Social Media: Free, not Cheap
8 Tips to Get More Bang for Your Business
As a marketer, a people person and a bit of a nerd, I love helping social media plans join a wider marketing strategy to produce a “big bang,” especially when that bang ignites sales for a small company. We’ve all heard the success stories, and they’re stupendous.
BUT, a “big bang” doesn’t come instantly, and it nearly never comes without hard work and clear thinking. Bottom line: social media marketing may be free, but it’s not cheap. Anyone can have a Twitter profile. Does that automatically give you followers and will those followers create sales? Not necessarily.
Here are some guidelines to get the biggest bang from your social media investment.
1. Your social media must be precisely aligned with your total marketing plan, emphasizing the same values, benefits and unique attributes of your business to reach your existing and potential markets.
2. Social media is not about making sales. It’s about making new friends who can potentially become champions of your brand and clients.
3. Be prepared to consistently invest 20 hours/week on creating and managing social media content. Social media audiences hate old news or companies who post everything at once.
4. Top administration must monitor social media utilizing alerts and reacting in real time.
5. Your content must connect with your audience in a human and personal way, never overtly selling while still promoting your business brand. Finding, screening and honing appropriate, engaging content takes research and crafting. (Do you want to be connected with silly typos or false news?)
6. Your social media managers must be invested in your company, know its products, services and market thoroughly. They must be trained to handle the inevitable complaints or issues in a positive, diplomatic and tactful way—quickly. Remember, once a damaging post is out there, it’s out there forever and can be pulled up in a search at any time.
7. Clearly, top management must establish rules and guidelines in advance (not when a crisis is breaking) and communicate them clearly to all social media users.
8. Sales and marketing people must work closely with your social media managers. Sales and marketing should never hear: “I loved that last Twitter post, tell me more,” and have no idea what to say. Social media managers must obviously know about new products, services, markets and demographics.
To sum up: yes social media is powerful. Yet, while technically free, it’s not cheap. Time is valuable, and good social media takes time: time to build an audience, build relationships and be a responsible member of an online community.
For these reasons, many companies may decide to skip the social media scene altogether. However, there are options if you are considering social media for your business. Companies are learning the value of outsourcing their content generation while still monitoring their company’s message.
Social media is an evolving dynamic. Research your choices, analyze your strategy, and create a plan that works best for your company.