In 2011, 80% of businesses in America with over 100 employees will use social media marketing. Compared with two years ago, when only 42% of companies were using social media, this is an enormous change (source eMarketer). As more and more people adopt the use of social media in their daily lives, marketers are being forced to recognise the potential of this communication tool and integrate it into the marketing mix.
Social Media is one of those mysterious (and slightly scary) terms in the world of marketing. When Facebook exploded on the world stage, followed not long after by Twitter, all those ‘slow adopters’ buried their heads in the sand and hoped (or in some cases prayed) that it would quickly evaporate. Surely this was just another passing Gen-Y fad? No such luck.
Social media has changed the way advertising and marketing is rolled out: bombarding customers with endless two-for-the-price-of-one email deals creates short-term leads but does not ensure long-term success. Social media allows two-way communication with potential customers and can generate online conversations about your brand between customers. So how do you integrate social media into your marketing mix? Make social media part of everything you do; social media is more than just another marketing tool.
It would be really easy to just create a Facebook page, update it perhaps once a week (or every other week if I’m busy). That’s social media isn’t it? Not quite. Consumers do not participate in social media so that marketers have another vehicle to deliver their two-for-the-price-of-one spam. Consumers want to communicate with other people, connect with their friends, their family, and gain an insight into the people behind the brand that they know and love. Marketing through social media marketing should enable this connection. It should create an actual, real relationship (and conversation) between the brand and the customer.
We’ll let you in on the secret to social media: draft, discuss and then implement a social media strategy. It can be a component of a marketing strategy or a stand-alone strategy. It’s up to you. But just make sure that you have one.
Choose a couple of key social media vehicles (those most relevant to your customers or audience). There is no need to use every social media vehicle. Unless you have unlimited resources, you will end up spreading yourself thin and doing all social media badly instead of a couple extremely well. There’s no point in having a half-baked blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and RSS feed. You are better off just having a top notch Facebook and Twitter account. Choose carefully though. Ask yourself: Who is my ideal customer? How and what do I want to communicate with them? Which social media vehicle will be most effective to do so?
Before you update your status, upload that photo or decide to tweet, think about how that action will be improving your brand. Social media is like a giant, expensive, online advertising campaign. As soon as you publish something online, it is visible to the whole world. If you wouldn’t want it on a billboard in Times Square, then don’t post it online. Every social media action should build the strength and value of your brand. It should not just be another excuse for verbal diarrhoea. Even if you are the CEO of IBM, no one cares what you ate for breakfast. And remember, social media should always use your logo, company colours, relevant pictures and any other branding vehicles available, just as advertising would.
Social media does have its limitations though. If your company has no brand recognition to start with, social media won’t really help. You can utilise social media to increase brand recognition, but not to create it. A Facebook page won’t win over new customers.
You can use social media as a vehicle for communicating with customers (particularly younger, Gen Y customers) or for retaining existing happy customers. But if your customers aren’t happy with your product, daily Facebook status updates will probably upset, rather than impress them. If your brand, product or customer service isn’t 100%, it’s probably better to work on business operations and improvements before venturing into the world of social media.
As with any marketing activity, you need to be able to determine how effective social media as well as calculate its Return on Investment. To fully understand the effectiveness of your social media marketing campaign, it is best to use both internal and external systems of measurement.
Internal measurement is much easier to gauge. It includes how many Twitter followers you have, how many friends on Facebook or how many people ‘liked’ your last status update. While all these elements will give you solid, quantitative evidence (your accountant or CFO will like these), they won’t tell you whether a social media campaign is actually working, or whether your key messages are being heard (and understood or acted upon) by your audience.
Don’t get discouraged though, this is the same of an above-the-line advertising campaign. You can run all the television advertisements you like (with information from the TV networks on viewer ratings and audience breakdown) but, how do you know that your target audience isn’t in the kitchen making a cup of tea during the ad break?
As such, you need to couple internal measurement with external measurement tools. External measurement is a bit trickier to gauge. It includes website traffic and customer enquiries. You know when companies ask how you heard about them? Well, this is why. They are trying to get an understanding of which marketing methods work best for their brand. If sales haven’t increased, then whether you have two or two million Facebook fans is irrelevant.
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