As much as I hate to say it, the reality is that for many companies, social media marketing is a waste of time, but it doesn’t have to be.
The internet is littered with company pages that haven’t been updated in six months or more, meaningless posts and tweets, and abandoned blogs. My guess is that the owners of these would be the first to say that social media marketing is a waste of time and it doesn’t work.
The question is, did they have a plan, or did they dive in without really understanding what defines social media marketing and makes it successful. It’s easy to understand why many people are ready to throw in the towel or already have because they aren’t seeing an increase in sales or leads as a result of their efforts online. Businesses are strapped for resources and can’t afford to spend time or money working on something that isn’t producing results.
Social media marketing is misunderstood by many people. It’s not direct marketing or making cold calls, it’s a two way conversation between you and your existing and future customers. Before the days of social networks, marketers and sales people sent marketing collateral to consumers and then followed up with phone calls, emails, and more promotional materials.
Sure, it’s important to get your catalogs and sales brochures in front of people, but social networks aren’t the place to do it. Social media marketing is more about building relationships and less about ‘marketing.’ Building relationships takes time and is an ongoing process and most importantly it’s a two-way street.
If you encounter someone who only talks about themselves, doesn’t listen or respond or who never has anything original to say, chances are you wouldn’t hang out with them for very long. The same principles can be applied when it comes to social media marketing.
Tips for a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy:
- Pick the right networks – which social media sites are your customers using and how do they use them? Think about it from the perspective of where would someone go to research your product or find out more about a service and let that guide you to the right channels.
- Create and share original content – listen to the questions your customers are asking and provide answers through your content. Make sure that what you’re sharing has relevance to your business and provides value to your visitors.
- Add variety to your posts and tweets – it’s ok to post motivational quotes, but if that’s all you do you’re going to bore your audience to death. Share other people’s content as well as your own, invite people to share stories and comment.
- Be human – let people know you’re a real person. People do business with people they trust and social networks provide a great way to let people get to know you and feel comfortable with you.
- Make the time or hire a resource – social media marketing is not something that can be set up and forgotten about, nor can it be completely automated, it requires an ongoing commitment. If you don’t have the time, it’s fine to hire someone, but be sure that they understand your business and your customers.
- Use social media management tools – there are many tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Sprout Social that can help you manage your social networks more efficiently.
- Help people find your content – use the methods available within each channel to categorize your comments and content under relevant topics that people are talking about.
- Be involved – participate in groups and discussions. Share information without being self promotional, discussion groups are a fabulous way to demonstrate your knowledge and areas of expertise. (refrain from using links to your content as a discussion starter, it turns people off quickly)
Social media marketing has a huge potential if it’s done correctly. The key is to understand what it takes and to invest the time and/or money into making it happen. As a business owner, you owe it to yourself and your business to be informed and invested when it comes to creating a social media marketing plan.
Thoughts, comments, experiences? I’d love to hear your thoughts.