As the social media landscape continues to grow, Idaho business owners may wonder whether they need to jump on the bandwagon. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, social media users can create profiles at LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+, among others.
Advertising and public relations firms in the area are stepping in to help businesses navigate these increasingly diverse options, and they say having a social media presence isn’t much help if it’s not part of a larger strategy.
“I do think social media is overhyped on the impact it’s going to have on any given business,” said Jeff Reynolds, one of the principals at Rizen Creative in Boise. But it’s impossible to overhype the effect social media has on communication in general, he said.
Rizen Creative helps its clients come up with a “core idea” and a strategy for creating meaningful interactions with their customers. Businesses that use social media need to integrate their social media profiles into their larger “core idea” strategies, Reynolds said. Having a presence on a social media site isn’t enough, he said. Businesses must give their social media followers something to talk about.
Jeannette Duwe, founder and owner of Duwe Public Relations in Boise, offers social media training to her clients. She often asks her clients why they have a social media presence. She frequently hears, “Well, ’cause somebody told us we should,” she said. In addition to teaching her customers the basics of how to use social media platforms, Duwe helps them understand what social media can actually do for a business.
For example, Duwe said, companies with a business-to-business focus may not need a social media presence on Facebook, because that’s not necessarily the best place to reach their customers. Twitter or LinkedIn might be a better fit for such companies. Companies with a business-to-consumer focus probably should have a social media presence on Facebook, because they want to maintain a daily connection with their customers.
Alicia Ritter, president of Ritter Public Relations in Boise, said she thinks the importance of social media is a little overplayed. She said the ability for businesses to evaluate whether they need it and to what degree is still in the air.
“I think there’s going to be components of it,” she said, but social media doesn’t fit into every public relations strategy.
Robert Deen, a principal at Ritter Public Relations, added that many people who use public relations services – such as CEOs and legislators – are private people, and they don’t want a social media presence.
Duwe said she thinks traditional tools still have an important place in advertising and public relations strategies, and will for a long time. She develops copy, provides media and interview training, and helps her clients evaluate and develop their public relations strategies.
Ritter Public Relations also uses traditional public relations tools. The firm writes issue papers and opinion pieces, and helps its clients distill complex issues into simple language, Ritter said. The firm also helps clients research the attitudes and culture in Idaho so they can figure out how best to present themselves, whether the client is a business selling a product or a lobbyist trying to pass legislation.
“If you’re smart … you try and find out where the land mines are,” Deen said.
Rizen Creative takes a multi-pronged approach for its customers, Reynolds said. “We consider ourselves a creative firm,” he said. In addition to developing the “core idea,” the firm helps create ways for companies to express who they are. For example, the firm built an internal social network for the Nunhems seed company so its sales representatives all over the world can connect with each other and share information. Reynolds said the company’s “core idea” is that it’s not just selling seeds, but also knowledge and insights. The ability for employees to share information internally helps further that goal, he said.
Reynolds said businesses should beware of the false sense of security a social media presence can create. The most dangerous thing for a small business, he said, is for its owners to think they’ve done their marketing simply by posting on Facebook. He said businesses need to narrow their focus by finding out who their customers are and integrating themselves into that “tribe.”
“In a world of endless opportunities, you have to have focus,” Reynolds said. He recommended creating a limited, definable plan, focusing on doing one thing well and moving forward from there. He acknowledged that his clients’ biggest desire is often to overcome obscurity and get noticed, but having a social media presence on every platform isn’t the best way to achieve that goal. “The answer usually is that you can’t be visible to everyone.”