There is no shortage of spruikers out there extolling the virtues of social media marketing. It’s everywhere; your favourite brand is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and if they are forward thinking, Google Plus amongst others. No doubt you will have a personal account for one or more of these platforms, but do you yet have one for your business?
If you do, you probably belong to one of a few groups of business users. Those whom are struggling to keep up, those who don’t understand it’s value, and those who want to pay to have the problem go away. Each of those have their problems, some are shared; but what does it all mean to the average medium business owner with no branding, and no plans to expand?
The question you must ask yourself before setting up any of these profiles is: What kind of time can I devote to this? It’s different to traditional marketing in that it works almost in real time, requires constant upkeep and a working knowledge of the business is required. If you were to put an ad on the radio or in the local newspaper (what!); after the submission of the creative you can basically get back to work and forget about it until new customers mention your ad. If they ever do. You don’t have much of a measurable way to keep track of this, unless you do something schmaltzy like a discount for code-words etc. So 1998.
You own a business, and you have a loyal set of customers. You could always do with more business, and you want to be known in your area for doing what you do best. You set up Facebook, link it to twitter and have a play with Pinterest, and you have no idea what Google Plus is.
Social media means keeping on top of the news in your industry as well as news that will mean something to your target audience. Posting snappy images of your own as well as sharing others and actually talking to these potential customers. When you hit a few hundred likes/plus ones or followers you can start offering specials and whatnot. But getting to that point in itself can be a battle.
- Share your page to your personal contact list. This is your email lists, client database etc.
- Add your social links to your email signature
- Personally tell your clients about specials for liking or following your page
- Use a scheduling tool like HootSuite to save time
- Repetitively invite people to like your page. Do it once and then maybe send a reminder in a few months
- SMS people about it. SMS marketing is the new telemarketing and it stinks.
- Write personal things or pictures of your office’s lunch. Unless your business is a restaurant!
- Accept clients as personal friends, have your business life separate to personal.
I Still Don’t Understand
If you don’t understand the value of social media marketing, and are leaving it in the too hard basket, you are missing out of a lot of valuable insight, not to mention new customers. It might seem too hard right now, and maybe it is! If you are a one man band, and don’t have time to do this, then you either need help, or you have enough business to sustain you. In this day and age, I feel that no business has enough $$$ coming in to say that, so get some help.
- Get some training. Commit to learning the best tools of the trade, and what you can do yourself to get started.
- Start a blog on your website. Just your thoughts or some cracker stories about your business, customers or new products. Don’t overreach at first – we aren’t all superstar writers.
- Write down some goals: What is your measure of success? Leads, new likes per month, people using your discounts? Make some future goals as well, such as where you’ll be at in 3 months, 6 months etc.
- Read replies and reply to them if they need it. This is all about the customer’s needs, not just about your internet fame.
- Get into online fights with trolls. (Google ‘Trolls’ and see what this is)
- Outsource your posting. This will be embarrassing. If you hire a company to post on your behalf it will be painfully obvious when the spelling, grammar and tense are incorrect. Even Australian companies hire Indian data entry staff for this, so just bite the bullet and do it yourself! By all means get a social media strategy from a reputable company though, this is an invaluable road map for your project.
Where is the ROI?
That is the question. For large companies with branding and an in-house marketing team, the ROI on social media marketing would take your breath away. The resources they have to hold competitions and giveaways as well as events make it all worthwhile. They also utilize the data from their efforts and make sure their offline promotions and other online properties are all aligned.
Chances are, you won’t have the time, money or know how to emulate this result. Not right now, anyway! But there are still rewards to be had.
You are just starting out, but the great thing about this is that you can learn from other brands and businesses. You can schedule a weeks’ worth of posts. You can post from your phone if something strikes your fancy on the fly. You can get your receptionist to help out.
The point is, for a small to medium business, it’s all about networking, listening to the customer and giving away information. Doing that with newspaper ads and skywriting is difficult to say the least and leaves nothing of your personality and won’t leave a lasting impression in your customers minds. The ROI when you are starting out is loyalty, knowledge and customer insights. The sharing and recommendations will come as you master this creative and interactive form of marketing.
[author ] Rebecca Caldwell is a social media marketer and enthusiast from Perth, WA. She is writing on behalf of Resonance Online, experts in small business SEO services as well as reputation management and training.[/author]