It seems like social media is constantly presented as the answer to every business’s marketing problems. But how do you really know when to incorporate it into your overall strategy? Look below for some tips.
You’re Trying to Market to A Younger Audience
Have a new business, or an initiative geared toward a younger crowd? According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of online teens (ages 12-17) and 72% of young adults (18-29) use social network sites, compared to just 40% of adults 30 and older. These groups are also more likely to watch television and shop online, too. Younger audiences will be more willing to tweet, “like” and blog about your brand–it’s like digitized word-of-mouth–and turn into brand evangelists in the process.
Your Business Goes Online
This only makes sense. If your brick-and-mortar enterprise decides to launch an online service, or sell products online, a social media presence can really help you expand your reach. Adding Facebook “share” buttons to your product sales page can invite customers to share their purchases with their friends, which can in turn bring in new sales leads. If you offer certain online-only promotions, you can use the “like” button to enter customers into contests or drawings, as well.
Traditional Media is Out of Reach
Small businesses and startups with limited funds for marketing may find social media advertising extremely useful for attracting attention to their brand. Yellow-page advertisements, even small ones, can cost several hundred dollars. Television ads can be prohibitively expensive (for comparative purposes, remember that Superbowl 2011 ads cost $3 million for a mere 30-second spot). Depending on the market, radio ads can cost anywhere from $30/spot to upwards up $1000 if you’re advertising in a large urban area. Opening a Twitter account or setting up a Facebook fan page, however, is free–and you might even reach more people.
You Want Your Customers to Participate in Marketing
You want to build “trust agents” among customers, current and potential. If you’re not sure you have enough brand evangelists, or that your customers are truly excited about your product, then you’ll need to get comfortable with them–and social media is the easiest way to do so. Fast company recommends repetitive contact for the purpose of maintaining emotional bonds with customers. For example: “Comment often on the blogs that matter to the group you’re hoping to join. Follow the people in this group on Twitter (and if you’re not sure who they are, use search.twitter.com and figure out what topics identify them; take that information, and follow some of their friends so you can build a sense of who’s who.)”
You Need New or More High-Profile Investors
Sure, it’s all about the product or service first. However, a truly innovative marketing campaign can attract high-profile, generous investors for your company’s needs. Especially if you can’t afford a major marketing blitz, showcasing your entrepreneurial talent with engaging Youtube videos, blogs, interactive media, and Facebook/Twitter can really draw attention to your business–if you’re creative with it. Investors are looking for entrepreneurs to be proactive and creative, so you can show off using social media (and also demonstrate your potential returns based on number of followers, “likes,” etc.)
Of course, once you know when to add social media–and how to add it–it helps to know exactly how to implement it. Below are some tips for making your strategy a success.
Outsourcing The Work
If you’re tied up in the daily operations of running your business, or even if you’re just bogged down in more traditional marketing practices, you may want to consider hiring a social media manager. Social media news website Mashable recommends taking stock of your social media campaigning as it stands now and making decisions based on how well it’s working. Leyl Black writes: “For many business owners…it can be tough to continually come up with new ideas and programs to engage fans on their own. It’s not easy to keep up with the ever-evolving capabilities of Facebook and Twitter–and stay on top of new third-party tools and features–and still have time to run your business.” Some well-known social media consultants can charge upwards of $50 an hour for their services, so it’s important to get an idea of what kind of return you’d like. Mashable sets the following examples:
Fanbase growth: Hitting 1,000 fans or followers over a set period of time
Customer Acquisition: Getting 50 redemptions per campaign on social media offers
Support of direct marketing: Adding 200 names to your email database per month
Engagement: Achieving 20% participation by your fanbase (e.g., Facebook “likes” and comments)
So how do you look for a manager? Besides being intimately familiar with the four most important platforms–Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube–they should have a practical understanding of search engine optimization. The ability to multitask and manage their time well is crucial. Exceptional social media managers should be social butterflies–in person, as well as online. They need to be good writers–yes, even if they’re only microblogging–it’s still important to be able to pack a punch in 140 characters. Clearly, social media managers also need to be well-connected with other professionals, as well as constantly keeping themselves informed of new changes in the field. Overall, they need to be good businesspeople. In fact, it’s almost more important that they know how to conduct business than whether they have the exact requisite technical skills.
The best place to look for your social media managers? It’s obvious: on the very social networks you’re trying to promote. Make an announcement via Twitter, or search out potential gurus on LinkedIn (where they’re most likely to congregate.)
Now that you’ve got your social media manager in place–or you’ve decided to tackle the job on your own–it’s time for some ultra-useful tools to make your social media management easier.
Social Mention. Social mention is a great way to track any mentions of your company’s name or product throughout social media networks–a perfect way to manage your company’s social media reputation. It functions as a search engine, but also gives a social rank score based on popularity. The rank includes the time of the last mention, and gives you an indication of how often the term is mentioned, as well.
Facebook Insights. Facebook Insights is a tool that provides Facebook publishers with analytics about how its page is doing–in real time. With Insights, you can examine your monthly fan size growth. (Intel social media strategist Ekaterina Walter says that 10-13% monthly growth is “probably the highest organic growth number anyone can achieve.”) Other useful trackers include the average number of “likes” or comments–with these, you can “identify which discussions are of more interest to your fans”–and “unlikes.” With unlikes, it’s probably most helpful to try to pin them down to activity on your page, or certain topics. Page views and impressions are other helpful methods of tracking.
Hootsuite. Need to update a number of social media sites at once? Hootsuite is your tool, then. It’s a dashboard that displays up to five of your favorite social streams—Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, MySpace, Ping.fm, Foursquare, mixi. You can upgrade to HootSuite Pro at $5.99/month, which lets you simultaneously update an unlimited number of networks. The subscription also allows you one free limited analytics report, and the ability to add a partner.
Once you know where and when to add your social media strategy to your overall marketing plan, consider yourself an official member of the business class of 2.0.