Five Reasons Why Businesses Can’t Afford to Ignore Social Media

Many small and medium-sized businesses underestimate the power of social media. This is especially true in highly-technical business-to-business fields where the customer is another business rather than a consumer. 

Talking to entrepreneurs I hear many reasons for this. Some say that their stakeholders don’t use social media – which is almost certainly not true, they just haven’t noticed. Others say that they have tried using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social sites but nobody responded to their posts. This could be true because it takes time to build up this interaction. 

But even if there is little direct response to social media posts there are some indirect effects that make social media something that a business or organization can no longer ignore. Here are just five of the most important:

SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVITY INFLUENCES SEARCH. Whatever you do people are going to Google you to see who you are. To most people you are exactly what Google says you are, so managing your online reputation is critically important. Luckily anyone can build a robust online footprint very easily simply by creating accounts on popular social sites and populating the profiles. To be seen that is all you need to do, though to get the best results it helps to post sometimes, too, and interact with other people.

MEDIA RELY INCREASINGLY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Journalists in traditional media channels rely increasingly on content from and communication through social media. Everything happens first on Twitter and it has become an ideal place to look for sources, ideas and stories. It’s also a great way to reach out to experts who might be able to comment on a story. LinkedIn, Facebook, GooglePlus and other social networks are also very useful for discussing ideas for articles, collecting stories and identifying experts. To be absent from social media puts any business at a disadvantage in traditional media. Without an online footprint you have to rely on press releases – notoriously ineffective – or personal contact, which is very effective but costly.

SOCIAL MEDIA “UNDERTALK” DRIVES CONVERSATIONS. The people you talk to in normal face-to-face conversations, in meetings and at events are often influenced by social content and conversations – what I call the “undertalk” -- that they have seen recently. This parallels exactly the way that early adopters of the world-wide web were often ahead of other people a generation ago. What this means is that someone who is also monitoring social conversations concerning your business can effectively see what people might be talking about and the position they might take. Even better, if you participate in this social media undertalk you can help to shape the online conversation which in turn means that you influence the face-to-face conversation later.

RECRUITING IS HAMPERED BY ABSENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA. People that you try to recruit are likely to try a Google search and also to look at the social media activity of a company before making their decision. When this activity is absent that can make people concerned that they are making a bad decision. Many people are used to interacting through social media channels so not finding access through this route they already feel uncomfortable. This is not a deal breaker for everyone but when a popular candidate has several offers to consider this might make a difference.

INVESTORS ARE SUSPICIOUS OF SMALL SOCIAL MEDIA FOOTPRINTS. Every investor I have talked to admits that they Google companies before they invest and that they are influenced by a lack of presence. A business can be perfectly solid without a social media presence but the lack of visibility breeds uncertainty and doubt. Given a choice between two equally appealing investments most people would favor the one with a more robust online footprint. This is because good networking tends to boost performance and because good external communication suggests that internal communications and investor relations are also likely to be well managed.

These are just the top five reasons why no business can ignore social media, but any single one of these is sufficient to justify the effort required to create and maintain a basic presence on top social sites. At the beginning it is enough to create profile pages, but to get more benefits you should also be monitoring the conversations related to your business and also participating in some conversations. This probably takes much less work than you expect but that’s a story for another article.

This post was inspired by a short lecture that I delivered at the Future of Swedish and Danish Life Science conference at the Medicon Village in Lund, 8 April 2015.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing
Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on social media and other communication topics. You can contact him through email using, by phone at 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475 or through his website


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