5 reasons you should be in social media, even if the boss says “no”

By Mark Schaefer

Boss driving you crazy?  Having a hard time selling the idea that you need to be on the social web?

I know first-hand that there are still many naysayers out there who don’t understand why they need to have a social media presence. Here are five reasons that should convince even the last hold-out to get on board …

1. Social impact on search

What percent of your business starts with a search on Google? For many businesses it may be as high as 90 percent. And if any of your business comes through search or your website, then social media is inextricably linked to your future success.

One of the most important and significant changes the search engines have made to deliver meaningful and personal results is to incorporate social media results as part of the validation process for content.  Social validation and “authorship” are guiding more search results. To be part of this, you need to be creating and igniting content. Establishing authority on the web through your social media content will dramatically help you improve your organization’s search rankings over time. And almost every business can benefit from that.

2. Facebook is the Internet

A common question I receive in my classes and workshops is, “What will be the next Facebook?” A point I try to make is that the emotional switching cost to moving away from Facebook is enormously high. That’s where you have all your friends, photos, videos, and family members. It’s where you have your Farmville farm for goodness sake!

I’ve made the argument that it might be easier to change your house than to change your social network.

Research from The Social Habit, a division of Edison Research, reveals that more than 80 percent Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 are on Facebook and more than half are active every day. There is no other brand in the world that boasts that kind of market penetration. To this demographic, who either are, or soon will be, your customers, Facebook IS the Internet.

And the popular social network is rapidly spreading across every demographic and every region of the world. It is the largest media entity in history.

One interesting and significant trend is that the amount of search on Facebook has been rising dramatically, and of course Facebook’s new search engine development will further serve this trend.  Increasingly, Facebook will be the way people find and connect with goods, service, companies, and brands. It probably makes sense to stake your claim there, right? Who knows where the future will lead us?

3. Social proof

When we don’t know the truth, we look for clues from our external environment (like number or “badges” on a website) to help us make decisions.

In our information-dense world of the Internet, we’re starved for clues to help us determine leadership and authority and we readily turn to “badges of influence” like number of Twitter followers or even a Klout score as convenient indicators of power.

Perhaps the most prestigious symbol of social proof today is the Facebook “Like.” Among many companies, there is a Facebook arms race in progress as competing brands do anything necessary to gain the upper hand on this important metric. I recently wrote a post describing a company who has an internal marketing metric of “cost per like.” On the surface, this seems ludicrous but it demonstrates how strategically important this symbol has become.

This might seem a little “icky,” but it’s real. Don’t overlook social proof of authority as a legitimate reason to have an active social media presence.

4. The Trade Show Dilemma

Have you ever had to sit at a booth during a boring industry trade show?

I did, and I hated every minute of it. It was nice to network with people in the industry and maybe even chat with customers, but it was certainly not a very effective use of my time! Despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on this marketing event, we rarely sold anything, learned anything, or created any new value beyond handing out nice pens.

So why did we do it?

Because if we weren’t there, people would think something was wrong. We would be ostentatiously absent.

In this day and age, not being on Facebook or Twitter sends the same message. “Ajax Printing isn’t on Facebook? I guess they just don’t get it.” Even if you DO get it, it tells a story that you don’t get it. Having those social sharing buttons on your website is the new trade show. You better be there, even if it may not be the best use of your time.

5. Social media is the future of communications

The Net Generation – your next pool of employees, customers, and competitors – prefer to use text messaging and the social web over any other form of communication. It is the natural evolution of communications. You might enjoy reading a paper copy of The Wall Street Journal each morning, or even looking at an online version of your favorite news site. Nearly half of Americans under the age of 21 cites Facebook as their primary source of news.

The social web is where a generation is going to connect, learn, and discover. Ignore this at your peril!

So there you have it.  If your CEO is still haggling with you because you can’t prove the ROI of social media (don’t get me started) show her this article and say, it’s not just about ROI … it’s about relevance!

I’d love to hear your comments about these observations.  Fire away in the comment section!

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Toothpaste for Dinner

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