Last week I presented what I'll refer to as "drive-by" presentation to my Vistage group on social networking. The session quickly evolved from what is LinkedIn, Twitter and other social network tools to the "who has time for this?" and "some of us have to spend time servicing clients." For small business owners as well as almost anyone managing a business, both sentiments are very real…. and should be a concern whether you're asking them outloud or thinking quietly to yourself.
My first reaction to the group was to think about Michael Gerber and the E-myth. I first read "The E-Myth" in 1991 or 1992. The take-away has been and is: to sustain success you have to stop working in your business and start working on it. The reaction of my colleagues and peers (and even myself until just recently) to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook is a symptom of the E-Myth. Social networks, helped significantly by the coincidental collision of Web 2.0 and the economic crisis, are changing the way business will be done. The mere thought of these questions confirms a mindset focused in the business today and not on what's ahead tomorrow.
Author John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame offers one of the best explanations of social networking and it's application and implication for every business and organization in an ebook called Let's Talk. In it he writes, "if you're not participating in social media, you're not really online."
What this means for your business is this: if your business does not depend on networking to grow your business and/or if your business model is not susceptible to the growth of the Internet, then ignore social media. BUT if networking and the Internet will change the way customers buy from you or even the modify the products you sell, then you are writing your business obituary by not participating.
Besides learning how to get started, it's a must that you consider how you might apply it. Consider this story I read today how Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz tweeted before and after President Obama's speech last week. Here is an excerpt of his explanation about why even Congressmen are tweeting:
"Twitter allows me to get out my message to people directly, and more than 1,900 people are now "following" my Twitter messages — my name on Twitter is "jasoninthehouse."
People are amazed that it is really me on Twitter. They are flabbergasted that they can communicate with me directly. Others in Congress are doing it as well. I think it has long-term ramifications. All the members are here to represent thousands of people, and communication is the key. If you do it right, it can even be fun."
For business owners as well as managers and leaders in any organization, the question you should be asking isn't if you should participate in social networking but how? How could you connect more often with your customers and employees using social media? What services, support, or other offers can you deliver instantly that could help grow your business and gain a competitive edge?