The Blue Dog Scientific Blog: How We Lost Sight of Our Customers.

How We Lost Sight of Our Customers.

The Cost to Business in Going "Social".
There are reportedly 350,000,000 people on LinkedIn. Can you write down as a fraction, how many of these are, in the final analysis, ever likely to become a customer for your product or service? Its a number so small its silly.
Perhaps its the question that is silly? OK, how many connections do you have on LinkedIn? 500, 1000, more? Can you write down, in all honesty, how many of these are ever likely to become your customer? Not sure? Never thought about it that way.
Then let me ask you this. How many of your connections are your customers?
The answer for me is I currently have 3 LinkedIn connections who I deal with regularly as clients. Three in 1600. Three in 350,000,000. Now. I estimate that at the very most perhaps 50 are in the "category ever likely to become my customer". To put this in context, my business has the capacity to service 1 or 2 more companies, because as a solopreneur,  my business is based on my time, which has its limits.
So let me ask you this question: how many conversions of people on LinkedIn to customers would you need for the time & effort you, or your company as a whole, spend on LinkedIn to make it worthwhile? Compared to you follower number? 
The  purpose of marketing, advertising, PR, networking or lead generation online is exactly the same as offline. One reason is to ensure as many people in the "potential customer" category know about your product and services and to convince them why they should use you rather than anyone else. A second is to ensure you keep front-of-mind of your existing customers and keep them informed about your businesses developments and to sell them added value or additional products or services. In other words, it is to convert as many people from the former category to the second and to maintain those in the second and increase their spend/customer.
We must not confuse market research with marketing or information gathering with information giving, here.
In terms of marketing, everyone outside of your demographic is largely irrelevant or at least highly peripheral to your business. For example, if your customers are young women, then older men are not very relevant, nor are their opinions*. Neither is your reputation or standing in the "older man" community directly relevant. The focus of your marketing is to talk to and with, to speak to and with, the young ladies and, as long as they are engaged and like what you do, the views, opinions or comments of older men are not too pertinent.*
In this sense, business is not a social activity, it is inherently a tight-knit, Exclusive Community one.
In "going social" many businesses have lost sight of what business is about. We have lost sight of our customers by trying to engage the world. We have become unfocussed on who we are actually trying to talk to and with. We have become "follower" focussed instead of customer focussed. As an analogy, we seek to be acknowledged by as many "older men", "young men", "older women" as possible when we are actually selling "young woman" products and services. And we value all their opinions and seek all their comments too.
We care about how many people view or click or follow us, regardless of whether these people are in our demographic at all. For very many businesses it will be true that a vanishingly small number of the "relationships" they spend so much time lovingly developing online are in the category "potential customer".
There will be arguments that the bigger your social network, the more likely it is that someone in your demographic might hear about through the sharing of your content, or someone in someone elses network will see your posts due to a comment or like from the someone in your own. That maybe true, but in my experience it is hardly likely very often and besides speaking to your customers second hand is a highly inefficient way to go about marketing. At the same time it also exposes our businesses to all sorts of dangers. Broadcasting to the world tends to attract the wrong kind of attention, in more ways than you might know.
To take the analogy to its limit, those older men have a penchant for the young ladies, don't you know, and they have been around much longer than you. They are charming and they are rich. Yet we invite those old seducers to our party too. *By being social, we've just made ourselves hostages-to-fortune of a powerful non-relevant demographic with their own agenda.
The cost of us having gone social and abandoning the exclusive customer-only community focus may actually have been much larger than any benefit we gained. What is particularly depressing is that social media does have enormous potential to target our True Audiences like a surgical laser beam. Yet, we decided to use a scatter gun. We've fooled ourselves into believing that social media marketing is best served with a blunderbus.

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