Social Media – Good or Bad for our industry?
Social media has become well and truly entrenched in people’s lives these days, and the general computer user and more importantly businesses, have seen the popularity grow from its nerdy-ness into the phenomenon it is today.
Understandably many business owners of all sizes have ‘jumped on the social media bandwagon’ with a business Facebook page, which is now generally accepted as almost as important as a web page address.
The popularity is hard to ignore. One Australian State Government, Queensland, has dedicated a full web page encouraging its benefits.
The Queensland government has acknowledged Facebook’s low cost marketing strategy as a key component for SME’s, making the point that “marketing activities that would cost thousands of dollars through other channels can be used on Facebook for a fraction of the cost.” That is certainly true.
Another key component that Facebook addresses and the most SME’s would normally find difficult to afford is that Facebook “can increase your business's profile by encouraging existing and potential customers to click the 'Like' button on your Facebook page. Once they like your page, your customers will receive your updates on their wall, where their friends will also see them. This helps to build awareness of your business, and to associate your friends with your brand. Customers can also post positive messages about your products or services, shared on their walls for all their friends to see.”
You can increase your business's profile on Facebook by encouraging existing and potential customers to click the 'Like' button on your Facebook page. Once they like your page, your customers will receive your updates on their wall, where their friends will also see them. This helps to build awareness of your business, and to associate your friends with your brand. Customers can also post positive messages about your products or services, shared on their walls for all their friends to see.
Online newsletters like GIGAOM are full of advice in making Facebook a positive experience for all business. But the one thing that is blatantly clear is that it is just a modern form of an old idea – Business Networking
Networking is simple concept but, when if it is done well, pays dividends in the medium to long term. A good salesperson becomes a better salesperson as they improve on their networking skills. Add good communication skills, and sales become easier and more consistent. Of course a key component to communication is also trust. Trust is earned of course, so a good network isn’t something that happens overnight.
Therein lays the achilles heel of social media. As good as Facebook is, the one thing it has a poor record in is conveying trust. Why? Because Facebook makes it so much easier to be deceptive. There is plenty of evidence with various reports and scams that pop up from time to time.
It has generally become a good tool though for our industry. It lets businesses interact with their peers easier, lets us share ideas, enables us to see the progress of others and the jobs they do. It gives us ideas, if they are shared, and it shows potential clients what we can do and what we specialize in.
Various niche markets are already well developed, and Facebook showcases that really well.
One area of concern that is raising its ugly head though is those members in our industry that are developing Facebook pages critical of others in their application techniques, designs and failures. We are essentially seeing a ‘bully’ culture develop, and it’s not a good image for our industry members that participate in such negativity.
As our industry grows, our members grow at different rates. Our manufacturers have various levels of training, and for that they should be commended. The Australasian Professional Vehicle Wrapping Association is being formed to give some ownership and direction for those members who want to constantly improve and contribute to a more trustworthy profession and image. Members of our industry are always learning, or should be, as like any profession new techniques are developed over time and materials are introduced that need new application techniques. No industry goes forward by stagnating, no matter who they are.
Participating in Facebook pages or forums that bully learners, or ostracize those with failures isn’t something that we should be proud of or participate in, and it is disappointing that some feel the need to do it. One thing to remember is that unless we know the story behind the failures, we have no right to be critical. Let me give you three examples to consider.
Some time ago, my sign shop was supplied a new material from a well-known company. On paper it technically fitted the bill for the job at hand. When the time came to install the material we found it was difficult to lay and didn’t act as was expected, by either our installers or the supplier. Eventually the job was finished and everyone was happy. Next day, we got a call to tell us the material was failing. We arranged to have a look and take photos. Yes it was pulling up from the edges and yes it was a mystery. We sent photos to the supplier for their comment. By the time it was sorted, several days had gone by. The supplier withdrew it from the market deeming it was clearly faulty stock. We went back and replaced the signage with another brand and all was sweet. But, if photos had been taken by the ‘bully’ sign shops and placed on their Facebook page, with no explanation about the problems we encountered, it would appear that we were totally incompetent. As a lot of these bully groups are by invitation only, we wouldn’t have known, but it would have easily undermined trust for us in the industry, especially with those that knew it was our contract.
Our sign shop has had some long term contracts for many fleet vehicle owners. One year one of our regular clients informed us he was doing a 12 month promotion for a local tourism group. The tourism client insisted on using their own sign shop to do the signage as they had a good working relationship and had a contract with them to supply all signage. My client let me know that this job was going to another sign shop and the reasons for it.
When the job was done, the other sign shop must have used the cheapest material they could find. Within days it was tenting in the creases, pulling away from the edges and was clearly a poor job. We found out later that the job was given to the 2nd year apprentices as a ‘test’ of their ability. Photos started appearing pointing out the poor quality and failures.
How did it affect my business? People who knew I had the contract assumed I had done the job. Once again, if these had been picked up by these ‘bully’ sites and placed on their private Facebook pages, my name would be tarnished when I was totally innocent.
We were employed as contract fitters for a local company to fit their supplied signage. On arriving we found it was produced in China. There was no overlap on the large panels, it was un-laminated, and it was on a low grade material. We expressed our concern that it would not be suitable for the intended purpose. The owner agreed and was sympathetic to our concerns, but as the shop was opening in 3 days, he asked that we ‘do our best’.
Under the circumstances, the job came up really well, but anyone doing the job professionally would have seen that it was a poor quality sign and ‘incorrectly’ finished. Once again, without viewers knowing the job history, it could easily be assumed by my peers that we did a poor job. The ‘bully’ sites would have had a field day.
So although Facebook is a great tool for business, it can also be a good tool for the losers and bully’s that take delight in making fun of others without knowing the story behind the image.
But if we want to collectively make the industry a better one, then it would be better to help rather than hinder. There really is no place for a bully in any business. If we need to improve our application skills, do courses put on by one of the suppliers. If you admire someone’s work, tell them. Praise is always better than abuse.
End of the day, everyone started somewhere. Those laughing at the failures of others forget that they probably had the same failures when they started. We have some brilliant craftsmen and women in our industry, but the best craftsmen and women are those that help others improve, nurturing the next generation of applicators rather than those who pull others apart and destroying dreams.