Social Media: Survival of the Most Transparent

Darwin’s theory is alive and well on the Internet. We have seen the Internet evolve from a potent research tool, to a high tech business billboard to today’s hyper-charged, super-powered connectivity tool. Every day hundreds of millions of people visit LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Craig’s List, Skype, etc. If you need more information about a potential customer or employee; it’s out there. There are no more secrets in our Web 2.0 world. Survival of the fittest is becoming survival of the most transparent.

Many organizations are using these tools to capture more business and grow. Create an informational video (10 minutes or less) for YouTube promoting your product, good or service and watch the viral marketing touch more people than you imagined; penetrating markets that were, until recently, unattainable. Be certain to establish keyword tags that draw potential customers to your video on YouTube. Once a few people view it they can then comment on it, share it with their friends, family, coworkers and social network by linking it to their Facebook or LinkedIn profile; and watch it spread like wildfire.

Facebook has created the ideal “opt-in” marketing platform (see Permission Marketing by Seth Godin). When creating a Facebook page users are asked to register their favorite movies, sports, books, their education, skills, interests, etc. as a way of individualizing their page to reflect their personality. At the same time, products goods and services are directly marketed to individuals who have an express interest in them or are in a specific geographic area based on the information a user has included in their profile. Currently there are 175 million active Facebook users. Once you have captured the attention of one of these users, they can easily click through to your Web site. But this attention matters little if your Web site is not up to snuff. If you are driving traffic to your Web site be sure that you have an informative, clean, honest direct message to convey to your customers.

You can also create a “Fan” or “Group” page on Facebook that accomplishes a similar goal as a LinkedIn “Group” page. Don’t go into the creation of these pages blind. Have a strategy prior to creation, use your internal marketing resources or utilize an outside firm to create a goal for your social marketing plan. This format allows you a platform to directly communicate with your customers, clients and potential customer or clients. Remember that you can easily offend these visitors if you become too self-promotional. Tailor your content to be value added, create a loss leader or educate your audience about your product, good or service. If you sell too hard you can turn off potential customers. By helping people do their job better or improving the quality of their life they will certainly consider you and communicate your message to the market.

These sites can also provide you real-time feedback on your offering; leverage this information to improve. The axiom of “People do business with people they like, trust and understand” holds true in social networking sites. Transparency is rewarded in these communications; compelling good work. For business development purposes; once a thread is started on your LinkedIn or Facebook Group page follow it; these become sales leads (leave the negative comments alone and focus on the opportunities). As you can imagine this creates a tremendous amount of work creating multiple pages to track and respond to requests for information. Dedicate one point person to handle this responsibility. Congratulations you just created a job! (A much needed thing in our economy.) You will not be disappointed with the ROI of this investment; after all creating a page on Facebook and LinkedIn is free.

A client recently asked me if he should be concerned about his employees being registered on social networking Web sites. Depending on your business, Facebook could certainly be viewed as a waste of time at work. However, if you are in a service business there is no better way for your clients and potential clients to get to know you (See Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith).

LinkedIn is currently the preferred mode for professionals to get in contact and connect with potential new customers through an existing network. This becomes an ideal platform for sales professionals. LinkedIn creates warm sales leads; imagine asking a friend to introduce you to one of their friends. Everyone’s social network is no longer hidden (this could be a positive or negative), if your friend knows the CEO of a potential customer you will see it on LinkedIn. As a point of interest, there are settings on LinkedIn to block viewing all this information. Facebook has similar blocking applications.

Web 2.0 has created an onslaught of information for us to digest through new paradigms. It creates even more challenges and opportunities for us; but remember as Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Todd Hohauser is president of Harvey Hohauser & Associates, an executive search firm in Troy, Mich. He can be contacted at [email protected].