So, what is all the hubbub about Social Media anyway? Does it seem like every time you turn around yet another competitor has a Facebook Page?
Social media is not out to replace traditional marketing opportunities, it’s simply an on-line marketing strategy that can generate more traffic to your website; increase your brand awareness and help you find more customers.
Even internet ninjas are struggling to define social media. One theme that prevails is that social media is a type of on-line media that is user generated and encourages active participation in the developing and creating of content.
That’s what separates social from traditional media – its interactive component. Consumers can post an opinion, an event, information and others can react to it – by posting their own views or spreading the news to other friends. In the end it’s a discussion. Uploading a video to You Tube or tweeting on Twitter is actually creating content.
It’s through building content, that social media can be an asset to many businesses. Any business can create its own content. And consumers are only too happy to tell you what they think – which is unqualified consumer research at your fingers tips.
Stepping into the bull pen can sound scary and many businesses are afraid of potential negative content. But really it’s no different than having someone call you with the same negativity, except it’s not one-on-one. The bonus is that with on-line channels, you can resolve negative situations publicly and demonstrate to your customers that this is the type of business that stands by its warranty. Many a business has been able to avoid a public relations disaster because they were part of the conversation, and able to deal with consumer issues immediately.
Because of its conversational nature, social media spreads like a virus – hence viral marketing. An event that is posted on one social media site can be picked up by any number of other users who will then spread the message. And it spreads not just from one person to another, but from one social media outlet to another. One blog post (like this one) can be instantly transmitted to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest – to name just a few social media sites. Consider the number of consumers and opportunities you can reach with one posting.
For short term tactical advertising, there is no better venue. Social media was designed to spread the word on this weekend’s open house that was planned at the last minute. Posting the event on your website is doing the obvious, but linking it to social media sites provides you access to customers who may not necessarily check your site every week.
Good social media sites that generate a lot of traffic are important to search engines and to your website. Search engines are always scanning on-line sites for new content. If your business has posted content it’s cached by a search engine to be matched to a user who is searching for your particular product.
And there’s another bonus. Posting information on social media sites, creates content and vital back-links to your own site. The more back-links your website has, the more relevant your website is perceived to be by the search engines the greater the chance of rising higher on the Search Engine Results Page. And that’s the whole point, making sure when your customers use specific keywords, your site is the first one they see.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn aren’t for every business. Although having both a personal and company LinkedIn Page is just great advertising – and for free. It’s a great recruitment tool as well.
And the list of social media sites goes on, gaining strength daily. So in the end, how do you determine which is the best social media outlet for your business?
Establishing a firm set of goals is step one, and then balancing that with the time and effort required is step two. Giving it distinct time frame to accomplish the goals is step three.
Experiment and be fluid. Social media allows you to try something and if doesn’t work – try something else.
How does all this translate into dollars and cents? The tools for measuring the ROI of social media are still in the infant stage and they can’t be compared to traditional media metrics. In many on-line forums there is still much debate as to which tool really provides accurate information and measurement. The real answer lies in your overall marketing plan.
Social media is just one more tool in your marketing tool box. It won’t replace traditional media such as print and broadcast, because it has a different purpose and is using a different medium.
It’s not free. It takes time and effort, particularly in the early stages. But once you have incorporated it into your daily work schedule – it will become just like email – something that you quickly check every morning.
Still not convinced? Well consider this.
After 23 years of paying $30 million for a thirty second spot on the Super Bowl, the largest sporting event of the year, Pepsi cancelled their 2010 spot and channelled their marketing efforts into social media. The launched the ‘Refresh Project’, a program designed to help people improve their communities. Readers voted to give grants to health, environment, culture, and education-related organizations. Pepsi gave away multiple monthly. Most importantly, they are engaging their customers in conversation.
Pepsi pulled out of traditional media and bolstered their community involvement. Instead of blowing the cash on a single night of football, Pepsi’s social media investment attracted visitors throughout the year.
It was a big step for Pepsi. By dropping their Super Bowl advertising spot, they made way for their biggest competitor Coke, to snap it up.
If Pepsi invested $20 million in social media, maybe there’s something to it after all.