Many years ago, pre-social media, I was working with a group of entrepreneurs, when one person in the group told us that he had been offered the opportunity to put his flyers into a free, local magazine for quite a reasonable fee.
We then had a discussion on what actually happens when free newspapers came through the door with flyers inside. It soon became obvious that most people would let them fall on the floor, pick them up and place them in the bin.
It was at that point that I suggested I could cut out the middleman for half the price he had been quoted and simply throw all of the flyers in the bin for him.
What the person had failed to grasp was that flyers delivered in this form are more like the old blunderbuss than even the shotgun that it is compared to. The chance of the flyer arriving on the doorstep at the exact time that the householder is looking for such a product is probably about the same as getting a lottery win.
I am not denying that flyers can have their place, provided that the flyer distribution is well targeted and that the distribution is then monitored in order to measure how effective was the distribution. Certainly flyers at trade shows are likely to be more targeted than most.
However, times have moved on and social media has gripped the business world. But the only way that this has improved upon the blunderbuss flyer distribution is the ability to screw things up faster and over a much larger geographic area.
This morning I saw that a guy living in North Korea thought it was a good idea to use Twitter to talk about his life there. Hopefully he will reappear some time, but it is not something I am holding my breath about.
Equally, I once worked in a country where state bugging was an everyday occurrence. I certainly knew that social media was a no, no until I returned home.
But whether going for a job, trying for business or simply trying to have a social life, the desire to bare all can have a devastating effect on your ambitions. Even if you are a victim, newspapers always seem to download the picture of people posing for selfies in their underwear!
But for businesses engaging in social media for business promotion, the traps are at least the same, and maybe worse than the flyer of the past.
For a start, many sites don’t tell people if they are being hidden and hence there is no way of knowing if the communication is even read. I am one of the great hiders when I have had two or three irrelevant posts.
My approach is that I expect a business to understand my needs and me and if their social media posts don’t reflect that then I soon drop them from my network.
The next irritating factor is the amount of such communication I receive. Why do I need texts, emails or social media posts just because I bought a tie from someone six months ago?
In some ways I think there is a danger of social media falling into the same category as some meetings. Meetings are often called to give the impression that something is being achieved, when the time could be used more usefully.
Many businesses use social media a bit like fast food and find it a quick and easy way to bypass real marketing principles and give the impression that something useful has been done.
Entrepreneurs need to consider a few things before they embark on the electronic form of flyers in free newspapers. Firstly, there is a big difference between your personal social media and your business one.
Secondly, entrepreneurs need to realise that your personal social media often says a lot about whom you are and has a direct influence on your business. This can be for good or it can be for bad.
Thirdly, don’t underestimate the power of the Internet to spread the good and the bad. Recently I conducted a check to see where I appeared. Luckily my careful use had resulted in good news.
My books were referenced in over thirty countries, in all continents of the world and were often being used in universities as far away as India, Myanmar Indonesia, Africa, the Caribbean, USA and the Pacific. Information such as this enables me to further target future business opportunities.
As well as measuring your impact, it is a good idea to limit your communications. I try to do meaningful posts with enough time in between for people to absorb them.
Most importantly, my use of social media for my business purposes is targeted to the people I need to reach. I am posting for entrepreneurs and hence that is whom I target. Equally, I use the various media to get feedback because business is a two-way process.
Using social media like the guy with the flyers in the newspaper may not cost the same amount in terms of cash, but it can cost much more in terms of your waste of time and irritation of potential customers.