Why should a small company like mine get involved with Social Marketing?
3 point summary for the time starved:
1. People are not using traditional media sources like the yellow pages anymore to find businesses- the Internet is quicker and easier to do so.
2. It enables you to reach out to the most relevant group of people appropriate to you business.
3. Rather than spending money on traditional advertising (flyers, newspaper adverts etc) and you not being able to find out the impact, web tracking you can account for every pound you spend.
4. Engaging with customers and stakeholders effectively can have benefits other than new customers. Product development, market research, customer care, competitive analysis and many more.
1. It fast… real fast:
Today the majorty (over 80%) of people search for products in a search engine before they make a purchase. Shopping comparison sites have now become established to capitalise on this fact. After all why wouldn’t you? You can now browse over a hundred suppliers of the same product, assess their customer service and other factors that may influence your decision. This is far quicker than having to visit this many stores, which wouldn’t actually be possible.
The convenience of using search engines means you need to be present on them. Being in the right place when people are searching for what you have to offer is crucial. This is why Search Engine marketing now accounts for the vast majority of Internet Advertising spend, making up 62.1% of the total Internet Advertising Industry (IAB, H1 2009).
Pay per Click advertising offers a fast way to buying your way on to the first page of the major search engines. A campaign can be set up within a few hours. However preparation work is needed to identify the most relevant ‘keywords’ for your product or business. This is still a dramatically faster entry to the market than running an advert in a local newspaper for example.
The great thing about Social Media is that it is fairly easy to set up. Registering an account on the top networks doesn’t require a great deal of expertise. As such it is quite straightforward to set up a branded presence on the Internet today, that is publically accessible and viewable by millions of people all over the world. The complex part of this process is understanding each network’s tools enough to create the most appropriate and impactful brand exposure possible for visitors to your profile. Different networks and communities have different rules and unwritten rules that need to be adhered to, to avoid criticism and being shut out of that community.
This means there are no more lead times that can run over a month before the publication date. Instead changes can be made instantly and reflect any changes in the business. It also enables businesses to keep their customers or other stakeholders up to date with what is happening in your company. Just changed your logo? No problem! A few clicks and that is updated.
2. Put your business in the centre of customer’s online life:
Social networks are a collection of personal and business profiles. They can provide contact information, personal interests, company website, affiliations and a whole lot more. Some people share more information than others, but generally people are sharing more information about themselves publically then ever before online.
With the security risk of sharing personal information aside, this does mean that you are able to identify and selct who you are ‘friends’ with. Therefore the most relevant people to your business can be approached to join your network. This ensures that your network can be highly targeted and relevant to what you are aiming to achieve.
You might search for potential new customers for example, or perhaps strategic partners in the same/ complimenting industry. Relevancy is the key to social network marketing, not massive numbers. not only does it ensure that people can see your business is highly focused on delivering solutions to a specific group, but reduces the amount of unnecessary information appearing on your profile page.
3. Track it, track it some more and then analyse:
Web analytics are crucial for success. After all if you do not know what kind of impact your marketing spend is having on your revenue then how can you ensure it is not being wasted? Simple. You can’t.
Hosting services can provide you with web statistics, but it is important that any package includes the ability to add a “tracking code” on to the links you are adding to your profile pages, comments etc. Statistics that show how many visitors your site receives is good, but social marketing is about engaging people in a journey that leads from engaging with them socially and then bringing people to your website to find out more. If trust and interest has been built effectively then people are a lot more likely to stay on your website to find out more information and make a purchase.
Measuring the social activity in itself e.g. personal messages, posts, number of friends etc. is not necessary as this is generally not the aim of socialising with people- it is about stimulating action. As such tracking the links that measure such an action and the subsequent behaviour that is exhibited when these people reach your website is more important.
4. Optimise your whole business with Social Marketing!
Lead generation is often the primary objective for marketing activity, but often indirectly attracts other benefits as well. In the past marketers have been preoccupied by “channels”. Direct mail is a channel for example that was used to stimulate an immediate response like “Call us now!” and TV advertising would raise awareness of the brand.
Social Marketing however is not a channel. It is a discipline that enables buinesses to enage with people who can help meet their goals. Successful businesses have more goals than to just secure new customers. Generating repeat purchase, increasing the value of each purchase, reducing the cost of suppliers, improving the product/ service and others all contrinute to a businesses success. Social Marketing can help all of these areas depending on how and where it is deployed.
Want to know whether your latest innovation works? Ask your most loyal customers for direct feedback on improvements. Want to identify cheaper suppliers? Bring them together and ask them all for what you are looking for. The competition that is created by bring competing parties together can reduce price and increase their responsiveness.
By engaging people in your business makes people know you care about what they think. This reflects well on your business by demonstrating you understand your customers and care.
This can be taken one step further- moving your customer support on to a social platform. There is a perceived risk that putting customer support in a public domain will show all the problems being experienced. However when a customer complain is dealt with effectively the result is an even more loyal customer who is likely to recommend you to their friends on the basis of being so effective at sorting out any problems. This increased trust in your service. The key is to ensure that your customer support is efficient. But why wouldn’t it be? This strategy combines marketing and customer support, moving it to a free platform that can deal with numerous issues at the same time. This is time saving and cost saving in the long run. It just takes you to make that first step.