Whether I’m consulting with business clients or conducting social media workshops, the same questions come up repeatedly. They are great questions and need to be understood before engaging in social media. I’ve attempted to answer 5 most asked questions, but in reality, I’ve only scratched the surface.
Does my company need social media marketing?
This question is a favorite of mine and one I’d like you to consider after reviewing the video below. Social media is not about what someone had for breakfast. For those of you harder to convince, be sure to watch through to the end.
Okay, I’m convinced. Now where do I begin?
Many start with tactics. They add their business profile on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and then ask themselves — now what? Or, worse still, they use the social networks to advertise their products without a full understanding of why they are there. What must be in place before implementing tools is a social media strategy. Here are 5 things to consider when building your strategy:
Identify goals — what is it you want to achieve with social media? To increase brand awareness, leads, conversion rates, etc? With an eye toward adding value, understand what your target audience cares about and wants to read, and publish and distribute content they need.
Begin a conversation — interaction is key to building trust, credibility and action among your prospective customers. (Conversation does not mean advertising to your audience as discussed in my previous post Using social media: how will you be human?) It does mean engaging with them. And, it means providing them with information they want, asking what they think and as a result, watching the volume of your fans and followers increase.
Define targets — interacting with your online community, becoming one of them, and writing compelling content, will help you gain momentum with prospects by allowing them to see how your business can help them. Conversion is an organic result of establishing trust online and people buy products from those they trust. Be sure to measure your progress using tools such as Google Analytics. And, as with any good strategy, identify weak areas and redefine your targets where necessary.
Establish parameters — as businesses using social media grows, so does the need to have a policy in place to help employees understand their role. The policy should set expectations of employee participation in both business and personal accounts which align with your company’s goals. Equally important is to have a crisis management policy to allow you to react quickly to a negative situation online about your company or brand.
What should I talk about?
Knowing what to say is probably one of the hardest things for those new to social media. Many businesses feel if they don’t make products, offer discount coupons, or are not a B2C company, they don’t have a real need for social media. But the fact is, no matter what product or service your company offers, social media provides a venue to engage with your existing and potential customers. It puts the control of improvements to products and services in the hands of your customers. Giving up control is tough, but critical for businesses to succeed with social media marketing. In return, businesses gain customer loyalty and trust through thought leadership without the direct sales pitch.
How much time should I spend on social media marketing?
In his recent post How Much Time Should I Spend On Social Media #1 blogger and social media guru Chris Brogan talks about best practices for social media management. In a nutshell, he recommends spending about 2 hours a day, divided into chunks of time:
Spend 1/4 of your time “listening,” finding out what is being said about you, your competitors, your marketplace.
Spend 1/2 of your time communicating to your audience. This is your time to connect with potential customers by making comments and replying to questions.
1/4 in creating content. Whether you’re blogging, writing e-newsletters or online articles, updating content is how you get found on search engines. (SEO is driven by updated content.)
Does 2 hours a day seem like too much time to dedicate to social media marketing? Consider the time and money you invest in SEO efforts, cold calling, conference calling, advertising campaigns, e-newsletters and customer visits. Social media reaches beyond territories, offering time-saving tools and an increase to Web site traffic at a fraction of the cost of other marketing methods.
How do I measure ROI?
Maybe you’re already convinced why you should use social media marketing. One question remaining is likely to be: How do I measure my return on investment? How do I sell it to company stakeholders? The ROI question is probably the biggest obstacle when trying to get buy-in from senior executives. Measuring social media ROI and its effect on the bottom line is still a challenge for even the best marketers. In Dirk Shaw’s recent post Moving beyond social media metrics to business outcomes he talks about early social media metrics having a loose tie to business goals, which raised the question whether social media could do anything for business. In a later post How do you report social media success? he examines how social media activity impacts business outcomes, which is key to achieving executive sponsorship. Also, How to Measure Social Media ROI for Business a post from Mashable offers tips on qualitative and quantitative measurement. And, if you still want more, read 6 Must Read Posts about the ROI of Social Media.
Social media strategy and ROI have yet to be clearly defined. As social media continues to grow and change, networks like Facebook and Twitter are looking for ways to monetize their own businesses, and will continue their efforts in making social media marketing more appealing (and profitable) for business leaders who will help keep them afloat.
These are the 5 most asked questions I get. What other social media questions do you think should be included?
Notice the question is not: how will you appear to be human?
Success with social media marketing is based on authenticity, transparency and relationship building. It is virtual dialogue between businesses and consumers, and can be mutually beneficial. However, companies often lose sight of this concept when deciding how to implement a social media marketing strategy.
What is social media marketing?
Before knowing what it is, it’s important to understand what it isn’t. It’s not direct advertising of products or services. It’s not a public relations campaign. It is inbound marketing that creates buzz by replicating messages through viral word of mouth. It is a tool that allows fans of a brand or company to promote it themselves through multiple social media venues. It is conversation, not fully controlled by a company, which provides an opportunity for companies to engage with their customers to improve products and customer service. Social media marketing is like a virtual cocktail party. If you spend all your time talking about what your company sells, your guests will find the nearest exit and head to a better party down the street.
How will you be human?
In large part, your answer to this question may depend upon whether you decide to hire an outside agency to implement your day-to-day social media interactions or conduct an in-house strategy yourself.
Which is better — hiring an agency or implementing an in-house strategy? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There are pros and cons to both. I decided to ask a few of my LinkedIn® colleagues to weigh in on the issue to help me decide how best to advise my clients. Here are a few of their comments:
“Social media means you need to be conversant with your customers, and so just like you don’t hire an outside agency to speak to your clients at your sell-point, you should not leave this important channel to an external company.”
“Outsourcing is a vital tool in all business operations. Quinn, a management scholar says for an organization to operate effectively and efficiently, it has to focus on its core activity and outsource the secondary levels. Hiring of outsiders to run the activity of a company will increase its relationship with its customers.”
“I believe that agencies can do it, but from from an architectual and initiary point of view. From there on indeed, the company itself needs to fuel its communication towards its target groups.”
“You can’t farm-out or sub-out interactivity; I think it defeats the purpose. It’s like having my neighbor blog about what’s going on in my home, it’s not a true account or authentic. If you don’t have the money or time to do it in-house then wait until you do. The goal of social media is to be genuine, not appear genuine.”
Here are 5 things to consider to help you decide what’s right for you:
What is your company’s goal regarding social media marketing?
Are you willing to commit time and resources to learning the tools yourself?
Can you afford to hire an outside agency to sustain your online presence indefinitely?
Do you feel using an agency to build your customer relationships undermines social media’s premise of authenticity and transparency?
Do you feel social media is like other types of marketing and is better implemented by the “experts?”
What is my recommendation?
The answer I rated as best was from Millo Avissar and jives most closely with my own thoughts:
“A good consultant is the one who solves a problem and then ends his job asap. A client who demands you to “do the job” for him, will not stay a happy client after paying you for a long time. Perhaps you will find a way, where you will bring your added-value to your clients by working together with them to:
Build the best strategy suited for their business;
Train their people to be able to play this game;
Define measurements for the management.”
I don’t see a resemblance between social media and outbound marketing practices of the past. Social media marketing engages business and customers in conversation like never before and should be viewed in a different way altogether. It is not a fad, and will be with us for the long haul. Therefore, empowering small business owners with the knowledge and the tools available upon which they can build sits best with me, and with my clients.
What works best for you? How will you be human? Do you think hiring an outside agency to maintain your company’s online presence makes any difference to your answer?