I was at a networking event earlier this week and a business owner was telling me that he was spending 10-12 hours per week running a Twitter account and had been doing so for two years. My response was as follows:

‘Ah right, it must be doing very well for you then?’

By ‘doing very well’ I meant actually bringing custom and revenue to the business,(a shop selling craft beers, whisky etc) whether that be via direct sales or referrals. So I asked him if that was the case?

He told me that he had no idea if it was driving any sales for the business, he then went on to tell me that he spends very little time assessing the effect of his Twitter activity. This really made my head spin.  The chap then told me that he only does it ‘because he feels he should’ and that he actually felt under pressure to have a social media presence as ‘everyone else is doing it’. Following the crowd ‘just cause’ is rarely a wise move.

I often wonder if people’s attitude to social media is blurred by the fact that it is ‘free’? Of course, it is far from free when you consider the time it takes to use it to any degree of success (or in this case, zero success), but does the fact that the bank account remains unscathed mean that failure is more acceptable?

If you were running ads in a newspaper and had no return on those, would you still pump the money in to them? Unlikely. You may persist, but perhaps with a new ad or offer before throwing in the towel. The mindset around social media should be the same. If it is isn’t working, you need to change tact or take the ultimate decision to stop it entirely. That sounds really obvious, but too many businesses are plodding along, just because they feel they should.

Reflect and reflect some more

It can be tough to admit that something isn’t working – especially if it is the product of your creativity, brain power and time, but you need to regularly take stock of how things are working out, and be honest with yourself. Try new things, ask people’s opinions on your output and make sure to put some form of measurement in place. I firmly believe social media has truly advantageous applications for all shapes and sizes, but it has to be done properly and given the time required for learning, planning, measurement and assessment. One thing that there is no lack of out there is quality resources and guides for all things social. There’s no rush, learn before you leap, take a dynamic approach to your activity and you’ll stand yourself in much better stead for social media success. To use a cliche, social media is a marathon, not a sprint…

For the record, the business owner in question gave me permission to recount our chat.

Mike McGrail

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Image used via creative commons and courtesy of libertygrace0 on Flickr.

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