[tweetmeme]You might not think there are parallels between salmon and social media, but there are. Like salmon swimming upstream, businesses need to adapt to the new communications channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube, blogs and other social media networks to reach their clients and prospects and employees — or die.
My niece Laura got me thinking about this. She told me she had attended a seminar at her local aquarium about the evolution of salmon, which are among the most adaptive of fish. They swim many miles upstream to spawn and then die, while the juveniles swim back out to sea to begin the cycle again. Only the most hardy survive, as they adapt to the challenging journey. Her instructor included a reference to Charles Darwin, who famously postulated that the animal species must adapt, migrate or die, just as the salmon do.
And that has to be the mantra for companies both large and small. A 2010 Burson-Marsteller study of the top 100 global companies concludes that 79% of them are active on the most popular social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or corporate blogs. (But even among these business giants only 20 percent of the major international companies are utilizing all four major platforms to engage with stakeholders).
The great beauty of social media is that it has leveled the playing field. The little guys can compete with the big guys for eyeballs and share of wallet. But a Citibank study found that few small business owners and managers are joining the consumer trend towards the increased use of social networking websites and services. According to its survey of 500 small business executives in the U.S., 76% have not found social networking sites to be helpful in generating business leads. What a difference from the 79% of big companies that are plunging into social media full steam ahead.
So why aren’t small companies finding success online? One reason may be they simply aren’t believers. Social media can’t be helpful to a business if the business doesn’t have a presence on any of the social networking sites. My blogging coach told me that she had spoken to a group of 16 business owners in her community yesterday and only two had any meaningful presence on social media. They need to start “getting it” if they don’t want their competitors to eat their lunch.
Note to large and small companies: hello, your clients and employees are already out there. They are actively participating in the most important social media networks. They expect their companies to be there, too, interacting with them and building the relationships that are the foundation of every business.
So, back to Darwin. This is serious, folks. Social media is no longer an experiment. Social media is no longer a choice. It is the choice for companies that want to win the hearts of their customers and employees and rout the competition.