The way we manage relationships has changed forever. It’s clear that social media has forever effected the way we collectively relate with one another. But do we really understand how much it has changed? Most of the small business owners I interact with see a vague benefit of having a social media presence. Most don’t really understand why they should have one – let alone how to begin. For the relationship purists out there I’m afraid it’s the end of an era. There’s a brave new world out there and like it or not, if you’re a small business owner you need to learn to utilize social media. And while we’re at it let’s just be honest with one another. When we talk about “social networking” we’re really talking about Facebook aren’t we? The fact is that more Americans are familiar with Facebook than have actual access to the Internet (Edison Research, 2011).
“You need to spend less effort trying to bring your customers to you, and more effort going to where they already are.”
This article is not about how to integrate social networking into your business. If you’re on the “how” step, you already see the need for it. This article is for all my friends out there who still hang onto the notion that social networking is a fad that will eventually disappear. It’s for the small business owner whose livelihood depends on relationships – but who still refuses to see that they’re facing a “Facebook Conundrum” (The inexplicable apathy or intense dislike of Facebook – which seems to be in direct conflict with the feeling that the world is changing around you and if you don’t jump on the train you’re going to get left behind). Mostly it’s a wakeup call for you small business owners out there. You need to spend less effort trying to bring your customers to you, and more effort going to where they already are. In a Business Insider article, AxialMarket (2011) states that, “Relationships drive [business]. Relationships are moving online, they’re no longer just offline. The nature by which relationships are formed, maintained, and cultivated is undergoing a transformative shift right now”.
That “transformative shift” is being driven by four important factors. First, is the sheer numbers of people that are currently “getting online”. In 2011 Edison Research completed an Internet and Multimedia study called The Social Habit. Their findings shed some light on the fast changing landscape of personal and business social interaction. It revealed that more than half of all U.S. residents and more than ¾ of all U.S. adults are online. According to the study this ﬁgure is driven largely by Facebook, which is now used by over half (51%) of Americans. And how we love our Facebook! 46 million Americans ages 12 and up reported that they check their social media sites and services “several times a day”. This increase in the frequency we access our social sites is due largely to the second factor, which is the ease at which we can access information through mobile devices. 56% of frequent social network users own smartphones, and 64% of frequent social networkers have used a mobile phone to update their status on one or more social networks (Edison Research, 2011). Third, is the fact that social networks are beginning to successfully brand outside products and services. In fact one in four social network users knowingly follow brands, products or services on social networks. For those who use these sites and services several times per day, this figure increases to 43%. Finally is the incredible advantage Facebook currently has over their users’ buying decisions. Nearly a quarter of social network users indicated that Facebook is the social site or service that most influences their buying decisions. No other site or service was named by more than 1% of the sample.
Facebook may not always be king of the social networking hill. In fact Google+ seems to be making a push for that spot. But the simple fact is that today Facebook owns the market. And if you are a small business who wants a piece of this very lucrative and fast growing market – you need to get over this conundrum – and get yourself a Facebook account.