I think we can all agree that social media is not a fad. Yes, the various platforms may change (goodbye MySpace, hello Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest), but the fact is, social media is not going away. So how can businesses embrace this newer advertising medium to reach a new audience?
Advertising is really just telling a story about your business or the products and services you offer. Stories can be told with words, video, and pictures, and social media is one vehicle you can use to tell your story. To get the best marketing results, social media should be used in a complementary fashion with other advertising mediums.
Where do you begin?
Tip #1: Advertising 101 teaches that you should first determine your goals and conduct research on, well, almost everything. Answer the following questions:
- What is your business strategy and what are your ultimate goals (i.e. More leads, more customer engagement, better customer service, increase brand recognition, gain local exposure)?
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- Who is your target market?
- What is your budget?
- What are your competitors doing?
- How can social media complement your marketing mix?
- How will you measure success?
Tip #2: During your research phase, focus some attention on social media. Learn the trends and the ins and outs so you can make intelligent decisions regarding which platforms you should be a part of. Maybe Facebook isn’t right for your business, but a LinkedIn group might be perfect. Some blogs to start with are: Mashable.com, AllFacebook.com, RedWriteWeb.com, Soshable.com, and TechCrunch.com.
Tip #3: Start monitoring your business and your competitors. With Web 1.0, companies had a website and treated it like an online brochure. It was very much a one-way conversation. With Web 2.0, you no longer own your brand. There is two-way conversation, and your brand is owned by your customers. Customers can say whatever they want, good or bad, about an experience they had with your business or your product or service. Make sure to monitor what is being said, and join in on the conversation.
- Google Alerts: One easy and free way to monitor your brand is by signing up for a free Google Alerts account. You can monitor key words for your business or your competitors (i.e. business’ name, CEO’s name, competitor’s name, etc.), and find out what is being said about your brand online.
- TweetDeck and HootSuite: If you are using Twitter, which is a great social platform for businesses, you can sign up for a dashboard management application such as TweetDeck or HootSuite to easily monitor what is being said about your brand. Monitor your mentions, create lists of your competitors to follow and interact with the media. If you sign up for Twitter, one of these tools is a necessity, and they are free!
- Socialmention.com and search.twitter.com: If you sign up for social media accounts, you can further monitor your online social presence with socialmention.com and search.twitter.com. Again, they are free!
Tip #4: Dive in and figure out what you are going to say. Once you have really thought about your goals, thoroughly researched social media and how it can work for your business and figured out which platforms would be best for your business, figure out the message you want to send, and get started. Make sure you contribute content that is either engaging, timely, thought provoking, educational, entertaining or a combination of these (make sure your content tone is in line with your company’s brand). Content is king, but you need to ensure that the content has a focus that ultimately ties back to your business. Posting things like, “Happy first day of summer!” is fun, but how can you tie it back to your business? For example, if you are a hardware store, you could post “Happy first day of summer!” with a picture of a sprinkler that you sell at your store. Or if you are a coffee shop, you could post the same message with a link to an article about staying hydrated and a picture of one your summer specialty drinks.
Tip #5: Don’t just sell, sell, sell. As stated above, you want to post content that ultimately ties back to your brand, but if you only use social media to sell your products and services, followers will quickly tune out. Don’t be that annoying “friend” who talks about themselves all the time. Offer articles, pictures, tips, and events that you think your followers would find interesting with your company’s news. For example, at SCE, I will share information that is happening in downtown Milwaukee because we are located downtown. I will also share articles on education or articles that tie into our program areas (i.e. “Top Summer Reads” on our Writers page). Be a resource for your followers.
The best part about social media is that it is an organic process that can change. If you find that a platform isn’t working or that one piece of content increases engagement over another, you can always tweak your strategies and tactics. Researching, monitoring and posting good content will help your business be successful in the fast-moving world of social media.