The way we view social media is changing, and it has huge implications for the way we do business.

Back when you needed a college email address to log in to Facebook, it was acceptable to say you didn’t participate in social media. After all, we all still took our cameras to the pharmacy to have them printed, and most households still had newspaper subscriptions. You may have used email or AIM, but you probably didn’t think of that as social media.

Fast-forward to today, everyone (including my neighbor’s dog) has an Instagram. Still, some businesses have been slow to adopt a social media strategy. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we’re all a little stuck in the way we think about social media. Even some of the seemingly tech-savvy people I’ve met look at social media with a tinge of derision. I think that comes from a lack of understanding about what social media truly is (and what it’s capable of).

So let’s change that! Let’s flip our understanding of social media on its head because, honestly, our perception of social media is stuck in 2006.

Without further ado, here’s:

3 Things Business Owners Get Wrong About Social Media

1. Social media is a term to describe networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Yes, and no. Sure, that’s a handy way of characterizing these sites. But let me ask you something, is Amazon social media? “No!” You might say, “That’s an e-commerce site.” It is, but it’s also social media. Let me explain.

In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s law banning convicted sex offenders from using social media was unconstitutional. One reason for this ruling was that the law’s interpretation of social media was much too broad:

“Opponents had raised concerns that the measure could be interpreted as covering other online activity in which users must create profiles and can interact with other users. That even could include certain news websites.”

Now, I won’t comment on whether or not offenders should enjoy these rights, but it does go to show that social media is not so easily defined.

To return to my question, think of your last Amazon purchase. Did you browse reviews? Did you need to log into an account when you checked out? Perhaps you needed to contact their support team. All of that is social media.

What about the last time you read a news article online? Was there a comments section? Was there a share option?

You get my drift.

The point is that social media has moved beyond where it was 10 years ago before Mark Zuckerburg was a household name. It is now so entwined with the way that we spend our time online that it is now longer accurate to limit the way we think of social media to our interactions on a handful of platforms.

Think of it this way, all social networking is social media, but not all social media is social networking. You dig?

Okay, why does this matter? Well, it brings me to my next point…

2. My customers aren’t on social media.

You will usually hear this in regards to an older customer base. There’s a misconception that the 40+ crowd doesn’t spend their time on social networking sites, and, while it’s true that some platforms like Snapchat and Instagram skew young, over half of all U.S. adults aged 18 to 65 are Facebook users. If you think about this, it makes sense. Older users with adult children, distant relatives, or old friends want to keep in touch with those who have moved away or with whom they’ve lost touch.

Not only that, but remember how I said that practically everything on the internet is social media? The older generation also dominates some sites that we often overlook when we discuss social media. Sites like Yelp are especially attractive to older users. Although there’s not much you can do about a bad Yelp review (besides learning and improving your services in the future), but that is all the more reason to make sure they’re focusing on your content, rather than a two-year old review from a grumpy customer. It’s important to realize that your customers are spending time online, and that they’re paying attention.

Think of the way younger social networkers generally browse. They mostly just scroll, occasionally stopping when an image or headline catches their interest. Now think of the way an older person browses social media. They don’t just scroll. They read, and they engage more deeply with the content they view, which, if this is your key demographic, is great news for you because (spoiler alert!) it’s not all about your number of likes.

3. Social media is all about views and followers.

                                                                         Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash 

Social media is about so much more. Although these metrics can be useful, they’re only one part of the equation.

Think of it as quality vs. quantity. Would you rather have thousands of followers who only superficially engage with your content via likes or the occasional share, or would you rather have a few hundred loyalfollowers who form connections with your business by commenting, browsing your website, or even making a purchase?

The answer should be obvious.

So stop asking, “How can I increase my follower count?” and start asking, “How can I make my audience want to engage with me and my business?” When you create value for your customers, they will want to seek you out. They will want to support you and give you their business because you’ve invested your time in them.

Unfortunately, getting customers to seek you out (instead of the other way around) is a complex topic for another post, but, for now, just remember that begging for likes will only get you so far.

Nearly a quarter of small business owners say they don’t use social media. That’s a problem.

This lack of understanding can even prove fatal to a business. In fact, a study by the consumer review site, TrustPilot, reports that about 20% of potential customers check out a brand’s social media presence prior to making an initial purchase.

But who can blame some small business owners for being hesitant to embrace social media? Plenty of people will tell you that personal branding is nothing but ego and that anytime spent on social media amounts to hours of your life that you will never get back.

But, as I hope you’ve learned, that’s not true. Social media is so much more than it used to be.

So, if you take away one message from this post, let it be that social media is more than sharing cat pictures and hashtagging your breakfast. In fact, I like to say that social media is merely the evolution of the internet. Everything online is social, and using this knowledge is a powerful tool in creating a deeper connection with your customers.

Thanks for reading.
Take care.
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