The question of marketing on social media is a big one for small business owners who don’t want to miss out on a potentially huge ROI but also don’t want to waste their time chasing rainbows.
The truth is your marketing mix will always be unique to your business and your customers. If your ideal clients are spending time on one or more platforms, it is worth the effort to make your presence known on those platforms. Just keep in mind that while technology is rapidly changing, the underlying principles that will guide your marketing efforts are not.
We are reposting an article that originally appeared on OneAccord Partners in 2011 regarding social media. We have made a few updates but the evergreen advice is just as relevant now as it was then, despite the ever-changing social media landscape.
“Social media” has become a catchall buzzword for both the latest interactive technological advances and burgeoning forms of social interactions made possible by those advances. Over the past five plus years, more and more companies have jumped on seeking to harness the power of social media to support their business development. The question for some is “How can we more effectively incorporate these channels for our business interests?” The question for others is “What’s next? What’s the next wave of advancement?”
The key for realizing present opportunities and for catching the next wave of advance is focusing first not on the technology itself, but on goals of the business and the potential of existing and evolving models of interaction. Having been involved in web development since the mid-1990s, I’ve observed two major pitfalls that distinguish the leaders from the late or inadequate adopters: 1) the focus on technology itself rather than the core business goals in an environment of advancement; 2) the wrong people driving and directing the adoption of technology.
Internet development has sometimes been understood in successive waves. A superficial approach to social media at this juncture means a firm is catching the wake rather than the next wave of progress in the digital realm. The vital key to realizing current and coming waves of technology is to first identify the relational and transactional breakthrough the advance represents and second, to connect that to key opportunities in your specific business and industry. There are also, notably, a myriad of social business initiatives worth exploring and learning from across the board.
Below we have offered ten keys for evaluating and maximizing your business’ position in the social media space both in the present and in anticipation of the future.
1. Engage at the Executive Level
Don’t relegate the strategic discussion of social media to the marketing department, but consider it carefully at the executive level. Likewise, don’t delegate the decisions as to the technical platforms for delivery solely to the IT department, but consider these decisions comprehensively at the executive level. Additionally, carefully evaluate the voice being expressed through various channels and make sure it authentically and effectively represents your brand identity and supports your goals.
2. Whatever You’re Doing, Do Well
The biggest issue with many companies is a lack of commitment to see their strategies through. Is your social media presence static or dynamic? Is it constantly being refreshed? Is your staff trained and encouraged to participate? Are you seeking to broaden your reach actively? Some business owners question the ROI of such activities. That’s a valid and broader concern. But an equally important concern is what image you are projecting with a stagnant or out-of-date presence. It’s as straightforward as implementing basic approaches such as having all your staff like posts or other online elements.
The algorithms that determine what shows up to users on each platform are constantly changing, but you can always leverage the power of engagement. Having the people in your company make a point of liking, commenting, retweeting, sharing, etc. immediately after you post content will help make that content more visible to more people.
3. Social Scoring
Social networks are a critical business asset and should be valued. Some companies are now evaluating customers based not on traditional benchmarks such as income, but rather on “influence” as defined by the strength of their social connections. Companies like Klout and Empire.Kred specialize in this kind of social media scoring. Consider identifying, cultivating and rewarding key influencers both internally and externally as you refine your social marketing strategy.
4. Focus on Enhancing Business Value
Don’t focus simply on the platforms of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), but rather focus on the key interactive models that are available/emerging and connect those to your core business goals. With this in mind, labor to establish social solutions that target and offer specific business value and let that drive adoption and strategy.
5. Physical Applications and Proximity Focus
Connect the physical to the virtual. A long-standing trend connects interactive tools and applications to the real world in real time. SoundCloud, for example, is a platform that puts sound at the heart of communities, websites and even apps and is the catalyst for social interaction and networking. Periscope allows anybody to live stream anything to anybody and other social media platforms have responded with their own live stream options.
Think about your own offerings and consider how a real-time connection could enhance your customers’ relationships with your company either with the constitution of the actual product or service or communities of knowledge/practice associated with your product or service. Review emerging applications on smart phones for inspiration. Additionally, posting signage encouraging participation in your social initiatives is a simple, but effective measure.[i]
6. Integrate Your Data
Connect all of your databases of people, prospects, etc. into a unified target for your social media strategy. At a recent social media conference there was a discussion of how in some larger organizations the various databases of prospects, customers, stakeholders, etc. were completely unrelated and there was a lack of unified social media and communication planning. This lack of coordination impeded the impact.
7. Integrate Your Delivery and Analysis
Look for technologies/products to integrate your reaches via email marketing, social media, etc. A number of companies are offering this type of integrated approach to maximize impact and centralize control and evaluation. These services include Constant Contact, Sprout Social, Hubspot and more.
8. Keep Your Strategies and Content Fresh and Diversified
A Gartner survey shows some social media fatigue among early adopters: “31 percent of Aspirers [younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers] indicated that they were getting bored with their social network.” Content must be kept fresh, creative and condensed for easy digestion for short attention spans.
9. Communicate and Brand Yourself on Multiple Channels
Anticipate multiple information hubs, modes of collaboration and modes of communication. People are increasingly using mobile devices to access information, communicate, collaborate, etc. Trends are showing that social media contexts are taking on a significant portion of what was traditionally handled via email. For example, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp handle more than 60 billion messages per day.
Businesses should consider holistically all channels and their tools as part of their virtual presence and identity, rather than focusing unduly on just their website for instance. Because of their immense size and presence, businesses should explore and build upon Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn key business presences.
Brandwatch reports the average internet user now has an account on more than five social media networks while 91 percent of retailers are on two or more social channels. In a world of 7.3 billion people, 3.17 billion now use the internet. Over the course of a single year, social media use rose by 176 million while 1 million new social media users become active on mobile each day.
For the last ten years, Pew research has been gathering information on how people use social media and recently published demographic information organized by platform from their 2016 survey.
10. Evaluate and Plan
Evaluate your social media strategy and use the right tools for the right messaging. It is important to identify who you are targeting and how to cultivate real relationships versus thin relationships that aren’t substantive. From a basic perspective, below are some key ways to think about your communication strategies:
-Facebook: People’s expectation of this media is general information on what is current. This can include updates and events for your company.
-Twitter: Research shows that people expect the information to be explicit about current offerings or happenings and do not wish for extraneous. Consumers take to Twitter to engage in conversation with a brand. This often includes complaints to which users expect a prompt response.
To take it a step further, there are tools to evaluate where you are and where you want to go. Harvard Business Review created a broad grid as part of an article entitled "What’s Your Social Media Strategy?" The authors break down strategic engagement into four categories: predictive practitioner, creative experimenter, social media champion and social media transformer.
Social media is a dynamic way to advance business interests through intelligence gathering, promotion and customer engagement. It is critical that businesses engage at the top level to ensure that the strategies and tactics are united, integrated, authentic and on point to meet overall business objectives. The approaches mentioned above will help your company better realize present and future opportunities.