It is that magical time of year when many small businesses scramble to finish their planning and budgeting for next year. If you have not done so, you should be building your social media marketing strategy for 2013. Your social media marketing should be a fully integrated component of your marketing plan. In addition, social media activities should contribute to achievement of key business goals. According to a new study by Hiscox, only 35 percent of small businesses believe social media marketing is useful.
Why You Should Include Social Media Marketing
A new study by IDG Research Services reveals that 95 percent of all consumers use at least one social media platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc.). Of those surveyed by IDG, 53 percent of respondents said the most effective way to market to them is to answer their questions on social media platforms. They suggest sharing the following information:
- Product details
- Product reviews
- Asking customers for product feedback
- Handling customer service issues
Social media platforms evolve daily. Three leading social media platforms announced new features or functionality just this morning. Also evolving are tools and applications to manage, automate, and measure social media activity. Several social platforms recently announced new advertising programs in recent weeks.
We have previously written about the fact that customers and prospects expect every business to have a website and a social media presence. As smartphones become ubiquitous, people are accessing business and product information while shopping. They are more likely to seek the recommendations of their friends via social media when shopping than to call several people to solicit opinions. This is a powerful argument for at least a minimal presence on social media for every business.
Social Media also has a powerful effect on your SEO and your ability to rank high enough in search engine results to bring people to your website. Social media reputation and visibility, as well as inbound links generated by social sharing, now play a critical role in search engine ranking algorithms. For many small businesses with limited marketing budgets, this is sufficient reason for a social media presence.
The Hiscox study found that 44 percent of small businesses use advertising to market their products and/or services and 79 percent rely upon referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. Social media platforms offer advertising options that are often far more affordable than other venues. In addition, one of the things social media does exceptionally well is to extend the reach of your other word-of-mouth marketing efforts exponentially.
Finally, when numerous studies have demonstrated that increasingly people are researching product and service purchases online before they make any direct contact with a business, social media is an effective way to make available the information that will move them through the sales funnel and help them make a decision to buy from you.
Insights to Help You Plan a Social Media Marketing Strategy
1. Social Media Marketing is more likely to be effective and cost efficient if used in conjunction with other marketing efforts – as one part of a multi-faceted campaign.
2. Social Media Marketing requires appropriate content. You will need to determine the kind of content your customers and prospects want from you and where they want to consume it. Once the content is available, social media is a good way to let them know how to find it.
3. If social media marketing (or other social media activities) is unrelated to business goals, it will be a waste of time and/or money. You need to decide how to measure social media activities for their contribution to achievement of specific business goals.
4. Don’t waste time measuring useless information. The value of a re-tweet or a follower might be minimal, but influence and sales are important to measure and analyze.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of your content by ignoring “dark social sharing.” Many people are in the habit of emailing a link to a friend. Some people are reluctant to reveal the email addresses of their friends or family members without first getting permission.
6. Remember that social media include many networks and platforms. It is not just about Facebook and Twitter. Take the time to do the research to identify the platforms popular with your target audience. Keep your focus on your ideal customer.
7. Be strategic in your thinking and your activity. Maintain a focus on your business persona and the needs and interests of your target audience. They really don’t care what you had for lunch.
8. Evaluate the costs and benefits of advertising on social media platforms. Run a few tests before you commit a large portion of your budget.
9. Remember that a picture paints a thousand words. Learn to create or find powerful visual elements to combine with text. Remember – text with a picture ranks higher than text alone or video alone.
10. Test every ad.
11. Learn to think of conversations on social media as face-to-face interactions. Be real, be honest about your business, your products/services, and your business values.
12. Don’t buy followers, fans, or endorsements. Use real recommendations, testimonials, and connections.
13. Remember that social media marketing is not about pushing out information. You need to have conversations with real people who are typically more than happy to tell you what they want and need from you. Provide the information that will pull them to your business.
14. Define your audience, listen to them, and meet their needs. One of the needs might be to take the conversation offline at the appropriate time to close the deal or resolve a problem.
15. Incorporate your SEO strategy into your Social Media marketing strategy.
16. Make social media marketing a component of every marketing and PR effort.
There is far more to say about social media marketing, but we hope these insights will help you get started with a social media strategy that will extend the reach of your multi-faceted marketing plan. Be intentional, be focused, and be consistent.
By Staff, Little Black Dog Social Media & More