THE BLOG

Fashionably Late? The Industries Only Just Joining the Social Media Party

23/03/2015 12:52 GMT | Updated 19/05/2015 10:59 BST

Everyone and their dog is on social media, right? I mean, if your Nan knows how to Instagram her latest cake creation, then everyone must get it, surely?

We are getting to that point, but particularly in the business world, there have been plenty who have been hesitant to adopt any kind of presence in the digital social world.

In the years where we've seen some brands take social media by the scruff of the neck, redefining advertising and marketing in the process, others have only just set up their first Facebook business page.

It's a natural state of affairs; all technology adoption is on a bell-curve: you have early adopters 'ahead of the curve' and late adopters who wait until it becomes almost essential. Let's take a look at some of the industries who very much on the late adoption side of the curve for social media.

Used Car Dealers/Car Aftercare Market

It's kind of understandable that this industry has been reticent to jump on the social bandwagon when you consider the types products we're talking about here. Few people would consider buying breakdown cover through Twitter.

The majority automotive industry is somewhat in the pocket of the 'big' comparison websites (comparethemarket, gocompare etc.) and so the web presence of anything other than car manufacturers (i.e. warranty sites, breakdown cover, used-car dealerships) is largely dictated by the whims of these marketplaces - brands absent from these sites are just as susceptible as those on them (they have to price-match etc.)

Dealers and warranty providers have always had websites, but it's social media adoption that's really begun to transform the industry in recent years.

David Shapiro, CEO of AutoProtect, who provide new and used car warranties, says:

"(AutoProtect now) keep up with customers across social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and our corporate LinkedIn followers"

-and this is now a key component of any industry, receiving feedback and responding in real time to the queries and issues of customers.

But social media for business is also about a lot more than a simple 'focus group'-type experiment - it can help communicate your brand in a refreshing, honest manner. Social media expert, Andrew Lloyd Jordan, says that:

"Social media channels are important because they let you showcase your business's culture and, more importantly, that is an area which helps distinguish you from the competition.

"It's hard to differentiate yourself on your website, but your culture can't be replicated."

This is a fact that is important for the car industry, but perhaps even more so for the:

Traditional High Street

Ah the ephemeral 'high street' - a few years ago, the focus of so many depressing news reports with downward pointing red arrow graphics and words like 'crisis', 'closing' and 'layoffs'.

And yet, despite all the doom and gloom, the traditional high street, complete with butcher, baker and candlestick maker, still stands. Okay, it's maybe more like Yankee Candle these days, but oh well, they smell better anyway.

That in itself is a key to the high street's recent resurgence - there has been a small boom in more niche, locally-owned or independent shops and brands taking the place of former stalwarts like Woolworths and Jessops.

And this plays perfectly into the benefits of social media -as Andrew Lloyd Jordan says, social media is about showcasing your culture.

This is far more conducive to highlighting the brilliance of Bob's Bakery who make the best gluten-free scones in the south, and look great in filtered, fish-eye lense photos shared across their Facebook wall and Pinterest boards; than it is to Woolworth's and their 'plug-adapters and picknmix' scattergun approach.

Again, it's about that connection to customers - arguably, where Woolies and others fell down was by assuming that they were too big to fail, and so didn't listen to customer feedback on how to improve, and resultantly became effectively obsolete in a digital world.

Contrast that to independent retailers and food outlets, like Brighton-based Burger brand The Troll's Pantry, who literally change an entire product or decide on ingredients based on feedback from customers on Facebook:

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- and it's obvious why social media is a relatively new, but increasingly essential tool helping the modern high street - with all its independent shops and niche brands - thrive.

Public Sector

Okay so not an industry as such, rather a collection of industries and services, but these days everyone from your local councillor to your bin man has some involvement with social media.

It's quite a recent development though - in 2009 only about a quarter (124 of 468) of local UK councils were on Twitter. Today, almost all are in some form (around 400 are 'active').

And it's not just councils making the most of social media. All sorts of public bodies have recognised the importance of having a social media presence.

TFL (Travel for London) for example, have an entire account set up with the sole purpose of providing updates and alerts on travel issues in and around London, as well as individual accounts for specific tube lines and other services.

We now take this type of presence entirely for granted, but this is not something that has been around for a long time.

What this, and the other examples show, is that social media has become ubiquitous in all aspects of life and business. Industries that could once ignore it entirely have had to get on board in some form. It throws up some important questions about the nature of the tool - how it blurs lines between the business and personal, where responsibility is situated etc.

One thing is for sure, now they've seen what the party has to offer, they won't be leaving any time soon.