Social Media – Do We Need It?

Social media – do we need it?

Do we need to connect socially online for personal and business reasons?  Millions of people seem to think so or do they?  Is it the “herd” mentality that is fueling the latest and greatest or is there some purpose, some real purpose to connecting through social media sites?  Are we connecting – really?

The internet, is, even today, the modern “wild, wild West”. People uncomfortable with chaos find the internet a mystery and, often, find using the internet more time consuming than helpful.  They find a lot of junk on the internet and have to wade through massive amounts of sites before actually finding the answer to their question – most times it’s easier just to call someone you know might have the information.

500,000,000 people have flocked to Facebook.  The irony here is that only half that number are regular users. (think how small 250 million is  since our world population today is approximately 7 billion people – that’s only really 3.5% ).

It’s the same for other social media sites – so many people have signed up because “it was the thing to do” and also discovered “the thing do do” was a maze to get around and very time consuming. For instance, there is an expression on Facebook, “fan page”.  People would go to Facebook and want to set up a “fan page”, but they couldn’t find it.  To get to a fan page, you’d have to get out of your account and go to the sign up page of Facebook and find the link there – for most people, how would they know to do that?  Would it have made sense for Facebook to put it in your profile as an option or on the menu along with Wall and other menu items?  That would be too simple!

Another person I know was urged to start a group on LinkedIn.  After the experience of setting one up which she was told would only take a few minutes, she doesn’t want anything to do with setting up another group anywhere – it consumed so much time because the steps simply were not clear to her.  The group is set up and working but to her it was not worth the effort. It has provided no real benefit to her business but regularly eats up her time.

Many small business people have given up – it’s just way too time consuming to learn, figure out and keep up with all these social media sites.  There are major differences in how they operate and the lack of clear menus, clear instructions and lack of help in most cases makes it an exercise in futility often.

Why are social media sites so confusing? In my opinion, it’s because all these sites are being set up by young “techies” with no life experience outside the technological world, no understanding of how to relate to non-techies.    As the popularity grows because it’s discovered to be the latest and greatest, so does their staff but they are still all technologically focused not consumer focused.  What makes sense to them simply doesn’t to the rest of the world – it’s an insular world.  Even Google, a milestone in internet research, merely reflects a numbers game today which can be manipulated.  Often, the worst sites get top ranking not because of their great content but their owners know how to manipulate the factors involved in getting ranked.

There’s a huge reliance on forums as a help alternative.  It doesn’t work because it’s a big waste of time too. Search for the forums – then search within the forums – and read post after post which simply doesn’t give you the answer you want.  Why?  Because you didn’t use the right word!!!  Oh, yes, a person needs to have exactly the right “word”, otherwise, it’s a maze of finding one simple answer.  Time consumed on forums can be enormous.

And the FAQ syndrome – there are few which are helpful.  It’s another maze of a few questions with a few answers which generally doesn’t give you what you want.

People give up on social media. They have an account but never, ever use it.  The refrain is always the same:  “I’ve got an account but I don’t use it.  It’s so confusing.  I don’t see the point and I’m doing fine without it.”

Do we need social media?

Obviously, the answer is not really. People are still conducting business quite successfully without social media as there are many businesses who successfully promote their business.

For most, it’s still much easier to put an ad in the paper to put one on Facebook or Adwords or any other medium and a lot less stressful.  I find a lot of businesses advertising on Craigslist and Kijiji as well as other classified sites – it’s easy for the advertiser to put up an ad and easy for potential customers to find you based on a search – they don’t have to be your “friend”.   And big business is still advertising in magazines – have you noticed how large some popular magazines are – loaded with advertising.  Why?  Because it reaches a vast audience of people interested in that particular sphere, not just people who have chosen to sign up or not.  It could very well be that newspapers will see a revival for that reason alone – ease of use and the ability to reach far more customers for their particular type of business.

People still meet with one another, text, email one another  and talk on the phone because people have found it easier to communicate using those basic, useful down-to-earth, easy-to-use mediums for connecting.

Personally, I like parts of social media and I do believe it has a place in promoting business.  It also has a place for personally to share pictures or stories.  Social media mediums have a long way to go in simplicity of use and simplicity of connecting.

Some have said that these mediums are for those who have grown up with it.  That’s not true either. A couple of teenagers I know went with the crowd using Facebook but found their cell phones were much more useful in connecting with their friends – it’s immediate!  They’ve abandoned their Facebook except for sharing pictures, invitations or general stories; they meet friends at the mall or talk on the phone for hours – as it has always been.  They text too and that’s it.  They don’t have to login hoping someone is online too – they text and the other party is immediately notified of the message.

Social media is a useful tool but it has a long way to go before it becomes the norm either personally or in business.   Is it for you?  Ask yourself:

Is there a return on the time invested?  Is that return make enough of a difference to warrant the time required?

It may be.  Could a simple website do the same thing?  Perhaps.  Would offline promotion work as well?  Perhaps.  Today, likely the answer:  a combination online and offline promotion.  Networking, face-to-face remains the best connection of all, bar none as it is connecting personally – face-to-face is always best!

Do any of us really need social media?  Only you can answer that question. If you want to discover the possibilities, I would suggest getting some help to get started because the time consumed learning it on your own far exceeds its usefulness especially for a small business person.

Start with YouTube for video training – it’s the best place and it doesn’t cost a thing. Beware of people who want to charge you a lot to teach you or to take on your social media “involvement”; one university wanted $450 for a course on LinkedIn – ridiculous!

Go to Youtube, follow along with the video and use the social media for a while to see if it’s for you.  YouTube has videos containing information from how to sign up to advance uses.  If you try to get the help on the social media sites themselves, you might end up pulling out your hair!

If you have questions, please contact me at moc.emiteziwnull@ofni.

Lorraine Arams

Leave a Reply