Conversation overheard recently in a local store featuring gifts and works of local artists:
She's right! There is!!! And her instincts are totally on target. You do need to give it some thought before you embark on any new marketing platform. Consider:
A recent AT&T poll of small business owners revealed that only 39 percent are employing social media in their marketing efforts. Usage of LinkedIn has risen about 6 percent to 31 percent in the past two years; Facebook users are up from 41 percent a year ago to 44 percent this year. Another interesting finding is that men tend to be more comfortable using a website for digital marketing, while female owners favor social media.
The power of social media is in the conversation, which is what distinguishes it from traditional, one-way communication. Many entrepreneurs like how social media personalizes the marketing message and gives it a more human touch. That's the plus. The downside is that because you are engaged in two-way communication with the general public, you have less control over what is said about your business. But if you don't turn to social media as at least part of your digital presence, another company in your industry will.
Remember the old adage about dissatisfied customers telling dozens of people about a bad experience with your company? That was when they could only tell them face to face. Now multiply those dozens by thousands and you have the number of people who can learn about your unhappy customer in a digital world. Customer satisfaction becomes even more important when the audience is a global one. On the other hand, a negative comment gives you the opportunity to showcase your customer service skills by allowing you to quickly resolve the situation and report on what you did.
Now to the time issue. This is one of the most challenging parts of maintaining a social media presence. Find the pattern and frequency that works best for you in terms of what you want to say and how much time it takes to say it. It takes more time than you think it will. So, set a schedule and maintain it. You may want to assign one of your employees to handle the responsibility. Whoever does it, it's best to create a backlog of content and add to that as you think of additional information to share with your followers. By having a cache of material, should time run short, you have something ready to post so you can maintain your schedule and your strategy. Experts say the best times to post to Facebook, for example, are early in the morning and over the noon hour when many people take a break from work to check in on their social media. Another great time saver is to link all of your social media accounts so that a post to one is instantly posted to your other outlets.
A powerful source for content is Google alerts. You can receive email alerts based on criteria entered into your Google search page. If you want to keep track of the latest news in your industry, about your competitors or about other businesses in your area, set up alerts for you to receive content related to them. Pick up that content and repost to share the most relevant information with your audience.
Finally, as you would with any new strategy, periodically stop and re-evaluate your approach. Are you reaching the audience you want to target? Are you engaging in the right conversations? Are you seeing results in more customers and higher sales? The beauty of social media is that you can course correct in a matter of minutes.
Social media allows your company to have a personality. It's multi-dimensional. It can be serious or have a sense of humor. It can show compassion, address timely issues and allow you to answer questions and diffuse confusion. It enables you to communicate your value proposition and reinforce the character of your business.
Business guru Guy Kawasaki notes, "Marketing is much flatter now. Word of mouth is now what makes products tip." Social media validates the best form of marketing, which has always been word of mouth.
This story was featured in the April 2012 newsletter