Earlier this week I was invited to a local BNI meeting’s open house. I was a member of a BNI group in New Hampshire for a bit and left because the commitment was too great time wise. Being a member of the group, expensive though it was, was well worth it at the time for where my business was at it in its growing stages. For those who have never heard of BNI I suggest you check it out so you at least know what it is. http://www.bni.com
As I sat listening to the 2 minute introduction speeches of 45+ people (thinking somewhat guiltily that many would benefit from going to Toastmasters, as the amount of ahs and ums was noteworthy :), and then the big table round of referrals, it occurred to me that social media and BNIs have a boatload in common.
I’ve always thought of social media/social networking as being similar to a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours, you meet and greet, exchange some business cards, have a glass of wine, catch up with some business people you haven’t run into awhile and then after the fact, hopefully follow up with those people you have exchanged contact information and cards with. Not hitting anyone over the head with “Buy My Stuff”, “Buy My Stuff”, it’s very much the soft sell. You already have a warm lead, you talked to someone, someone introduced you to someone else and is a potential customer/client/guest.
Sitting in this meeting gave me a new perspective though on social media. Regardless of what business you are in, be it lodging, be it a restaurant or catering facility, this is something when you start to dive into the world of social media you should consider.
Similarities between Social Media and BNIs:
It’s expensive! This particular BNI costs around $600 a year between fees to BNI and then quarterly dues. The one I belonged to in NH was about $550 a year. That’s not a little chunk of change. BUT! If you figure out what your time is worth to you, i.e. what is the ROTI (Return on Time Investment) and what you can potentially get out of it it’s very worth it.
Say 1 hour per week of your time spent on social media is the equivalent of $60.00, which returns $600 in profit to your business. Just like a BNI, if $600 a year equals out to $20000 in sales, is it worth it?
Relate that time to 48 hours of a year is equivalent to $2880 (of your time) can equal $28800.00, is it worth it?
It’s an hour a week, think if you spent a couple of hours. Remember this is TIME we are talking about but if you think of it as a monetary value it makes more sense.
It’s all about the referrals! Referrals should be everyone’s bread and butter, and referrals (because it’s the soft sale) are more likely to turn into repeat and return customers and guests.
One return customer in the hand is worth more then 600 in the bush.
It’s a time commitment! In BNI you have to be there for pretty much EVERY single weekly meeting at 7 am sharp! In our BNI group in NH, we could only be absent twice (in a whole year) and could only send a sub twice. Ouch!
Social Media is a time commitment, if you say, “I want to use Facebook for business, or twitter for business or write a blog“, you HAVE to be committed to doing it. You can’t just wake up in the morning and say, “I don’t feel like going to my BNI meeting today.” Same thing, you can’t go, “I don’t feel like posting online this week.”
If you want to use social media and get business from it, you have to make a commitment to your business to DO it.
Set aside time to do it, 5 minutes 3 times a week to start while your having your morning coffee, put it in your schedule and calendar, once you start getting ahead of the game in planning and start using all of the available tools out there to help you (most of them free) it becomes much easier and much less time consuming.
It’s all about the wait! In BNI, you don’t join and all the sudden you get business out of it. Social media is the same way. You don’t post a blog post or a Facebook or twitter post and BOOM you have a sale.
It’s not a right away profit venture. Someone doesn’t say after you’ve posted your special offer on Twitter, “Hey Honey, lets fly to California this weekend and check out the geocaching package at the Jane Doe B&B (even through its 4000 miles away)” or “Oh look office cubicle mate, The John Doe restaurant is having BOGO appetizers tonight, lets drive to Memphis (even though it’s 8 hours away) for their specials.)
Everyone is a potential customer and even though your contacts and fans and followers are not in your locale NOW, they can and may be at some point.
So the office cubical mates may go to the John Doe restaurant when they are at the next Widget conference in Memphis, and by the way may bring a dozen other conference attendees.
The couple who likes B&Bs may file your information away for that special occasion or romantic retreat.
It’s not an instant sale.
Remember as well, everyone is connected by Six degrees of separation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation. In social media, the six degrees is more like 2 or 3 degrees. The chap you are connected to on Linkedin in London (and your in Florida) knows someone in his social networks that you want to connect with. Customer, guest or vendor
It’s very important to remember that social media is not an instant return. If you tweet 12 times and give it up, that’s not realistic, if you start a Facebook business page and then abandon it, you are living a pipe dream if you think it will magically make you money.
There is an ROI (Return on Investment) and ROTI (Return on Time Investment) it’s just not a quick sale. It takes time and effort and commitment to make it work. It is much like belonging to BNI.
You can also liken it to trying to lose weight. You know you are not going to lose weight (and keep it off) on a quick fad diet, but you will by exercising and eating well, and that doesn’t happen overnight.