I was talking with a client of mine the other day and we were brainstorming ways she could promote a new white paper / product offering and one of the things we talked about was using Social Media as a way to get the word out. Through the course of our discussion it struck me that there are 4 levels of engagement that small business owners are using when it comes to Social Media and business.
You can find a lot of examples of each of these levels…especially the first one, which is unfortunately the largest of the four. The remaining 3 tactics are all viable business strategies. Which one you use will be driven by how much time you can invest in Social Business overall, what your personal style is and ultimately what you’re trying to accomplish.
The 4 levels of Social Business Engagement:
Let me take a shot at breaking this down into something more meaningful. Here’s a quick diagram I drew up on my iPad. The Y axis reflects the value a business owner gets from a particular tactic…higher is better. The X axis reflects the amount of time spent on each tactic.
Level 1 – Non-existent
Although it’s not a tactic it is sadly the state that most business owners are in when it comes to their Social Business approach. If you have a half filled out LinkedIn profile or a Facebook page that never gets updated or a Twitter account that was started but only has 2 tweets from last April (one of those being “Trying to figure out what this Twitter thing is all about”), then you are at the non-existent stage from a Social Business perspective.
When you’re non-existent, you are not getting any value…in fact, you are potentially hurting your cause with an incomplete profile…but at least your not spending any time on anything.
The next level up is Visible, which is actually a viable tactic for a lot of small business owners. This approach can provide a lot of value, especially relative to the small amount of time spent. Being visible means that people can easily find you via search and get more information if they’re interested.
In order to be visible, you need to pick at least 1 of the major social media platforms and invest a few hours into creating a quality profile. I’d suggest LinkedIn if you are Business to Business and Facebook if you are Business to Consumer.
A quality profile includes a picture and a clear, interesting write-up on what you do and why someone else should care. It should have at least a little bit of personality and include some personal information. It should be easy to further engage with you and learn more – your profile should have a link back to your website. You should also have a reasonable number of connections (say a couple hundred for LinkedIn…Facebook will vary based on what you’re doing) and you should spend an hour or so a week keeping it updated, posting status updates, answering questions, etc.
As a tactic, Educate includes everything on the Visible level and also includes regular educational updates across multiple channels. The best way to educate is to create great content…it could be blog posts, videos, podcasts or anything else that adds value to your target market. With an Educate approach, not only can your prospects and partners find you, they also can see your enthusiasm and expertise – especially as you consistently share great stuff over time.
This approach can be effective with as little as a 2 to 4 hours per week – that would be the time it takes to write 1 blog post and share it in multiple places (and interact as you would for the Visible tactic).
Finally the Engage tactic is the high end of Social Business strategies. Engagement is when you immerse yourself into 1 or more social media platforms and consciously and consistently develop your own tribe of followers (Customers, prospects, partners, etc.). Engagement strategies are often built on education, but there are other successful engagement strategies built on personality, customer service or just being part or leading a community.
If you can successfully Engage in Social Business, you will create a fan base that can dramatically amplify your message and help drive word of mouth and opportunities your direction. Done the right way, it’s extremely powerful and beneficial.
However…Engagement takes a lot of time and presence (there’s an expectation of real time responses, so you need to be always ‘on’). Additionally you have to genuinely enjoy the process of connecting with your virtual tribe – if you don’t have the right kind of personality you will struggle to make this work.
How are you investing your time?
Every business owner should at least be at Visible on 1 platform. It takes a low investment of time, anyone can do it and it will greatly enhance the number of people who can find you…remember if they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you.
Going beyond Visible is a choice. I’m a big proponent of content marketing and Education, but there are a lot of small business owners who aren’t set up to make an Educate tactic work…and they certainly don’t have the time or effort it takes to Engage. However it’s not all or nothing. On the chart the levels show as discrete options, but it’s actually a smooth curve and you can scale your efforts up and down depending on your resources.
Where are you on the Social Business Engagement spectrum? Does this model make sense? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments…Engage with me in the comments below and let me know what you think!
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach
Photo by JD Hancock