Social Media Marketing: Should We?
May 1, 2012 by Maria Ford
With increasing frequency, we are asked by small- and mid-sized companies about social media marketing. The two most common social media properties we are asked about are Facebook and Twitter. The two most common questions we’re asked about social media are: “What is it?” and, “Should we?”
Because those two questions cancel each other out (if you don’t know what it is, you shouldn’t be doing it), we have been educating our clients about it and helping them make informed decisions about adding social media activity to their marketing communications mix.
If and how to add it to your MIX is, in my opinion, the key consideration.
Social media is another communication channel that can be used to reach existing, new, or different segments of a target audience. It does not replace or cancel out all – or perhaps any – other forms of marketing communications. Yes, it is one of the newest, “hottest” trends in marketing. Yes, the buzzwords are on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Likely you see many of your competitors and/or clients with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and RSS icons on their websites. Does that mean that you NEED to participate in social media? No. Does it mean that those other companies are benefiting from their social media participation? No. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that those other companies are using these tools effectively.
As with any other communications vehicle that you choose to invest in (nope, social media is not free), social media is not a silver bullet, and random acts of social media will get you no further than any other ad hocmarketing activity can.
5 Things Social Media Marketing CAN Do
These are the five most important things that I believe social media marketing CAN do for a business:
- Connect a business with individuals, consumers, end-users. Even in a business-to-business environment, this can be highly valuable. For example, you may sell exclusively through distribution channels, but still have a need to reach customers and end-users directly to build or extend relationships with them.
- Expand brand awareness through social networks. An effective social media strategy reaches well beyond your immediate communities as its members share and recommend information to their personal networks. (Remember that old shampoo commercial, “…she told two friends, and she told two friends…”?) With the click of a button, Facebook and Twitter users can share or endorse your information with their networks and expose your brand to an additional set of contacts.
- Build communities of interest. Part of your business and marketing plan may call for becoming a recognized thought leader, or an industry hub for a certain kind of community of conversation. Social media can play a key role in building such communities of interest.
- Create and spread awareness of lead-generation campaigns. But don’t confuse social media activity itself with lead-generation – you need other marketing tools to accomplish that. While social media can help drive traffic to lead-generation events, campaigns and web pages, it should not be considered a lead generation activity.
- Improve search engine optimization. Given the right strategy and execution, social media marketing can be an effective element of search engine optimization by improving page rank and online reputation. Poorly implemented, it can have the opposite result by drawing attention away from your primary online properties, diluting your website optimization, or harming your online reputation.
5 Things It CANNOT Do
Now, to punch some holes in common myths about social media marketing. These are five things that I know it CANNOT do for you:
- Let you run free/really cheap marketing programs. Effective social media requires investment. Social media success is directly tied to the quality and frequency of content generated. So, while it costs nothing to set up a profile on LinkedIn, a page on Facebook, a blog on Blogger or a channel on YouTube, you need skilled personnel to populate and manage the content and communication on these properties. If the content is video (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube), the investment in professional resources may be considerable.
- Help you save money by hiring unskilled labour. Social media is about creating direct and personal relationships with your target audiences. Do you really want a temporary co-op employee, or a summer student, or an overseas third party to build those relationships for you?
- Get you results really fast. Yes, social media content is all about immediacy, timeliness and relevance. No, that doesn’t mean you’ll achieve your marketing goals within a week after launching your blog/YouTube Channel/Facebook page, etc. You still have to get people to care about your brand or message, and you still have to get it in front of them on a regular basis. Building trust online is a lot like building it in person – it takes time and consistency to achieve.
- Make your brand cooler/more modern. Well, it could, actually. But if you do it poorly, you’ll look like a dinosaur. Favorite examples: “Blogs” in which the last entry is more than a month old. E-newsletters posted to websites as PDFs. Facebook profile walls filled with third-party sales pitches and other spam. Twitter accounts in which the last tweet is more than a day old (mea culpa!). LinkedIn profiles and company pages with out-of-date professional information. Etcetera!
- Expand my network exponentially. Well, it might be able to do this as well – but is it a network of valued contacts? As a business/professional, you need to care about the company that you keep. If you really can reach far more of your customers online through social media than you can reach through, say, your website, promotion campaigns, events, and sales activities, then your marketing platform is probably broken, and you’ve got bigger problems than, “Should we ‘tweet?”
Does Social Media Fit into Your Mix?
Figuring out if the investment in social media marketing is worthwhile for your business is not unlike determining whether you should invest in print advertising, a new website, or any other communication platform. Choosing the correct marketing and communication vehicles to focus on should always be based on these considerations:
- Do my target audiences use/prefer this mode of communication? If so, what percentage of my audience will be receptive? Which segments of my audience will benefit?
- Is this channel/medium the right or best fit for the type of communication I have to share? Most social media is “of the moment”. Unlike a website, it is not a good tool for archiving information. Instead, the most recently posted information holds the most – and fleeting – value. To be truly effective, then, social media requires frequency and participation, and it does not replace investments in websites and other forms of promotion.
- Do I have the correct resources available to make effective use of the channel, and if not, can I afford to hire or contract those resources?
- Do I know what a social media architecture is and how to create one? If you do not, talk to us or another qualified professional.
If you have question about how social media can fit into your business’ marketing and communications strategy, please contact us.
If you’re already engaged in social media and you require skilled support, check out our Social Media Copywriting service!
10 Persistent Social Media Myths, by Brett Borders: