SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGES OUR SOCIAL BEHAVIOURS

Social Media is one commodity that keeps getting hotter and hotter – at home, at work and on the move!

According to the Pew Research Centre, during 2015 there were some 2 billion social media users worldwide, and of these 1 in 4 were teens in the USA between the ages of 13-17 who go online several times a day.

But Social Media is not a new concept.  Like all of our other communication processes, it has been evolving since the days of the Romans. [Tom Standage, Digital Editor of the Economist]. It is a communication path where social skills interact when disseminating voice and text information one-to-many in physical spaces like meeting rooms.

Social skills are a collection of unique unwritten cultural behaviors that are learned from parents, teachers, peers and life experiences, which means that they are not an exact science.  They are used to interpret voice tone and body language cues during face-to-face conversations.

Today, many of us over age 35 feel that evolving communication technologies have diminished the importance and development of social skills. This has resulted in a growing prevalence of poor language skills, online predators and cyber-bullies,  shallow relationships and a ‘me-me’ attitude among the younger generation.

Social Media – Paradigm Shift

At the end of the 20th century  Globalization coincided with the Digital Revolution.  This is when technology transformed how we interact socially, specifically in the way we share information with friends and family, conduct business and break news around the world.

In 2008 US President Obama was the first politician to use social media to campaign for the presidency – and he won!

The need for ‘instant’ connection to share information was the driving force – not interaction of social skills to interpret voice tone and body language cues!

To achieve this ‘speed’ of connection, niche virtual sites – such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and others,  were built in cyberspace as platforms for sharing and exchanging information.  These virtual sites required:

– their own virtual communication channels for text, data, voice and videos

– lists of selected users for interconnecting through the virtual channels

– high-speed devices to support the instant connection to the virtual sites

‘Instant’ connections also meant:

(1) online availability 24/7

(2) no security of information unless encrypted

(3) ‘brevity’ of message limited to 140 characters

(4) ‘phonetic’ spelling with fewer capital letters and punctuation

To compensate for loss of the ability to effectively interpret voice tone and body language cues, Instant Messaging and Chat-rooms were created where information can be typed (not spoken) and electronic interactions attempt to  mimic an actual conversation.

Almost overnight, the same communication technology that connects instantly to individuals around the world, also makes it possible to stay connected yet never come face-to-face with any one of them for days or months – perhaps years!

Social Media Needs Social Skills

Children today face the same challenges as previous generations: bullying, teasing, peer-pressure, inappropriate content, privacy issues, and building relationships.

The exception is that the previous generations were taught social skills where they could observe and interpret non-verbal communication cues (voice tone, facial expressions, eye contact, body posture, personal space and other non-verbal communication cues) and interact within the context of what was being conveyed to build genuine relationships.

There is no denying that a significant number of teens between ages 13-17 are adept at using mobile technology,  and have become addicted to connecting to thousands over self-regulated social networking sites but many have developed poor social skills.

The terms social media and social networking sites are used interchangeably but they are not the same.

Social media (paths) and social networking sites (platforms) are meant to relate and interact with social skills (cultural cues).

Social media does not replace social skills.

Social Skills can be taught.

Social Media Challenges Parents

Social media and digital technology are here to stay and will continue to evolve.

While most parents are aware that social media sites require a minimum age of 13 to own an account, some of them have not been familiarizing themselves with the appropriateness of what is exchanged over the unregulated social networking sites.  Nor have they taught their children the unwritten rules of social behavior!

Ever since children discovered that smart phones with keyboards, touch screens and cameras always set in ready-mode were capable of making more than emergency calls, they remained connected to the networking sites 24/7.

They love to play games, watch videos, listen to music, shop online or simply stay connected 24/7 as anonymous users in isolated virtual environments.

It is now common for teens (especially the shy and anti-social) to walk around, sit or stand with their heads down, connected to social networking sites, tapping their thumbs on screens or keyboards and avoiding any face-to-face conversations!

According to LA Times (November 2015) teens now spend a quarter of the day looking at screens.

However, social behavior cannot be learned from ‘screens’.

Some studies show that those children who understand social skills are less likely to fall prey to the vulnerability of online predators and cyber-bullies.

Your greatest challenge is to commit to life-long learning to keep abreast of communication technology.  This will enable you to evaluate the health of social networking sites and your children’s social skills.

Limit the time children are exposed to social media, encourage them to join groups where there will be face to face interaction.

Inaction on your part could see us living in a future world that is controlled exclusively by technology instead of us controlling technology.  And this would be a terrible failure on your part.

You cannot learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication.  If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication you could be losing important social skills.  We are social creatures.  We need device-free time. (Yalda Uhls)

Here are some excellent resources to help teach children to understand unwritten social rules:

  1. 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills by Lawrence E Shapiro, Ph.D.
  2. Social Rules for Kids: The Top 100 Social Rules Kids Need to Succeed – by Susan Diamond.
  3. The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friendsby Natalie Madorsky Elman, Eileen Kennedy-Moore.
  4. The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome by Jennifer Cook O’Toole.

How to Identify the Target Customer

If you identify who your produce/service is meant to benefit, then your strategy in promoting and marketing will be directed specifically to them. The whole Internet cannot be your market. 

When I registered the Website for my small business, I created a Logo which I believe represents my ‘brand’ – my promise to deliver an excellent product to small business and home-based business owners. My product has qualities that are equal to those of similar businesses but is differentiated by several enhanced features and benefits.

What does my product do?

I help ‘small business owners’

who are looking to achieve ‘internet marketing success’

but are struggling with ‘attracting customers’’ .

I do this by ‘showing them how to target offline customers and motivate them to become online customers.’

 

When identifying customers to target, you will need to ensure that your ‘brand’ appeals to a specific customer profile that will relate favourably to the response you are seeking during the ‘call to action’ process.

These three elements must be aligned in order to market and promote any product/service successfully – that is, the brand must be strong enough to move the targeted customer to action.  That action is to ‘buy’.

Let’s look closely at these three elements:

Tip 1 – Analyse ‘Brand’ Appeal

 

Does your brand differentiate you from the competition?  Do you know if anyone finds it appealing?

 

A product/service is identified by a ‘brand’ which is a name, logo, slogan (and more) such as:

  • Name – Coca Cola, Pepsi, Apple
  • Logo – Nike logo
  • Slogan – “The best or nothing” (Mercedes Benz)
  • Slogan “Job is Number One” (The Ford Motor Corporation)

A recent Forbes Magazine article by Scott Goodson states:

Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to a trademark. Products have life cycles. Brands outlive products. Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. Brands are valuable … when Kraft bought Cadbury for $19.5 Billion what did they buy? The chocolate?  The factories? The recipes? The candy makers? No they bought the brands.

The best branding today is based on a strong idea. The best brands have remarkable creativity in advertising to help them break through people’s wall of indifference to create brand heat and product lust.[1]

And so you see, consumers buy ‘brands’, not products/services – and they remain loyal to brands. 

A strong ‘brand’ evokes emotion (a sensory feeling, not logic) in people to move them to ‘action’ when they ‘perceive’ that the product/service will solve their problems and make their lives better.  That action is the motivation to ‘buy’ something of added value.

 

When you speak face-to-face, you will need to use the right verbal and non-verbal communication skills to present credible evidence that appeals to the self-interest of the audience and make them believe you – to ‘perceive’ you as trustworthy.  You will need to help generate an emotional commitment to get them to understand, accept or act on the details presented.

 

But how much do you know about these people?

 

Tip 2 – Know your Customer

Obviously, we recognize that only a limited number of people will buy our product/service, so the challenge is to determine who they are and target them.

Mercedes Benz targets: “Middle aged people of middle to high incomes.  The brand is not popular with young people because it is expensive and is hard to get insurance at a young age.  Mercedes Benz does not produce low priced vehicles hence effectively cutting off consumers with low income.  Mercedes products also target both males and females as they design cars to fit both male and female specifications”[2]

 

With the ‘brandcreated, we would want to visualize a profile of a customer to help in understanding the background of the group of people to target – their location, primary/secondary market segments and their demographics in general.

(1)      Define Location, Primary and Secondary Markets

  • Where are they located – locally, nationally or internationally?
  • Which location is primary market and which is secondary market?

Well, without a budget to travel – we must speak face-to-face to local audiences, which is therefore the primary market.

  • What is the population of the primary market?

I found out from my City’s latest census that the population is 175,779.

(2)      Analyse Demographics and Lifestyles

The more clearly I can understand and define the target customer and identify the precise needs, the better my product/service can address their needs.

I need to conduct further surveys in the ‘primary location’ to get details on:

  • Market segmentation
    • Age, disabilities, education, ethnicity/religion, family status, gender, income bracket, marital status, occupation, spending habits

 

  • Values and lifestyles
    • Activities and interests: organizations, sports, shopping, reading, social media?

 

  • Attitudes and beliefs: opinionated, biases, sympathetic, environmentalist?

 

  • Decision making: what are the sources – internet, newspapers, books, TV

 

  • Leaders or followers: first responders or followers?

 

  • Lifestyle: conservative, trendy, big spenders?

 

  • Social class: lower, middle, upper?

 

  • Values: what do they value most?

 

 

  • What about their shopping patterns?  People are guided by three reasons to buy:

 

1)          To satisfy basic needs

2)          To solve problems

3)          To make people feel good (it may improve quality of life but is not essential)

 

Conduct a shopping pattern survey to provide answers to:

 

  • How many of the three reasons does my product/service satisfy?

 

  • Where do these people shop – online, over the phone, or pick up from a store?

 

  • Will the product/service inspire a need for instant gratification or will they wait for a few days?

 

  • What do they like or dislike about this type of product/service?

 

  • Where does this product/service fit into their lifestyles?

 

  • How will they benefit from this product/service?

 

From the results of these surveys I wrote down the attributes of a ‘prototype’ of the target customer, and determined the emerging market numbers.

 

(3)      Describe Customer Profile

 

“My target customer is a middle-class man in his 40s or 50s who is married with children, makes between $80,000-120,000 annually, likes to try new products/services and shops online for electronic gadgets”.

This is the profile I will keep in mind when marketing to prospective customers as it will help to create a parallel relationship between me and them based on common thought, interest and feelings.

(4)      Analyse Number of Customers in the Emerging Market

It is important to have a feel for the number of customers I will be targeting, so I get my family and friends to conduct one final survey for me to estimate the emerging market.

The survey results showed that from my Primary market population of 175,779, one-third (58,593) is loyal to the competition, 67,186 have not yet purchased the product/service from anyone, or heard of my product/service; and 50,000 cannot differentiate my company from the others.

These numbers tell me that I can target everyone – including the competition!

  • Numbers Disappointing?

If the numbers had proven to be very small and the customers were willing to spend only a few dollars per year on my product/service then I would have gone back to the drawing board, reviewed my business plan and determined a wider target market.

If necessary I would have gone back to the Demographics to include more characteristics in order to get a bigger share of the market and rewrite the customer profile accordingly.

Tip 3 – Fish where the Fish are!

Now with a Profile of the targeted customer, there is a good chance that members of my primary location meet and communicate in the ‘offline’ world. They could be members of a professional association, business organization or networking group.

Whatever their common interest, I decided to ‘Fish where the Fish are’ in order to present a face-to-face speaking engagement to them.

  • I contacted the Event Organizer in my Business Networking Group and offered to speak at an upcoming session – pro bono.

BTW If you are not a member of a ‘group’ – find one to join now.

  • The biggest benefit from this proposal is that the Organization does all the work. It will announce the event, alert the press, share my name and speech title, send out emails and they will fill the seats.

 

  • Besides, the audience sees me as an expert – sanctioned by the organization. 

 

My next task is to plan and prepare the presentation, to be included in my next post.

How to Market your Small Business or Home-Based Business on the Cheap

Basically, home-based and small business owners have the same needs – to market product/service, build revenue by attracting loyal customers, and manage their time. Unfortunately, these basic needs are challenged on a daily basis.

Imagine for a moment that you’ve invested every penny you could scrape together to create that small or home-based business you’ve always dreamed of.  You’ve developed a great product or service that is specific to a niche demographic, and like every small business owner, you feel compelled to be involved in online marketing.

You have a professionally looking website, selected important keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and opened social media accounts in Facebook, Twitter, Google+  and LinkedIn. You even made a YouTube video.

Through social media and the internet, you’ve attracted thousands of online connections and are relying on them to spread the word on your product/service and send leads to you. So day after day you sit in your home office and wait and wait, however, customers are not falling into your lap and this leaves you ‘product rich but cash poor’. Your website is listed so far back in the Google Search Results that you even give up on searching for it!

Now what? How do you get beyond this snag?

When this happened to me I realized that like other small business owners, I’d made the mistake of assuming that once there is a huge online presence ‘everyone’ will buy from me.  This is far from true; such an assumption exposes us to three new challenges:

  1. Low customer pool perhaps SEO keywords are not dynamic enough to  pick up my website, social media sites, article sites, and video sites when hot topics are searched on.
  2. Low customer pool leads to low cash flowthere are no new or repeat sales
  3. Low cash flow leads to poor time management – because it means spreading oneself thin to do everything without helpers

A close analysis of these challenges suggested that I pay attention to the following areas:

1.   Marketing Strategy prior to Popularity of the Internet

Perhaps I could solve the low customer pool challenge by resorting to the tried and true marketing methods before the Internet – offline marketing. You know, radio, television/print media and public speaking.  Today, except for public speaking, these offline marketing methods are very expensive (also out of reach for most small business owners) and are losing followers, but when used, they serve as another link to refer customers to a specific website.

2.   Public Speaking as a Free Marketing Tool

With very limited resources the choice was simple for me – business presentations! I would talk passionately to the audience in person about the value of my product/service, and without coercing them, generate an emotional interest in the product/service before asking for the sale.  This would drive traffic to my website – for free.

I’ve been trained as a Toastmaster in the mid-1990s. I also complimented my public speaking training with training in theatre acting, radio/TV broadcasting and voice over acting. I spent over 30 years as an Analyst in the IT field and this is where I honed my business presentation skills.

Public speaking is considered cheap but is often overlooked as an effective marketing tool because most people are afraid to speak in public.

Effective public speaking is a learned skill as any Toastmaster can attest. As a business owner, the success of your business relies on the ability to communicate effectively.

Have you ever wondered why after learning to speak at the age of 2, most adults have a deep fear of public speaking?

Mark Twain said: “There are two types of public speakers – those who are afraid and those who are liars”.

Just like TV commercials that direct viewers to specific websites and contact details to keep customers from going to the competition, I too must have an effective offline tool to direct customers to my online marketing platform.

 3.   Build  Relationships by Meeting Potential Customers Face-to-Face

Prior to the Internet days, business owners spoke face-to-face with targeted audiences. The more people saw the speaker and the business name, the more credible and successful the business owner became and this made it easier to promote the product/service through word of mouth.

It was therefore time for me to:

  1. Decide on a target market and where they would be assembled into one room.
  2. Find out their needs and how my product/service meets that need.
  3. Prepare a one-page ad that would summarize the value my product/service offers as a solution to their needs, and highlight my contact information: website, social media sites, and telephone number.
  4. Prepare a presentation for face-to-face delivery to my targeted market. The audience needs to see my face and create trust and credibility in me before buying my product/service. I would ask for their commitment and offer them a ‘free gift’.  After my Q&A session, I would remind them of the commitment and call them to action. 

Without a doubt, these four steps are the best decisions I made to kick-start ‘How to Market my Home-Based Business on the Cheap’.

In my next blog we will look at how to find the targeted audience.