The Choice to Go Social

If you’re engaged in the world of social media, you’d probably be surprised how many brick-and-mortar businesses remain hesitant to join the social media hype. Whether they think it’s just a fad, fear bad reviews online, or don’t have time to invest in a growing list of social channels, many businesses still choose not to engage with online communities.

I used to think that businesses who chose this path were foolish to ignore this shift in how people interact, learn and make purchases. And for many of us, starting up a Facebook page and Instgram account is just a natural part of starting any new idea or business.

But, as Mitch Joel, Alison Kramer and Scott Stratten pointed out in a recent Six Pixels of Separation podcast, many businesses have learned how to win at social media without actually engaging in it themselves. They point to brands like Sriracha sauce (Huy Fong) and Apple as examples of of businesses who have avoided social media channels, yet have viral brands online.

This demonstrates a truth about brands that hasn’t changed:

Your brand isn’t what you say about yourself, it’s what others say about you.

All (as Stratten calls them) “vanity metrics” of likes, followers, and friends aside, social media is in many ways simple an amplification of the word-of-mouth marketing that we’re all familiar with. If people have a good experience with you, they’ll recommend your services to their friends.

For businesses in the habit of making great products and providing remarkable service, social media is a huge asset, whether they’re actively engaging in it or not. Instead of being limited to coffeeshop word of mouth, their true fans can recommend their services to friends online.

Mediocre businesses, on the other hand, have a more difficult time getting away with poor service or products that aren’t as “at-home good” as their ads promise.

Whether you decide to engage in social media or not, you must focus more on your customers’ experience these days than ever before. If you consistently delight your customers offline, you’ll win in the online world as well.

Some would suggest that because of social media, everything has changed. But it many ways, they haven’t changed very much at all.