If you hung out “your shingle” for your business just 10 years ago, you might fall into the category of what I call a traditional business. Whether you are a service or product based business, a business to business concern or one that markets directly to the consumer the marketplace has changed drastically especially in the last three during the great recession.
The reasons for the change are fairly obvious. How often do you use the phone as the principle way of contacting your customers? How often do you count on the mail for receiving checks or payments from customers? How do you process credit card receipts? Your taxes? How many tasks are you performing today in your business that you used to do that required another employee, or part of one? Are you using an IPad or a smart phone as a regular part of your business communications?
The recession has done a couple of things:
- It has accelerated the use of technology to reduce the cost of doing business
- It has changed the way customers interact with businesses and their expectations with regard to promptness, experience, engagement and ease of interaction
I will be the first one to admit that I was resistant to the social media although I wasn’t resistant to technology. Our company had its first website in 1995 when few companies of its size had a web presence; in those days the web site was static and functioned like an online business brochure. We opened our first online store shortly thereafter. Our uniqueness in the marketplace quickly disappeared.
But I found myself resistant to social media as a core business development strategy until relatively recently. Why? Because I knew deep in my gut that this change would require major restructuring and it seemed like a monumental effort. The fact of the matter is that the migration to social media is a sea change. Traditional businesses, like mine, that were founded with face-to-face interaction are most challenged.
Making a commitment to transition your business from traditional to social media might require hiring someone new with expertise in an area that seemed really foreign at first. Small “Mom and Pop” shops and businesses have the greatest challenge particularly if they’ve been around for a while. Many have already downsized during the recession and have limited capacity to take on new ways of doing business.
Here’s the deal – when it comes to major societal transformations, and I believe social media is one, you can either get on the train or stand on the platform and watch the train pass you by. It might be a train that you won’t be able to catch again or for a very long time. In the meantime all of your competitors got on the train and those who are relatively new in business caught the early train. Missing the train can put you out of business.
So I diagnosed my resistance (which is not my typical nature) and determined that the primary reasons I was so resistant to making needed changes to social media management were: 1) I lacked the knowledge and the skill and did not have it in my company 2) I felt that I would be abandoning my company values in some way and 3) I did not know where to begin.
I am a planner by nature so knowing the obstacles helped me to develop a plan. So I set about identifying a few webinars and seminars I could take on social media. In a year’s time I have attended about 12 – which has enhanced my person knowledge and skill and also given me enough background and understanding to be able to hire help in this area. Secondly, I developed a comprehensive social media plan. It is now a core element of our business planning and marketing at all levels.
Here are 3 steps I recommend to transition your business from traditional to social media:
- Identify your barriers to moving forward. Why are your resistant? What are your fears?
- Take a few webinars or seminars to break the ice and familiarize yourself with key concepts, terminology, different venues
- Get started! Start small so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. Begin by managing one account and get accustomed to it.
We still have a ways to go but now I know where I’m heading. I’m on the train not on the platform. So where are you? If you are reading this blog, you may already be on the train – maybe forward this on to someone who could use this advice.