If you have decided to start swimming in the social media and digital marketing waters because you have realized that you need to have an online presence, congratulations; you're on the right track. Where many businesses, associations and non profits get into trouble is failing to understand how this sword cuts both ways.
Sure, you can easily start up business pages and profiles on as many social media platforms as you like but managing them strategically is an entirely different and sometimes taxing proposition. An abandoned or sporadically managed online presence hurts your company in several important ways.
When socially active potential customers, donors, supporters and followers encounter an abandoned or poorly managed page littered with a jumble of unorganized posts they get a first impression that's nearly impossible to recover from. In many cases, those prospects and opportunities are going away and not coming back. This is especially true with millennials, who just recently surpassed baby boomers as the most populous generation on the planet and soon will become the most dominant in terms of spending power.
Issues typically arise when managers in companies turn social media responsibilities over to internal employees, many times as a part-time endeavor. This leads to a lack of coherent, focused branding, advertising, posting strategies and account/profile management. Business pages launched through employee personal accounts are at risk as passwords go away when employees leave. Additionally, your company's marketing focus and strategy will continue to be watered down as your employee's part-time foray into social media impacts both their primary job responsibilities and your overall marketing efforts. The list goes on.
You have a business to run. An easy way to solve this issue is to hire a professional social media management company that can:
- Guide your marketing strategy
- Control your social media accounts, passwords and security settings
- Establish and manage a stronger, more secure, more customer centric and positive online experience
You'd be surprised how affordable working with a social media management firm can be. They're generally far less expensive than a full-time employee, especially when the total benefits package is included. Social Media Management companies will help you define and drive your marketing strategy, recommend social media channels to use, post and manage your messages and videos to those accounts, alert you to negative feedback on your page and report regularly on your advertising campaigns and monthly efforts.
If you make working with a trusted social media management partner a priority your company's brand will enjoy a persistent, consistent, creative and timely marketing message sent out on a guaranteed schedule, which over time is what customers, both existing and potential, will appreciate.
Social Media Factoids:
As I talk with potential clients about the use of social media as part of their overall marketing mix I have encountered a number of myths, misconceptions and assumptions that are impacting their decision to confidently move forward on social media platforms. Many times the conversations reveal a basic lack of knowledge about social media platforms, how they work and, more importantly, how they can be leveraged to their advantage.
If you don't have all the facts, it's not your fault. Even those of us that swim in fast-running social media waters every day are constantly researching and learning from one another. And just like the doctor whose patient walks through the door armed to teeth with internet research, having a spot on diagnosis that he's never seen, so too does the social media "specialist" get the occasional surprise from a client. Social media is a fast moving target that requires intellectual rigor, marketing smarts and persistent determination to attract and retain clients, members and supporters through relevant, timely conversations.
Once armed with the right information you will be empowered to put a plan in place, test your assumptions and learn as you go. Social media marketing is not a quick fix. It's an essential strategy that, when executed properly, is designed for the long haul.
Social Media's Impact
First things first. If you are unsure of the power of social media's impact, check out this video from Shout Out Digital. Although released in late 2015, it clearly and succinctly provides the right context, foreshadowing social media's continued impact, which has only grown in both influence and sophistication since the video's release. Watch it. It's worth the three minutes.
Now that the stage is set, let's jump into some of the most common misunderstandings surrounding social media marketing.
Social media marketing is a nice to have
If competing in the modern digital age and keeping your brand in front of current and potential customers is not important then you're right; social media marketing is not essential. Rest assured, however, competitors and leaders in your industry, especially at the local level, are using social media to win and retain customers and in the process eating your lunch. They've figured out the platforms and strategies that work for them and, where appropriate, are either turning over their social media strategy and execution to a marketing firm or using a firm to augment and amplify their existing efforts.
Social media marketing is a fad
If the video above wasn't proof enough, Google "social media impact", "social media infographics" or "social media marketing" and you'll quickly see that social media is a Tsunami, the crest of which is just starting to hit. Platforms are maturing. Ever more sophisticated advertising strategies are being enabled almost on a weekly basis. The rise of monster mobile use is being paired with highly functional mobile solutions. The handwriting is on the wall or rather the iPhone. Social media and digital marketing is here to stay.
Okay, so it's not a fad but it's too expensive
When compared with other forms of advertising, getting your message out on social media is actually a steal. The graphic to the right shows the cost per thousand disparity between newspaper, magazine, radio and cable TV advertising when compared with a few social media channels. Price, combined with social media's ability to tailor and target messages to discrete audiences, delivers a low cost, high impact marketing vehicle.
I don't want to be on social media because it's all noise
The more fluent you become, the more you'll realize that social media marketing actually cuts through the general platform noise by reaching your intended audience in a clear, direct way. The art is in sorting through and negotiating the babel.
Strong branding and original content that speaks directly to your targeted audience is what helps differentiate you and your brand from kitten videos (although I personally really like cats and the videos), humans doing incredibly stupid stuff and your friend's latest breakup that really doesn't ever need to see the light of day. By they way, if you're facing far too much clutter in your personal feed simply hide posts from people that are not positively contributing to the conversation. It isn't perfect but it does offer some measure of control and filtering.
A final thought on social media preferences. Even if you personally don't like social media, suck it up and do it for the sake of your business, cause or association. It's where the eyeballs are looking.
So you convinced me but I can do this myself
Sure you can if you work in a company large enough to employ a team of strategists, marketers, content creators and analysts. If, however, you're a small to medium sized business owner, non profit or association currently borrowing bits and pieces of time from a staffer's primary duties, you're likely struggling with relevant, compelling content that is posted on a regular basis; content that will resonate with your audience. If that's the case, work with a social media marketing firm that can lift that burden entirely or augment your efforts. A solid firm should be able to assist with a social media assessment, strategy, content curation/creation and execution and the all-important reporting that lets you know if what you're doing is working.
You said social media marketing was cheap so I can do it all on a shoestring, right?
Not so fast there Tex. I said inexpensive, not cheap. If you have no budget then find some. If you are underfunded you are very likely to fall short of your goals.
While platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and the like are free to join and you can quickly crank up a business presence, that free for all environment is quite literally a free for all. Research, customer avatars, planned campaigns, tightly executed schedules to highly targeted audiences - sometimes across multiple platforms - are exactly why social media marketing firms exist. In many cases, it takes professional management and discipline to help you bring it all together.
OK, I have a confession to make. I don't know or wonder about who my ideal customer actually is or might be
Even if you don't know who your ideal customer is, this very handy customer avatar worksheet from the folks at Digital Marketer can help sort it out. Click below, download and get cracking!
Social media isn't just about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the myriad of other social platforms. It's all about the right mix. When you think about your social media and business strategy, your website (and your SEO posture), Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and other considerations need to be taken into account in order to leverage a coherent business presence and message. eMail marketing, thought by many as passe´, is actually one of your most potent weapons. Here are a few statistics and pointers on getting your email marketing act together.
If you are thinking, "It's just email. Why spend time and money on it?", think again. eMail's ROI is a whopping 4300%, more than double your other internet channels. Plus, you have a captive audience. These are customers who have already opted in and are open to receiving and sharing your message. Leaving them out of your marketing mix puts you at risk of losing them for good. Let's face it, we're all addicted to email. Workers check it on average 30 times a day, making it the number one internet activity. The Direct Marketing Association's statistics indicate that 66% of online customers have purchased because of an email they received.
Unlike social media channels, your email message is invited into a potential customer or supporter's inbox. Clicking on a link in an email is a much more participatory activity than clicking like or share. Besides, you've worked hard to acquire that email address. There's a cost associated with that acquisition. Not working to make it pay off is ignoring core business principles of service and value that separate you from your competitors.
We've all heard it. "I get hundreds of emails every day. I don't have time to pay attention to everything." True. That's why providing timely, targeted, relevant and - here's the important part - helpful information to your audience is the key to getting real results. If you are doing it right, you are not selling them something; you are providing a service that solves a problem. If you flood their inbox with a constant stream of irrelevant messages they'll tune you out faster than a teenager being explained the merits of their curfew.
No. eMail should be an integral part of a comprehensive digital marketing plan. As social media has matured many platforms are geared for business. Don't mistake your personal Facebook page for a carefully managed business page and Facebook ads (highly targeted and customizable and available at a very low cost). eMail augments your overall efforts but doesn't replace existing tools.
Here are 10 stats that all good email marketers need to know provided by the good folks at Emma. If you want more information, feel free to reach out to me directly. firstname.lastname@example.org.