Social Channels? Not Optional.

Note: Originally published in Marquis Messages.

Are you one of those leaders who scoff at Twitter, laugh at LinkedIn, badmouth Facebook, and ignore Instagram? I’ve got news for you: social media is no longer optional for businesses that want to continue to grow. Why? Because those channels are where your future customers are looking for you.

“But Sarah,” you’re saying, “our clients don’t find us on social. That’s not where people look for our services.” Or maybe, “Sarah, social is a time suck. We can’t invest our resources in something that won’t get us customers.”

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, way back in 2009, I approached my (then) boss about establishing social channels for our global nonprofit. Given the challenges of communicating across technology, language, and cultural barriers on a shoestring budget, I explained, our best bet was to utilize free new tools like Twitter and Facebook. She disagreed. “Our members are busy and don’t have time to be on Facebook.”

She wasn’t entirely wrong. While many of our members did have Facebook or Twitter accounts in 2009, they weren’t necessarily using them in a professional capacity. But what about our potential members? The organization had grown steadily over the course of 35 years, but the core members were aging rapidly. One of the organization’s goals was to attract and nurture a younger audience. I knew that young people had a different relationship with social media, and that their habits were changing the landscape. If we wanted to capture their attention, we needed to be in the spaces they looked, which meant cultivating a presence on social channels.

I lobbied for my cause with statistics about the rise of social networking and examples of successful channels from other associations. After months of impassioned pleas, my boss allowed me to create a Twitter account in 2010. Before the year was out, we had more than 700 followers. She was swayed enough to give me the green light on a Facebook page in 2011; within three months, we had more than 500 fans on Facebook, climbing well over 1,000 by the end of the year. For people who didn’t have time for on social media, our members spent quite a bit of time connecting with us on our new channels.

As it turned out, while most of our social followers were members, many were not. They were simply individuals who were interested in what we had to say, and the only way to communicate with them was over social media. By establishing social channels, we were able to share our message with a previously unconsidered and unreachable population who now might become members, attend our conferences, purchase our books, and otherwise sustain the organization.

The problem with making communications decisions based entirely on your current audience is that you miss opportunities for growth.

There was a time in the infancy of the world wide web when it didn’t matter if your business had a website; today, if you don’t have a mobile-accessible site, you may as well not exist. In 2009, not very many companies used social; today, you can find every big brand and most of the little ones on the channel of your choice.

Your current customers may never use social, but your future customers already do, in ways you maybe haven’t considered. Make sure you’re there when they come looking for you!

If you need someone to get you started with social channels, content strategy, and channel management tools, contact Marquis Leadership.