Lesson Three: 7 Reasons Not to Use Social Media for Business

Understanding your audience has always been the single most critical component of any successful strategy, and a social media strategy is no different. Knowing with whom you’re speaking to determines what to say and how to say it.

Most businesses can’t say “everybody is our customer” (not even the cable company) as there are basic criteria that reduce “everyone” to categories with segmented characteristics.

Your audience is people. Whether you call them prospects, suspects, customers or advocates, they are all people you are trying to communicate with to reach your business goals. They are men, women – maybe even kids – of different ages, incomes, ethnic backgrounds and geographic locations. They (and others) may be current users of social media and could potentially become part of the network you will create.

To fully understand your audience, start by detailing the different people within it. Think about the different prospects, the different customers, the different suppliers and resources that want to engage: Trade associations, colleagues, partnerships,  the media. Even regulatory bodies like the government and industry-specific organizations may have a part in your social media success. Budget permitting, hire a research firm to gather the empirical data. Accounting for all of your potential audiences is critical, and knowing as much as you can about them is the key to successful communication.

User Profiles: Role Play

In theory, you should have a very good idea of the people you are trying to reach and the social media you’re going to use to reach them. Now it’s time to test the theory.

You have enough information where you can now role play (yes, role play) as each type of user profile. Pretend you are your audiences – each of them – and emulate how you think they act on social media. Consider what they do on each social media channel and what you would have to do to get their attention. For some of you, this will be funnier than others – and that’s okay, because there is usually some truth in humor (that’s what makes it funny).

If you’re struggling with the concept of role playing (and need a good laugh) watch Mel Gibson in What Women Want. Didn’t see the movie? .. I want you to get into the role of each of your audiences to understand what it is like to be them (but you don’t have to put on the pantyhose – watch the trailer).

When you’re done laughing, think about your customers – again – and work to answer these questions:

  1. Where are your audiences already on social media?
  2. What is their primary social media, secondary – where do they never go?
  1. What are they doing there? How often do they participate?
  2. How do they view your company?
  3. How do they use your products and services?
  4. Where do you fit into their lives?
  5. When they see your company on social media, do they care? Why or why not?
  1. When they visit your social media profile, what do they do first?
  2. What do they do second? Why?
  3. Why would they want to engage with you – in what areas do you align?
  1. Why would they NOT want to engage with you? Where are the disconnects?
  1. How do you get them to like, follow, subscribe? To engage? To refer?To buy?

For me, the role-play of a Decision Maker looks like this:

Target Audience: Decision Makers

  • Decision Makers have profiles on LinkedIn. They may have a Twitter account or a Google+ profile, but they are not active participants on most social media. They have a profile because business says they have to have a profile to look contemporary and to represent their role within their company. They connected to their existing network when they created their profile and accept connections from new people they meet offline but are open to new connections from online engagement.
  • Decision Makers will use LinkedIn as part of the vetting process when I approach their company to provide services. The link to my profile will be included by a Referral in an email introducing me or in an email from an Influencer I have met and discussed the potential of working for their company. They will review my profile for professional experience and education, and they will read the Summary section for a synopsis since most people scan they don’t read. Decision Makers will look for people we both know to make inquiries before we meet. If they know someone, they will send them a LinkedIn message or an email asking for background. If I don’t pass this review, they are hesitant to schedule a meeting.

You should be able to genuinely profile your audiences and defend your answers to others while they challenge your assumptions. I strongly encourage a good dialog between your team about each of your audiences. Even with clients who go into this telling me they know their customers, they’ve had the same customers for years or we just did some research, etc. – we have all learned something new from this exercise.

Exercise: Develop Audience Profiles

This exercise will help you organize your audience into different categories then explore each category by creating a category profile that represents their generalities. The general characteristics will allow you to better understand the people within the category as you make decisions that include them.

Start to document your current understanding of the audience by creating a list of each type of user profile. Segment each audience by general characteristics, but if important subtleties exist, label them as such.

  • Target Audience A _________________________________________
  • Target Audience B _________________________________________
  • Target Audience C _________________________________________

List as many as you need, but make sure every type is identified. If you later find yourself speaking to a type of user that has not been categorized, return to this step and create a profile to ensure you understand everyone with whom you’re trying to engage.

For each type of user, complete a user profile, including:

Target Demographic: A / B / C __________________________________________

  • Title(s):
  • Age:
  • Gender:
  • Education:
  • Environment:
  • Geographic Location:
  • Experience:
  • Knowledgebase:
  • Psychographic: