Love it or hate it social media is here to stay

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Just over a year ago Paul Hill the then business editor of the EDP challenged me to get involved in social media.  I even wrote an article in the EDP about how I needed to get up to speed on how to use social media effectively, but that I was doing so with some reluctance.

My first step was to organise a business event last September, it considered all aspects of social media from a novice point of view which meant that I too could learn what was what. I did learn a great deal and facebook, linkedin, twitter and google+ were put into context.  However, I soon found that knowing what each of them did, didn’t really help me to understand how best to use them within my business.

It was time to call in the experts.  I asked lots of questions both from suppliers and other users to see who was engaged in using social media, to ascertain what was right for the Chamber.  What became very clear was that social media is a very new form of communication and there are very few clear cut right and wrong answers but I learnt a number of key lessons.

The first lesson was that instead of replacing the need for an efficient up-to-date website, the opposite was the case.  Social media channels drive traffic to your website so if it is not up to the job you have a major issue. This is why we invested in a brand new website which provides a proper platform for our social media communications.

The second lesson was that social media does not replace any other marketing which you may already be doing but is in addition to the marketing  mix of emails, website, magazine, literature and newsletters as well as face to face networking. All businesses, but in particular smaller businesses have limited resources, which have to stretch even further to accommodate this new communication method.

However, the most important lesson of all is that content is key and without strong relevant content – don’t bother!  As I start to get up to speed and even have my own twitter account as well as the Chamber having one, I am appalled by how many businesses, who should know better, are using social media without taking the time and effort to really think about what they send and to whom. The right online communication sent to a targeted audience is ‘information’ and can produce business. Poor untargeted content is clearly seen as ‘spam’ and likely to damage your credibility.

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and it is important for all businesses to take the time and effort to understand what it means to their own businesses. So needing to understand content management relating to social media better I am organising another September event to hear from the experts. I wonder what next year’s event will be about!

To access details of our Engaging Customers event on 14 September please go here.

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