As I speak to various business groups, business owners, and classes, I am constantly reminded that while this whole social media thing has been around a few years, and most people and businesses have seemingly jumped on board, there are still a lot of people who are behind the curve and don’t get it. So I thought I’d take some time to back up a bit and go over some of the basics. In fact, I think it’s even helpful for those of us who work in this field day in and day out to revisit the basics, because often we overcomplicate things and lose sight of what this is all really about.
So why should a business even consider adding social media to its marketing mix? What are the basics that can lead you to a social media mindset?
- Social media is cost effective – Most of the social media tools that are available to individuals and businesses are free. There is nothing wrong with paying for marketing and web services, but why not use the free tools that are available to you online? It may cost you in time, as well as paying someone in-house, but the return on investment is worth it. Yes, there are some tools that might even be worth purchasing, and you might want to spend some money on social media ads, but in the long run, the costs are much lower than any form of traditional media. And if handled properly, the return can be incredible.
- Social media IS word-of-mouth – Almost any business owner will tell you that the most effective form of marketing is word-of-mouth. Nothing beats friends recommending products to other friends, particularly when the recommendation comes from a trusted friend. Social media is merely word-of-mouth amplified. With social media you get the personal nature and effectiveness of word-of-mouth brought into the digital realm and magnified.
- Social media is effective – While there are no guarantees, and it’s not a silver bullet, a properly implemented and maintained social media presence brings results. You can effectively reach people who care about your business or product, and interact with them on a personal level. It takes time and work, but again, it can work very well for you.
- Social media provides rapid feedback – Through social media you have the ability to get near real-time feedback from customers and potential customers. Social media is a great tool for market research, customer service, R&D, and more. Sometimes your customers will provide the feedback on their own, while other times you might have to ask, but the feedback you get, positive or negative, can be invaluable.
- Social media allows you to disseminate information quickly - Life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, and neither does business. Web updates, print collateral, and more traditional forms of marketing require resources, and often a lot of lead-time. With social media you can react quickly and get your message to the right people with little or no lead-time. This is a big reason why many radio stations are no longer airing school closings for inclement weather. People don’t need to listen when they can get the information immediately online.
- Social media can boost your search engine results – A big part of getting noticed amidst the digital clutter of the web is making sure you show up high in search engine results. Companies spend a lot of money on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to get even the smallest edge over the competition. A well executed, fully integrated social media strategy offers a boost in the SEO/SEM wars, particularly as Google and other search engines are indexing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Social media is alive – You can now connect and interact with real, living, breathing people. Customers are no longer faceless IP addresses. This allows your business or organization to create the personal experience of a small, local storefront business. The ball is in your court.
- Social media is the future of the internet – User generated content (whereby users become creators and participants, not merely consumers, of online content) is now a large part of the internet experience. The concept of social media and networking has changed the face of how consumers use the internet, and therefore, how businesses and organizations create an online presence. And with the rapidly increasing adoption of smart phones, social media keeps us connected at all times. Social media isn’t just a list of platforms, it’s how we interact online, even on our web sites.
- Social media is dynamic and flexible - Unlike traditional media, social media allows you to change and tweak your content and messaging quickly. You and your business can rapidly adapt to the desires and needs of your audience.
- Social media builds community - No longer are you confined to addressing a dissimilar group of individuals spread out over geographic and cultural areas. Now you can build your own online communities, encouraging your consumers to not only connect with you, but with each other. The strength, and collective voice, of this community can be phenomenal. Plus the research capabilities are phenomenal as you seek to learn more about your connected community.
- Social media builds trust – Community is based on relationships and we tend to trust those in our communities. When we seek information we tend to go to those whom we trust. This is why there is so much talk about influencers, and the need to tap into their power.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things I could list, but the fact is, the social media experience is here to stay. It’s not a fad, as many people were saying just a few years ago. It is ubiquitous and becoming more fully integrated into our everyday experience. The trick is to learn what works for you and how to make it part of a fully integrated marketing plan, rather than treating various platforms as if they exist in a vacuum.