Small business owners and marketers are businesses have been hearing about social media for a while.
Things kind of started back around 2005 when businesses started putting up pages even before business pages were a thing.
I still remember when a restaurant in town started a Facebook profile for their business using a student email address from the local college. It was crazy. “Businesses can’t use Facebook” was the reaction.
I think before that businesses would occasionally put up MySpace profiles. There is an episode of King Of The Hill about the propane business setting up a MySpace page.
Then Twitter came in around 2008 and businesses started getting on board with Twitter and Facebook opened things wide up for anybody to join and for businesses to create business pages instead of profiles.
Now, 7-10 laters, we’re still trying to figure out if social networking is right for businesses.
So let’s examine some of the pros and cons of social networking that have really been around since the beginning and that still exist today.
Hopefully the information will be helpful when you’re deciding if social networking is right for you and your business and when determining how you should use social media if you decide you want to do so.
Pro: Large Audiences
The biggest pro and perhaps the biggest reason you see businesses using social media is that there are large audiences on social media. In a recent study, 170,000 respondents said that on average they spend 1.72 hours every day using social media. That’s almost 30% of all time spent online.
Anytime you have that many people in one place, essentially, you’re going to get marketers interested. When you know where people are you can win their attention.
It’s why super bowl ads are so expensive. Millions of people all watch the Super Bowl and they all watch it at the same time. You can reach a big audience with a Super Bowl ad and you can potentially reach a lot of people on social media.
Pro: Outbound and Inbound Marketing
Unlike the Super Bowl, social media provides the opportunity for businesses to use both outbound and inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing would be paid methods where you’re paying to use the social networking advertising platforms. You can sponsor tweets or messages on Facebook and reach targeted audiences within those networks.
You can even engage with social networking celebrities or power users to help promote your business.
You can also use inbound marketing with social media. This is where you create content that your target audience is seeking. They’re searching for or interested in getting answers to questions and if you provide the answers you can win their attention.
The difference is that with outbound you’re usually interrupting your audience and hoping they’re interested in what you’re promoting. With inbound, your audience is searching for something. They want the information. And you can provide it for them.
With social media, you can do both strategies. Inbound is a great long-term strategy and you can do outbound while you’re building your inbound strategy.
Con: Organic Social Media Is A Long-Term Play
That leads into the first con of business social networking: it’s a long-term play.
Now, that can be a positive because many things in life are best done for the long-term. The reality also is that many people get frustrated when things don’t start working right away.
If you can keep the vision and keep on working you can see the benefits in the long run while others fall off to the side. It takes your competition out, but there is always still a chance that even if you invest in the long-term effort that it won’t work out like you want.
So it’s a risk, but much of what we do in business has at least some risk especially with your time.
Con: No Control On Social Networking Platforms
One big con to social networking especially for businesses is that you, the business, don’t really have control over the platform.
You’ll often see people get really worked up when Facebook makes a change to the main platform. Users, not necessarily business owners, go crazy because they have to relearn things and figure out the changes.
Changes can occur really at any time on social networks that affect how businesses can use the network. Facebook has made more than a few changes that affect how many of your fans or followers will see your updates.
If you invest a lot in social networking for your business you always run the risk that one change could set you back. You could work and work to build up thousands of followers only to see a change come in and make it so you can’t really interact with those followers.
Pro: Multiple Networks
Finally, I want to end on a pro of social media and it’s the fact that there are multiple networks and you don’t necessarily need to use them all for your business.
If you’re a business professional selling to other businesses then chances are that LinkedIn or Twitter might be the best network for you. If your’e B2C or if your business is really close with your clients in a personal way then Facebook might be the best network.
You have options with social media. You don’t need to use Facebook because it seems like everyone is using it. You can choose the network that is best for your business and invest your time there while kind of keeping an eye on the other networks.
You don’t have to use them all
Hopefully that little bit of insight can help you as you’re making your decision on the pros and cons of business social networking. In the end it is a risk to play the long game with social media, but it can pay off in the form of new business coming in and that’s always a good thing.