Lots of companies, especially smaller ones, are a little freaked out by social media. They might not fully comprehend the purpose. They may feel it is a risky, uncontrollable venture. They may view it as the domain of the young and those with too much time on their hands. They may consider it a potential time-waster, or they may not see the value in devoting money and human resources to it, especially when they can still invest money in the tried and true marketing methods they have employed for years and, in some cases, decades.
It is time for businesses of every size to throw all of these caveats out the window. A lack of participation in social media at this point is akin to a lack of a web site or e-mail. Social media offers a terrific, relatively low-cost opportunity for every sort of business that wants to build stronger, more interactive relationships with its customers and spread the good word about its products and services.
Still, admittedly, social media can be a little overwhelming. Where to start?
When it boils down to it, social media is really what you choose to make of it. It’s another tool in your marketing, PR and even customer service toolbox. If you first take the time to understand and reflect on what Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even blogging can do for you–that is, for your company in particular–it’s much easier to develop a plan, using one or more of these services, that serves your mission and objectives well.
One guiding principle you should keep in mind throughout all of this is to stay consistent with your branding. If you project a certain tone and message in your other forms of in-person and media communications, that same tone and message should be projected through your social media programs.
I came across an interesting opinion piece in that regard this evening. And while I don’t fully agree with every point in this article, there are a few excellent take-home points. Specifically:
Know your audience. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game with social media. “How many Twitter followers do I have? How many Facebook fans do I have?” But the quality of your audience is much more important than the quantity (ideally, you get both). If you have 1,000 followers on Twitter, and only a handful of them are part of your target market, you need to tweak your strategy to better communicate and attract the followers you’re looking to attract. Again, stay true to your branding and message. Your audience is out there; you just need to engage it properly and eventually it will find you.
Designate your social media specialists. It’s not a good idea to have everyone from the CEO to the engineers to the salespeople to the interns tweeting, posting to Facebook, or throwing up YouTube videos under the same corporate accounts. Pick one or more people, task them with social media outreach, and make sure they know the proper branding, messaging and tone inside and out.
Profile info is important. Use words that are both true to your branding and likely to be searched upon. Get as high-level as possible (on Twitter, you don’t have much choice in the matter, which is a good thing).
Try things out. Once you establish a decent following, you can start trying out different promotions, surveys, and marketing ideas and see rather quickly what resonates and what doesn’t.
And here’s one of my own: Be patient! Unless you’re a huge multinational corporation with a large advertising budget to promote your social media initiatives, you aren’t likely to attract hundreds of fans or followers overnight. It may take months to build up a following. This can work to your advantage; you can get to know the ropes of the services, see what they can do for you, and work out the kinks and the jitters. Eventually, social media will seem like a natural extension of your message and your brand. And your audience will effectively be at your fingertips.
If you’re marketing goods or services to consumers, you have no good excuse not to be at least evaluating social media, with a definite eye towards implementation. And if your competitors are behind you in this regard, all the better. Getting a leg up is what business is all about, isn’t it?
Posted by Joe Paone