(Or Is It Yet Another Service Marketers Want to Promote)?
Can Social Media Marketing Work For Your Business (Or Is It Yet Another Service Marketers Want to Promote)?
The short answer to both questions is, ‘YES.’ Social Media Marketing (SMM) can generate brand awareness (locally, nationally or globally), it can influence purchases (give your brand “social endorsements”) and can even generate a return on investment if set up and measured properly. The problem many businesses run into is they set the wrong expectations about SMM right from the start and then consider they have wasted marketing dollars paying for “fans”, “subscribers” or an “amazing Facebook app/game” that didn’t seem to do anything for sales. This is not only the marketer’s fault for setting the wrong expectations but also the businesses’ for lacking the proper knowledge.
We have seen the expressions of many business owners who just don’t get what social media is (they call it the Twitter, the Facebook, the YouTube, and others like it), and the truth is that some authors or pseudo-experts can make any internet marketing subject too complex. This is why idea180 (an internet marketing company) has prepared this article, intended for small or medium business owners who want to understand social media in laymen’s terms, and to help determine just how much social media their business needs.
Why Are You Considering Social Media?
If your interest in social media is to have the same high number of Facebook fans as your friend’s page, you can buy a few thousand fans from India or some other countries for a couple of hundred dollars and be done with it. This is not really cheating, it’s just plain stupid. A couple of hundred dollars used in Facebook ads can give your business a few thousand impressions from the right pair of eyes. You can choose if you want your promotional ad to be seen by males or females, specific age ranges, run it in specific towns, cater to people with specific interests, and based your campaign on any other demographic data Facebook collects. You can also decide if you want to create fans for your page or drive traffic to a landing page on your site. If you compare creating “fake fans” made in Pakistan to “targeting the right people”, the choice is obvious – social media is quality over quantity. The right people are more likely to buy than some “fake fan” that could care less about you or your products.
The example above shows how setting the right expectations in SMM matter a lot, thousands of fans means nothing – SMM it’s all about interaction. Some small businesses have only a few clients, not thousands, who generate 100% of their revenue; the relationship with these clients is based on quality interactions.
Social media has to be done for the right reasons, and the main reason is to “socialize” with your audience, whomever “your audience” is (customers, prospects, both, etc.). Creating social media outlets like a Facebook page, or a YouTube Channel etc. is like creating clubs or spaces for people who share a common interest. The interest can be your products or services, or maybe just information that relates to your products or services, or even people who share a common lifestyle or even set of beliefs (like “people who hate apple products”). Social media outlets can be about anything, and they actually are. There are millions of “new tribes” online; people who like to read, people who like to read in Latin, people who like to be fit, people who like fashion and have fitness, people who like cars, people who like specific brands of cars, people who like underground car racing using specific brands of cars, etc. The only difference between a “real club” and a “social media outlet” is that one occurs digitally, which means it occurs anywhere, at any time – and virtually all the time.
Why is Social Media Important (why should your business socialize)?
Let’s back up a little and understand the impact of social media in digital marketing and why any business should care.
Remember the days when people said the internet was going to revolutionize communications and even commerce? Well, the change was progressive, it didn’t take one day, but it happened faster than was originally expected, to the point that if you don’t have a website today (or some sort of web listing at least) you pretty much don’t exist (but you have probably built one already). Social media is also happening fast and it’s probably going to evolve like the internet did. The way social media works and how it’s integrated with other digital services will improve and will become a better service for commerce; just like search engines did (remember Google?).
More people are using online searches to find more information about your product or services or to validate the information they have received directly from you, your ads, or your website BEFORE they buy (and sometimes even after they buy too).
The truth is that today’s buyers just don’t trust you anymore. They don’t trust your newspaper ad, or your TV spot, your banner, your website or your radio promotion. Why? Because people are overloaded with information and human beings have started to filter out ads (perceived as noisy interruptions), and we have started consuming media in own terms. We can now watch shows when we please (on-demand); we buy online when we are ready (not when we are told). Consumers needs have become more complex because of we live in the era of customization and we are just getting harder to please.
So where does a consumer go to validate some company’s promise? How do you and I know that company A or B are going to fulfill my expectations? Easy, in the old days, shoppers would go to other shoppers for a referral of a product or service. Social media marketing is basically the same.
Example; you want to buy the services of a digital marketing agency. Anything you can read on that agency’s website has been written by the agency so you will take it as “marketing fluff” (world renowned, decade of expertise, proven results, etc.). If you did like what you read, your next step would be going to Google and ran a search for the agency’s name; you will find some nice reviews on the better business bureau, nothing on the rip-off report site, and you may even find some positive mentions on other sites. Then you think, “of course they have positive reviews, they are a digital marketing agency, they can craft their own reviews”. Who would you go to then? The only opinion that matters is someone who has used that agency’s service and that you may know. If you go to a social media outlet like the agency’s Facebook page and see a familiar face from someone in your area, who perhaps is somehow connected to you through a third person connection you can safely approach them and ask him or her what was their experience with that agency.
All this has happened without the agency’s knowledge – but the value of an endorsement is much higher than the value of any marketing speech or sales pitch. The secret of social media is the secret of trust – or just plain old good reputation.
So How Much Socializing Does Your Business Need?
Search engines like Google have started to include “social factors” in their ranking algorithms. They understand that social media is going to play a bigger role and they need to take into account how social a business gets. The truth is, your business needs to become social soon; at least having properly set up social media outlets is extremely important. You need to secure a good name or username for your company or brand and make sure some of your best “subscribers” (who are your best promoters) have been invited. Basic things are needed just like when you needed a website.
Your first website wasn’t probably that good and most likely you decided to re-do it. Your social media efforts will evolve too – the most important thing is to start and claim your space and set the tone for the right content to attract the right members.
The final lesson I guess is that as businesses we should learn from social media strategies: socialize and focus on quality over quantity – establish a relationship with your customers, not just their money. Focus on attracting the right type of clients, clients you know you can please and grow with, not just as many first time buyers as you can get who will then be dissatisfied with your company. Remember, social media is a double-edged sword – you don’t want your disgruntled customers writing how much your service sucked all over every social media outlet out there – this should only occur to your competition.