While visiting with a friend a while back, I had the chance to hear about a local business owner—the friend’s boss—whose aversion to integrating social media into his company’s marketing strategy was so fierce as to arouse suspicion that perhaps his taste for the web had been forever soured many years prior by an exceptionally negative online dating experience. At any rate, the Owner’s company—let’s call it Stuck in Our Ways, LLC—had a history of success and had continued to perform well as of late. However, the Owner’s employees, whose average age hovered somewhere within the late twenties, had become troubled by the asymmetry of search results provided by Google upon searching their own company’s name versus those of their competitors. Specifically, the Company’s website, which was more like an uninspired business card attached to a “.com,” had stubbornly retained its impressively static original design for several years, while the rest of the Internet marched steadily past on its innovative way. And despite the fact that most of SIOW’s employees actively maintained their own personal Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, void was the Company’s web presence of any trace of such sites. Finally, while there did technically exist an SIOW Facebook page, countless years of consistent neglect had precluded the Owner from realizing that the Draconian privacy settings he’d opted into several years prior were preventing users from liking, posting to or generally interacting with the page in any capacity outside of essentially just verifying the Company’s address and phone number.
As a result, several of these employees, including my friend, had approached the owner, first individually and later systematically, inquiring about the possibility of performing something of a digital makeover on the business. The Owner’s response to his employees’ inquiries had been as consistent as it was resolute: “That’s not necessary.”
My friend and I discussed this phenomenon for quite some time in an effort to identify the owner’s motives, which we thought might lead the way to a potential solution. Naturally, we immediately launched into a tried-and-true discussion of generational differences, attempting to reconcile the rift between the Owner’s Baby Boomer demographic and that of his predominantly Millennial employees. It seemed possible that the Owner thought the Company’s older clientele would find itself alienated by a sudden guerilla marketing movement of the digital persuasion. Maybe, we suggested, he pictured his clients’ desktops being commandeered by obnoxious pop-up windows and spam email. We promptly discarded this explanation, however, as my friend indicated that, while the Owner was markedly ignorant with respect to certain modern computing conventions like social media, he was simply not this oblivious. We then considered the possibility that the Owner was personally intimidated by social media, a technology that literally housed itself in his employees’ back pockets while remaining frighteningly foreign to him. Of course, that didn’t really sing for us either; there were just too many examples, we decided, of the Owner bucking various business trends and attempting to innovate for this explanation to be valid.
As we were getting up to leave, my friend said, “It’s like he thinks the whole thing is just going to blow over. Like the Internet in its entirety will just go the way of the 8-track or the Betamax.” It occurred to me then that we’d been neglecting the possibility that the Owner wasn’t just behaving irrationally but truly, genuinely believed that his Company could not and would not benefit from making these changes. After that, the solution to getting him on board with the idea of upgrading the Company’s web presence became readily apparent: prove it.
Subsequent to our conversation, my friend recruited his co-workers to generate professional social media accounts, separate from their personal pages, from which they began posting content related to their business and promoting the Company. Only weeks later, when the Owner saw the response—followers piling up and clients interacting with his employees in real-time—my friend suddenly found himself providing tutorials on the differences between an Instagram post and a tweet and the meaning of that pound symbol that seems to have anchored itself to the front of every pronoun in recent history.
How social media can be used successfully to promote your business depends heavily on the type of business itself. Not all social networks available are conducive to promoting every sphere of business, but some of the ways in which these sites can be put to work are less obvious and still worth entertaining. Facebook, for example, now provides applications that can allow users to post reviews of your business and even make appointments directly on the company’s page. Whether you’re actively posting daily photos and updates about your business or merely providing an accessible forum for customer questions, take a few moments to consider what an upgraded professional web presence could do for your success.
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