true for photographers.
Social Media is both loved and feared. How you feel about Social Media for one depends on how much knowledge you have about it and secondly how you use it. Do you use it as a consumer or a company? More times than not we use it as both but with a tendency of one versus the other. Social Media is very easy to fear and several businesses small and large fear it to the bone. Sometimes this fear is warranted and other times its not.
I had an interesting experience with my wife just the other day. We had her car in the shop for some repairs. We were on our 4th visit bringing the car back in a two week time-frame for the same problem. My wife was extremely frustrated with the auto repair shop. Promises had been made and various employees were giving her different information about cost. Did we owe another $700 on top of the initial $500 spent even though they had told us it was guaranteed work? A communication breakdown happened, but by the time we talked to the manager in person we were told that there would be no cost to our most recent repair. The manager stated to us more than once, “Customer Service is important to us and we want you to be happy.”
I did not envy the manager of this shop eating $700 in parts and labor. He seemed like a sincere guy, but his statement and delivery were different than times past. In the age of Yelp neighborhood repair shops live and die by customer reviews. Did he look up that my wife is active in rating neighborhood shops? Did he know that my wife had been relaying her displeasure through sites like Facebook? Check out this video on the relevance of Social Media and read on…
Social Media with out a doubt gives every participant a lot of power and it is certainly changing how businesses and customers interact. Reputation and Trust are pillars of business that are being rediscovered. Businesses moving forward are going to have to be built around these principles if they plan on surviving. Social Media services are communication tools. Tools that hyper-connect people, ideas and interests enabling word of mouth to spread faster than ever before.
Fast moving word of mouth has the ability to reinforce or reshape a business’ brand, messaging and standing in their market. Social Media can be and is a differentiator in highly competitive or saturated markets. It is for this reason that whether you’re large or small taking part in Social Media is important. Whether you’re in or not others are likely talking about your business and its better to be in the mix to shape the perception of your business (see Social Media + You – Brand and Reputation Management = Disaster).
After my last post 4 Metrics of Social Media Impact I was asked by a reader what is the Return on Investment (ROI) for Social Media, but the more relevant question is what is the Return on Engagement (ROE)? ROI of Social Media almost always gets boiled down to time versus traditional expenses impacting profits. Social Media services are almost entirely free at this time, while your time to take part has a cost to it. Converting reputation, trust and influence are at the heart of ROE. Is your online activity engaging, influencing and converting activity to revenue? Is the activity of your network helping influence others who might contribute to growth in your revenue? The power of a vocal customer can drive business to you or just as easily to a competitor.
Business endeavors built around Social Media no matter how narrow or broad are now and forever tied to reputation, trust and influence. Whether as a business you’re using Social Media services as a sales vehicle, for marketing, customer service, PR, community building or just for fun you are slowly developing a persona that is quite transparent to others in how reputable, trustworthy and influential you are. That trail of activity you create online has both a short-term influence and a long-term influence. Short-term influence happens with active followers who track your updates. With careful planning and creative marketing you’ll hopefully be able to convert such followers to revenue generating activity. Long-term influence happens when others who find you for the first time through search see past Social Media activity. It’s easy to forget your Social Media activity is search-able and does impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.
Now is the time, even if incrementally, to establish an early and positive relationship with your target audience through Social Media. In 1, 3, 5 or 10 years the seeds you plant now may have a cascading impact to your reputation, perceived trustworthiness, influence and ability to convert online activity to revenue. Every business, particularly photographers, need to take note of this; unlike traditional businesses our company name is often our own and beyond being successful in business we want our name to remain in good standing.
[tags]Social Media, trust, reputation, influence, SEO, business [/tags]