In Conversation with… Sabian Wilde

Marketing Lecturer. Writer. Music Bod. Claims to have coined 'Perthonality'

Does my business need to be on facebook?

with 2 comments

My, my; but it has been a long time between drinks, hasn’t it?

But as another cliche puts it: If you haven’t got anything nice to say, blog away until discomfort passes, using your custom keyboard that only accepts keystrokes made in blood don’t say anything at all…

Fortunately, I find myself with rather a lot of nice things to say.

I’ve recently taken up a position as a Marketing Lecturer for Music Industry Business students.

I love teaching — it provides (a) a reason to organise all the things you think you know into tiny units of communicable information, and (b) an audience that had better damn well listen.

So much for my stand-up comedy aspirations.

Anyhoo, I was asked if it was necessary for a music business (not necessarily a band) to be on Facebook, to which I replied, “Not really — noone does any real business on FB.”

In response: “People do business on facebook all the time — excuse me, I’ve got a Skype-call coming through…”

[commence rant]

Taking the opportunity to organise a considered reply, I offer you all this (in recognition that this blog had ceased to be useful).

“People do business on facebook all the time”

To my mind, this isn’t quite right.

People don’t buy, sign contracts or conduct credit checks using facebook.

People conduct elements of their business activities online using facebook, but ‘business’ in and of itself (ie. commerce; transaction of goods and services in exchange for $) doesn’t really occur at all. Even the much-ignored advertising that accompanies the delivery of social media doesn’t result in an actual sale — it simply directs you to places where commerce can occur.

Social media is a new (but relatively recent and ever-changing) tool which artists/businesses can use to promote their goods, or develop professional networks with people they hope to conduct actual ‘business’ with (networking up).

Used well, social media can also be a powerful tool for developing your fans and customers into communities — Seth Godin calls them tribes —  groups that are better able to link with one another and/or organise themselves to undertake additional business activities (predominantly marketing and promotion) on your behalf, ie.testimonials (word of mouth/third party advocacy), discovering new audiences or creating a presence that can be easily found by others — in some cases, people who exist in markets outside your direct influence or awareness.

Because of the nature in which people use digital media, I’ve made a distinction between fans and customers
(people who like your products/services and people who actually pay for them). Traditionally, one could easily make this distinction using bands such as The Wiggles — the person who buys the product isn’t necessarily the person who consumes the product.

Given the varying ways and levels of sophistication with which people engage/use/consume digital media – this distinction becomes less obvious — are the people that are championing your product/service/brand online people your customers?

I won’t get into piracy, IP or ‘traditional sales’ issues here, but it is pretty clear across most forms of digital media (Music, Film, Gaming etc) that the purchase of a product is not nearly as important to modern consumers as the enjoyment of that same product.

However, there are a couple of points on the nature of digital consumer culture that deserve a mention here — the emerging and unreliable philosophy of “try it — and if you like it, buy it” which can result in actual sales — sometimes long after the initial release and accompanying marketing strategy have run their course.

There is also the important (and hard to measure) influence of product/brand ‘champions’ — people who have discovered your business through non-traditional (and sometimes illegal) means, but then actively promote on your behalf — buying legitimate copies for friends or producing indirect sales by introducing the product to their peer groups and/or social networks.

Social media can also be a powerful tool for market research, conflict resolution, customer identification and retention — most of which are elements of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) [see Wikipedia — in particular the section on Social Media]

But REMEMBER – the development of communities or tribes requires a lot of interaction; opportunities for individuals to engage directly with your business in a manner that they feel is both practical and personal, interactions that ‘feel’ meaningful to both parties.

Ultimately, I believe that this requires a lot more time, effort and skill than most businesses might expect –it’s a form of communication/engagement that;

  • is difficult to measure in terms of the bottom line (time and resource management versus sales).
  • inherently exposed to risk (real-time publishing within the public domain) with potential public relations debacles.
  • needs to be tailored to the strengths and nuances of the different (and emerging) social media platforms.

Keeping all of this in mind, I believe the short answer to the “does my business need to use social media” question is this: Not necessarily.

The long answer is more like this: devotees of social media (your perceived or potential market base) are often deeply engaged and quite sophisticated in their use of specific platforms. Accordingly,  there are two common traps for businesses with regard to social media:

  1. the belief that a business must engage in social media; and alternatively,
  2. the belief that social media is an ‘add-on’ or ‘plug-in’ to existing/traditional business activities.

My belief is that a business that does not use social media is better off than a business that uses it badly.

Written by Xab

Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 4:56 am

2 Responses

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  1. It’s really just an issue of promotion, and weighing up the value of investing in it.

    “Will putting my business on social media take it to relevant audiences, in places that they already interact?”
    If the answer is yes, then it’s worth it, but you’re right to next question the value of the time expended in managing that interaction.

    The trap that a lot of people fall in to is the need to jump on social media just because. Walking past a bakery that proudly displays a badge on their window: “Join us on Twitter.” WHY!?

    It also comes down to identifying who your target audience is. If it’s the general public, and your aim is to build brand and product awareness, then social media is probably worth the effort. If, however, your targets are specific purchasers with existing understanding of the product, there’s no need.

    That final statement that a business that does not use social media is better off than a business that uses it badly is very very true. Although it pains me to say it, since I hate the snake oil that exists within the industry, SMEGs and online community managers have a specific skill that is usually discounted as ‘Oh, I could do that.’

    Tim Norton

    Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 8:54 am

  2. Addendum:

    There is no evidence to support the argument that a ‘shared’ or illegally downloaded/copied work constitutes the loss of a sale — that would require evidence that a digital media user’s consumption habits/patterns are completely unaffected by access to products, regardless of associated costs.

    Similar “loss of sales” arguments were made when popular music became a staple of radio station programming, but the industry was clearly able to adapt…

    In retrospect, the ‘mixtape’ — a shameless set of copyright infringements — is now imbued with sentiment and nostalgia as the medium by which many people were ‘introduced’ to new songs or artists, creating a fanbase independent of the financial mechanisms that made the creation and delivery of the product possible.

    Ironically, the creation of ‘artificial scarcity’ with regard to certain products — such as limited edition releases or ‘free’ songs made available exclusively to ‘official fan clubs’ etc was a practice well understood and implemented by traditional music businesses of the past.

    It would be naieve to believe that the businesses distributing this limited or exclusive content did not understand that the ‘illegal’ copying and sharing of this music would play an important role in promoting an artist or product to new audiences.

    In fact, it wouldn’t have been a useful business activity if it weren’t implicitly understood that the officially-approved recipients (the product/brand ‘champions’ of yesteryear) would be actively promoting and distributing these ‘freebies’ for the love of the product and the social status derived from ‘discovering’ and ‘introducing’ new products or owning a (deliberately) ‘rare’ version/edition of a particular work.

    In this respect, traditional ‘artifial scarcity’ took advantage of the dedicated fan’s inherent desire to share music, placing the onus of ongoing promotion (and associated distributioncosts) with the consumer.


    Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:07 am

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