ImageIt’s still surprising how many businesses are ignoring social media. I’ve heard the various arguments against – that it’s a fad, that it’s mostly kids (nope), that there’s no significant value-add – but none of these stack up in the face of ever-growing data to the contrary. I'll admit, even I was once sceptical of the benefits of social media. I viewed social media as complimentary to traditional media channels, nothing more. It would never overtake traditional press and broadcast platforms. It would never become a critical pulse for business. I was wrong. And now, while I can understand where those opposing views stem from, my response to these people is that you're viewing social from the wrong perspective. In 2014 it's going to be more important than ever that your business has an active social media presence. Here’s a couple of the points to pass on to the unconvinced as to why social media is more valuable than they may think:

1) Don’t think in terms of immediate value, but in potential value. Some brands might be able to ignore social media, go on about their business as they always have, leave those new channels to others. Some brands can do this and suffer little negative impact, but the more important element here is that by ignoring social media channels, you are missing out on massive opportunities that are waiting to be taken up. There are millions of conversations happening on social media everyday, some of them are relevant to your business. By ignoring them, maybe you’re not losing anything from what you currently have, but you are missing out new opportunities. Having a dedicated social presence takes time and investment, but it has the potential to produce amazing results, many of which you wouldn’t even be aware of if you didn’t actively track and participate these conversations. Or, in more immediate terms, there are opportunities out there, right now, that you're not aware of because you’re not actively participating in social media conversations. They're going on as we speak.

2) People say things like ‘Likes’ don’t mean anything – 'anyone can press the ‘Like’ button because it costs nothing and there’s no commitment'. This is true, pressing ‘Like’ or re-tweeting something doesn’t translate to direct revenue for your business, but that’s not necessarily the point. The first relevant point of these endorsements is the data you gain – you can see what gets a response and use that in future planning. But more importantly, as soon as someone presses ‘Like’, they allow you access to their NewsFeed – you can advertise to them directly (though NewsFeed algorithm changes have affected this). Maybe they ignore your messages, maybe they ‘un-Like’ your page, but it’s a way in, a starting point for future conversations. Social media is about relationships and you need to establish the network before you can sell to it. Re-tweets spread your message, giving you the data and expanding brand awareness via the extended followers for every re-tweeter. It’s not money in the bank, it’s the start of the conversation, which is, potentially, just as valuable. Latest studies clearly show ROI is improving for both B2B and B2C companies, those results are only going to improve.

3) The amount of readily available consumer data is of significant value to your brand. You would have heard all the reports of the amount of data people are putting online. Big data allows you to target your message more than ever before and the degree to which you can focus your advertising is amazing, and can produce amazing results. A simple example - a friend of mine is in a band and they were recently touring interstate. Their band is not well-known, but they have been compared to another, very well-known band. In order to get the word out about their upcoming gig, they advertised on Facebook – they were able to target all users who were fans of that more well-known band within a 100km radius of the venue where they would be playing with sponsored ads that appeared in those users' NewsFeeds. The result? They sold out the show in record time, the first show they’d sold out in that state. This, all by utilising data readily available via social platforms. If your brand isn’t considering how they can utilise this, you really need to think over your strategy.

These are just some of the reasons why social media is crucial to the future of business. Social platforms continue to grow and diversify. If your brand is not active on these channels, not investing in social media management and monitoring, you really need to be asking whether you can afford to let these opportunities slip. And whether your competitors will approach things in the same way.

Maybe time to add another resolution to your 2014 list.