These days, change happens very, very fast. What worked two years ago doesn’t work today, and what was true then isn’t true now. It seems like only that long ago, Facebook and Twitter were just toys for teenagers, and while you may have thought of posting a Facebook profile or opening a Twitter account, you wouldn’t have considered it a necessity to do so. Certainly, you wouldn’t have thought that social media was essential to a business, nor would you have expected a business to have a Facebook page. However, that has changed drastically. It’s the same evolution of what I call the “Two Questions” in communications technology:
1. Do you have a(n)…?
2. What’s your…?
You can fill in the blanks, over a hundred or so years, with “address,” “phone number,” “fax number,” “e-mail address,” “website,” and “Facebook page.” At the point when the usual question moves from 1. to 2., a threshold has been crossed. The medium in question has gone “mainstream.” At that moment, it starts to become very expensive for marketers to ignore that medium.
Telemarketers and cold callers were the first to take advantage of the fact that most people had telephones. E-mail campaigns—including the notorious “spammers”—were crafted to take advantage of the fact that most people had email accounts. Those companies that turned quickly to new marketing strategies gained a strong competitive advantage. Just as with present-day Facebook and Twitter, there were inflection points where a given medium suddenly changed from an outlier to mainstream. You’ve seen it happen with social media. One day, only computer geeks and gadget-happy teenagers had social media accounts. The next day, Facebook had eight hundred million users, and your dog was posting on Twitter. Babies in the womb were posting profiles on LinkedIn. This all happened with stunning rapidity.
What does this mean for your business? For one thing, it means that you have to move from Question 1 to Question 2. If you’re asking, “Should we have a social media presence?,” you’re asking the wrong question. The question you should really be asking is, “What form should our social media presence take?” The fact of the matter is that just as customers began to expect a business to have an email address in 1995 and by 2000, a website as well, so do customers today expect a business to have a social media presence. Social media has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that many potential customers now search for businesses on social media first. If they don’t find your business there, they may conclude you don’t exist!