Social Media Is Not Necessary

Malcolm AthertonYeah. I said it. I know that I’m the Director of Community at Blue Sky Factory. I realize that I’m a huge advocate of social media. In my list of “things I love,” social media is right up there with email marketing.

So what gives? How can I make such a (bold) statement?

Meet Malcolm Atherton

Look at the picture on the right. That’s Malcolm. He’s the owner/founder of Atherthon Collision. A few months ago, I was looking for a collision shop to fix the dent in my wife’s Chevy Malibu (long story) so we could trade it in. I googled “Collision Shop Salt Lake City” and called a few places. Neither of them could help me. But – and this is the key – both recommended Altherton Collision. Both. I called Atherton. Malcolm answered on the 2nd ring. After a brief conversation, he told me to “bring her in.”

I typically would be doling out some link love at this point in the post. However, there is nothing to link to. Seriously. Atherton Collision and Malcolm do not have:

  • A website
  • A blog
  • A twitter account
  • A marketing budget

Hear From Malcolm

Thanks to the iPhone 3GS (video!), I was able to do a brief interview with Malcolm. Learn how he’s been able to be successful … even without social media as part of his strategy (gasp!).

Can’t see the video? Try this.

Some Examples Of My Exchanges With Malcolm

Malcolm is not your average collision shop owner. A few examples:

  1. The dent in the Malibu (& the window that would not roll up): He called several junk yards to find the best price for me.
  2. The cracked side view mirror in the Volvo: He called the Volvo dealer. When we learned that it was going to be >$100 for a replacement part, Malcolm referred me to a glass shop. He called, got a quote for me, and even told me to bring the mirror back to him & he’d install it for free.

Why Malcolm Will Be In Business Forever

Malcolm gets it. It’s all about doing good work, building a strong reputation, letting your customers and partners be your (free) marketing team, and repeating the process. Would hiring a Director of Community benefit Atherton Collision? It might, but I doubt it. Malcolm needs to continue doing business the old fashioned way. He needs to continue practicing the golden rule and taking care of people.

So, it’s now time to ask yourself a few questions. What will keep you in business forever? Do you really need social media to be successful?

DJ Waldow
@djwaldow

44 comments
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Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller

DJ,

Really dug this post. And your point is well taken. At the end of the day, if you run a business that gives great service, cares about your customers, and gets recommended by others then you'll be in business forever. However, I don't think it's about NEEDING social media or not. There's so much area in between and while Malcom might not benefit from it considerably (though I'd bet you he'll see at least one new customer as a result of this blog), many many brands and businesses do see it as an integral part of their marketing plan. Will your biz sink w/out social - nope. Is it the right medium for everyone - nope. Do you need to social media to be successful - nope....but it sure can help.

I'm a new subscriber and am really digging your content. All the best in 2010

@ryancmiller

Nick
Nick

Malcolm gets brand management better than 95% of all marketers I have ever worked with. Atherton is his brand, and that stands for quality. From the look of things, he spends all his time and effort grooming that brand. Not with logo design, media campaigns, and public relations, but with true brand management.
Social media, design, and all those activities are just a piece of the total picture. It's like paint & canvas for the artist. But the idea of what the final painting needs to be is the most important part.
He knows his product, and knows his customers. This is what marketing is really about, not the abomination most try to make it into.

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

This is typical with mom-and-pop businesses that thrive on repeat customers spread by word of mouth. There are numerous such businesses, from retail to service to restaurant, in Newburyport, Mass. that lack websites. It's crazy, but they are always busy like your collision place.

The key is social media is part of the whole. Every firm shouldn't have to use it, just like everyone doesn't need to use a fax machine... which real estate agents and bankers do.

Jon Payne
Jon Payne

DJ - This is one of my favorite posts on social media. Kudos. Well done.

This guy is doing social marketing... he's just not doing it online. Conversations and trusted sources are what matters. The internet, or a telephone, or whatever else is simply the tool used to have and/or share the conversation.

DJ Waldow
DJ Waldow

Ahhh. Chris. You found the blog! Yeah. Yeah. I'm still not happy about my last "all in" the other night. Oh well. Next time. Good beer. Good times.

Forget this post or the blog...did you see the 2 videos on the right that I was talking about? The best.

DJ [email protected]

chrishumphreys
chrishumphreys

Good Post. You know a great company that does use social Media? Walgreens. That's right, the pharmacy America trusts, we should all shop there as much as possible. Its a company that truly cares about its customers and that is how it has managed to stay in business for over 100 years.

Sorry, had to post this, it was fun meeting you the other night. I'm assuming you know who this is by now.

Brandon101
Brandon101

Man, what an awesome story and discussion in the comments! The one thing I didn't see mentioned was whether or not Malcolm needs any more business. Think about it - he provides killer, honest service and has lots of locals providing referrals. Maybe getting online and all of that would bring in more business than he is able to handle on his own. Perhaps he likes being able to provide personal service and the quality of the service wouldn't be as good with more business. He might have to hire some people that aren't as good as he is which could bring down the overall satisfaction a bit.

I don't know - I was just thinking that Malcolm seems like the kind of guy that is happy with his business the way it is. Who are we to say he could be doing it better?

By the way, Jason's offer to help is really cool and I hope you had a chance to mention it to Malcolm. Maybe he's ready to jump in. Please do let us know how this turns out. I feel like I know this guy now. :)

@brandon101

maayanroman
maayanroman

The only thing I'd disagree with Malcolm on is that he has zero marketing budget. Word of mouth and great customer service all go back to brand perception so I would definitely say he's got some strong marketing. It just seems that he's figured that by not spending on ads he lowers his cost structure, allowing his business to charge customers less and invest in better service. That's some old school innovative marketing.

This is my first time on the site and what a great piece be introduced to. So glad that Chris Wheeler referred your stuff to me, I'm sure I'll be back!

JeffRutherford
JeffRutherford

Per JasonPeck's earlier comment, I'm almost 100% sure that a listing in Google Local, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local don't require you to have a functioning website. I think it'd be worth it for Malcom to have someone create those basic listings for his business - with phone number, address, and keywords.

Come on, who uses the Yellow Pages anymore? I certainly don't. If you hadn't gotten a recommendation via word of mouth, at least you could have had an opportunity to find Malcom's basic business info and phone number online.

Malcom certainly conducts business in a way that is often lost or viewed as "quaint" in the digital realm. Yet, he's losing potential business - that could benefit from his quality work - by not having a simple listing in local search results - phone, address, keywords.

SidPrince
SidPrince

Great post DJ. As a 15 year veteran of the car business, I love to see good, honest businesses get the credit the deserve. That comes, unfortunately, far too rarely.

Keep up the good work!

(the real) Sid.

Al
Al

Good post, sir. Question, though...do you think there is no benefit for Malcolm to utilize social media? Sure, some people are successful without it. But, some of those folks could find even more success by utilizing social networking....yes/no?

Kristen Gregory
Kristen Gregory

Love this post, DJ! Love it!

Showing respect, going the extra mile, creating trust, acting as a partner, understanding that not going after every last penny will bring repeat business...all these factors go into building loyalty.

bnash972
bnash972

This is such an AWESOME post. Actually, Social Media IS Necessary. "Social Marketing" is exactly what keeps Malcolm in business. What people forget is that social marketing has been the #1 ROI marketing channel since the dawn of time. The problem with most new Online Social Media strategies today is that companies ironically leave the customer out of the equation. For way too many marketers social is just another way to scream at their customers, not let the customers scream for them.

JasonPeck
JasonPeck

YES! Brick and mortar businesses should focus on providing awesome value and service before they do ANYTHING online or with social media.

That said, let's get this guy a website!

DR1665
DR1665

Awesome story. Kudos to the car guy for getting some much deserved publicity.

Word of mouth will never change. Reliably standing by your word and treating people with the level of respect you'd expect yourself go miles and miles. You don't need the hottest digital community or application to build a reputation like Malcolm's.

At the same time, I like to think that being online - however slightly - can make it easier for people like Malcolm to do business. There are so many people online these days hawking social media this or fast track marketing that. For most of these people social media is a crutch to an end. It would be exciting to see how someone who truly believes in the golden rule shoots to the front of the pack with a little connectivity.

Thanks for sharing the story, Deej. Fist-bump that guy. Word.

Sharon Mostyn
Sharon Mostyn

Great post, DJ! Love the ending, "Just take care of people and they take care of you."

Andrew Kordek
Andrew Kordek

DJ.

Love this post. Sometimes people jump on the social media bandwagon just because its the thing to do. If I lived in the 801, Malcolm would be my guy. He said it great when its all about doing good in business and treating people like they want to be treated.

Morgan is right in that marketing is all about service, but to take it a step further, marketing is about listening as well. In todays world, people want to talk and not a lot want to listen.

A

Eric Boggs
Eric Boggs

Excellent post, DJ. Your sentiment is right on point. Doing the right thing every day, for many, many, many days in a row is a surefire recipe for success in just about anything.

Morgan Stewart
Morgan Stewart

Great post DJ! Malcolm should be an inspiration to marketers across the globe regardless of the size of their budget or the focus of their business. All consumers really want is honesty and a fair deal. If we succeed in treating our consumers as we would want to be treated, then we will reap the rewards of our diligence. There is a reason it's called "The Golden Rule"--it works.

As I have said several times recently: Marketing is no longer about selling, it's about service. This still applies when we are using email, social media, and mass media. Malcolm gets that!

MicJohnson
MicJohnson

Nice post, DJ. Over the long haul, The Golden Rule will forever trump any marketing effort. Social media is/can be one of the spokes in the wheel. As you know, it can be very effective and enhance a lot of opportunities for business. But there are plenty of bikes that ride along smoothly with a missing spoke. This was a refreshing read. Keep up the great work.