Over the past several years, friends and colleagues often have asked me ... does your operation have a Facebook site? While a presence on Facebook may be important, better questions are:
- Who are my customers?
- Where might they may "hang out" online
- When my customers are online, is their frame of mind focused towards leisure or work?
The theme of these questions are ... unless you understand your customer, the "knee jerk" reaction to spend resources and create a Facebook site may be an unsound business decision. With respect to my personal Facebook usage, I limit that experience to "friends and family". This means Facebook has a "leisure time" focus for me. If your customers are similar, it does not make much sense to create a business focused Facebook site with which your customer may not be very inclined to interact.
Let me explain it another way ... not many aircraft engines are sold via Facebook, but for a business with a "leisure time" focus like Betty's Pies on the Northshore of Lake Superior, Facebook is a good investment. Although most of you have never seen the wilderness beauty of the the Lake Superior's northshore, many of Betty's Pie's customers are from the Minneapolis / St. Paul metro region 225 miles to the south. These customers think "vacation" and "leisure" in terms of Lake Superior and Betty's Pies. Thus, a Facebook site is logical, and your customers / Facebook users may be favorably inclined to interact and help market your business.
What if your company is more like the jet engine example? If your customers are more industrial in nature (i.e. your products and their usage of same), it is not likely that a large investment in Facebook will make sense. Given this scanario, one's focus should turn to LinkedIn.
In a recent study published by the University of Massachusetts, the top 500 companies as represented by Inc Magazine now invest more heavily in LinkedIn rather than Facebook.
Here are two quotes from the study:
- LinkedIn leads the way. The platform most utilized by the 2012 Inc. 500 is LinkedIn with 81% of companies using it. It has replaced Facebook as the tool of choice for these fast growing companies. The use of Facebook has dropped 7% in the past year while both LinkedIn and Twitter have gained users. In 2011, Facebook was being used by 74% of the Inc. 500 and Twitter by 64%. In 2012, 67% of the Inc. 500 used each of them. 28% are now using Foursquare and 18% use Pinterest.
The other comment which jumped out at me was the increasing use of blogs. Obviously I've invested heavily in NorthStarNerd.org over the years. Blogs give one the opportunity to reach out with a more in depth commentary where you control the message. Like any of these tools, any resource should be part of an overall strategy.
- Blogging jumps among the Inc. 500. Thirty-seven percent of the 2011 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog. In this new 2012 study, the use of blogging jumped to 44%, increasing by 7% after remaining stagnant for years. Sixty-three percent of CEO’s report contributing to content as this mature tool enjoys a bit of a resurgence.
You may be intersted in reviewing some of my own LinkedIn research published over the past five years
In closing, here is a graphic from the study. The same questions which have always driven good marketing and sales efforts still hold. You need to understand the needs, desires and actions of your customers. Your social media strategy should reflect that understanding.
Click to maximize the graphic and view at full resolution.