If you said “yes” to any of the above questions keep reading …
Technology can be great when put to use by the right people at the right time. It is also something of great value when new concepts are acted upon by a business before its competition has a chance to do so. Many larger organizations are better equipped than small businesses to pro-actively create, harvest and take action on new technologies and marketing approaches. However, it is not my intent to talk about applications for larger organizations today. It is my desire to speak to small businesses that find themselves stretched thin trying to understand everything that is coming down the pipe and how to best utilize these new opportunities.
Social Media Marketing 101 for Small Business
Like anything new that you might want to implement, it is wise to know what you’re doing before proceeding or seek the council of specialists that do. For those of you newer to social media marketing, I would like to define a few highly publicized examples for you so we all have a good basis for discussion. For those more knowledgeable about this topic, feel free to read further down.
Social media refers to a collective group of web properties whose content is primarily published by users, not direct employees of the property. Social media marketing (SMM) is the engagement with these online communities to generate exposure for the business. The purpose of SMM is to build a way that fans of a brand or company can promote it themselves in multiple online social media venues.
What is Facebook?
Facebook is a global social networking website that allows users to add friends, send friends messages, and update their personal profiles to connect with friends and family and tell others about themselves and what they are doing. Users have the ability to join networks organized by city, workplace, school and region and can create and/or join Facebook groups. A group allows users with similar interests to interact with each other and share information. There are 2 ways a business can utilize Facebook to market themselves (More detail on this below):
1. A business can setup a Facebook Page.
2. A business owner or employee can setup a Facebook group.
Actively managed and promoted Facebook groups or fan pages can allow your online brand to evolve and your value proposition messages to spread more quickly than traditional means, particularly if you offer information of value (be it tips, special promotions/discounts, helpful resources/links, informative videos or articles, etc.).
Build a Facebook Page if you:
- Want to build a brand, rather than a community
- Want your pages to be seen by people outside of Facebook, as well as inside
- Like stats on how many people visit your page and their demographic data
- Prefer the cleaner “look” of a page
- Want to use Facebook applications on your page
- Don’t want any limits on how many people you can contact
Build a Facebook Group if you:
- Want to build a community around your product or company
- Want your group messages to land directly in your group members’ “In” boxes
- Want to make it easier for group members to invite their friends
- Want to create an exclusive membership
- Prefer the “profile” look for your group page
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. While limiting, Twitter can also be a savvy method for encouraging immediate communication.
Twitter can be used as a marketing or public relations channel, much like an extension of a corporate blog. You can post about corporate accomplishments and distribute links that take people back to corporate web pages, press releases, and other promotional sites. Twitter can be used as a tool to monitor what is being said about your company. Using tools like search.twitter.com or desktop applications like TweetDeck allow you to keep track of what’s being said about the company, its product names, or even the industry as a whole.
What is YouTube?
By now, just about everyone knows about YouTube, the host of some of the Internet’s most varied (and often homemade) video content. But don’t underestimate the power of displaying your product—and your personality—through visual media. Posting videos is as easy as setting up an account and getting a video camera that can upload to the web. But before you start posting random videos about your company, be sure you have something worth saying.
Creation of appropriate YouTube videos could go viral and spread to a massive market of new potential customers and contacts if you create something truly engaging, unique and of interest to the general public.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is probably the most adapted social media site for business to business communication. This site is specifically geared toward making work-related connections with colleagues and other professionals. The others sites listed above have a much stronger mix of personal and business communication potential benefits. Like facebook, you can create a profile, join groups and post links. An added bonus is that you can ask your “connections” to introduce you to one of their connections – a feature that can help uncover potential business opportunities and extend your reach. This site allows easy business networking on-line with in many cases minimal energy vs. other SMM sites.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
Over the past few years, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become widely accepted as legitimate marketing and communication tools, and there is a growing number of competitive social media sources vying for audience share. So, while my goal isn’t to take a position on which sites to use, or to specifically argue for or against social media use for small business in general, I do believe there are some factors every small business should consider if they choose to explore this form of communication.
Tips / Costs for SMM:
- You must listen and respond to members of your community
- Be transparent and honest–having hidden agendas or stretching the truth will inevitably backfire (“Google Honda Crosstour PR Fail” for an example of Social Media backfiring when a company isn’t completely forthright)
- Take some time to really be a part of the community and share useful knowledge
- Build a large community and find ways to get them to interact and share stories and experiences with your products or services through creative incentive contents
- Costs to enter can usually be boiled down to your team’s time. If you handle things in-house and have open staff resources to manage things, you don’t have the outside marketing costs that you might with other opportunities.
SMM is Ideal For:
- Industries that tend to engage or provide a personal service to their customers
- Services and products where you want to build emotion in the client/user
- Artists, photographers, restaurants, entertainment venues, construction-related companies, architects, landscaping, publications and personal services (gyms, spas, hair salons, etc.) are all good candidates
Social Media Dangers
- Don’t do a set it and forget it approach–this isn’t a rotisserie chicken you are waiting to be done cooking! Doing social media well requires a commitment of time and resources to communicate with your following, increase your following and to ensure that information of value is being disseminated. If you don’t keep feeding them with value, you can be assured of little or no long-term pay-back.
- Don’t start a social media program in-house if you don’t have anyone dedicated to creating and sharing valuable content to your clients and new potential products.
- Don’t start a program if you are not willing and ready to handle the negative publicity you could get from your following. The open community goes both ways, and even if the negative input isn’t truthful, you need someone in-house or employed externally to ensure these issues are being handled and addressed directly.
- Don’t forget that, above all else, these are social websites. If you focus too heavily on business, your profile, page or group can become lifeless and uninteresting (and in some cases, might even get your site removed).
My desire is for you to only make investments for your business that truly make sense. I am glad to personally evaluate your company to give you an honest assessment. Just because you are not participating in some new social media or other Internet marketing technology doesn’t necessarily mean you are missing out on anything that your business should be investing in at this moment. Your business needs a model can change over time however, so it is a good idea to revisit your marketing and technology plan annually and assess new opportunities.
I help my coaching clients focus on matters like these so they can see their business become more efficient, profitable and scalable, if desired. I also help them achieve better balance professionally and personally so they can see their business truly work to support their life purpose and vision. If you want to find out more about how this could be leveraged in your world, or if you want to discuss a business problem you are facing, feel free to contact me or call me at 717-615-2274. You are also welcome to share this article or other resources found on my blog (www.livewithpurposecoaching.com). Feel free to contact me if you or an associate would like to join my blog or receive this article as a PDF.