Social media is a rage that has bewitched most of the online world, but is it possible that they are getting too worked up?
I’m not going to deny that social media is a great marketing tool, I also will not deny that it’s a great way to connect with other entities – both business and personal (it is social media for a reason). But that does not make it the solution to why your business might be in a pit of hell that will eventually swallow you whole. No, that’s because you had a terrible marketing strategy, or lacked employee dedication… or something.
Social media marketing (SMM) is not an answer to all your problems. SMM is not a universal cure for “red ink syndrome” (that bad, bad disease you find on accounting reports that says you’re losing money). SMM is definitely not what you should base your business model on.
So what should we do and what should we avoid with social media? Here are a few things to think about.
1. Make SMM your business model. Social media is a marketing tool, not a marketing solution. All of your tools should be applied to the project that is your business model. Building your business around social media will damage you more than help you.
2. Burn money on SMM without knowing what you’re doing. Contrary to popular belief, social media marketing is anything but easy. If you don’t have professional experience in the matter, or have not thoroughly studied it and watched real-time examples, you’re probably going to just throw money into a fire with no real blaze. Try starting out with free instances of SMM (such as a Facebook business page), or hire someone knowledgeable to do SMM for you.
3. Substitute SMM for other important marketing tactics. Good products or services, an interesting image, great customer service, SEO(!!!), PPC, offline-advertising, among tons of other things, are all great marketing tools. Social media is no exception, and should not be your premiere spearhead.
4. Change what’s been working for you to jump on the SMM bandwagon. There’s a reason what you were doing before has been working. Social media should be an addition, not a revolution. You will surprise, and most likely disappoint your customer base if you start cutting up your business model for SMM.
5. Convince yourself that social media is an advertising opportunity. To better understand this statement, don’t use it as you would a PPC campaign or an ad in a newspaper. Social media is social media, not… advertising media. Its main purpose is creating a healthy customer community. It will also help you to form powerful connections with online influencers, but if you flood this sacred ground with spam and sales adverts, you will be disowned and ignored for invading personal communities.
There are plenty of things you should not do with social media, but those are the five I believe have the most harmful potential for any business.
So what should we actually do with social media? Here’s my advice.
1. Use SMM in synchronization with the rest of your marketing arsenal. As I said before and will keep saying, social media is a marketing tool. It could also be seen as a gear in the machine that is your business. All of the cogs have to turn together to keep things running smoothly.
Example: Create a company blog. This blog could be a subdomain to your site, a deep link, or a different domain name altogether. Your company blog could be used to showcase your best sellers / newest products, tell people about new developments in your company, offer knowledge in your field… it could even be used to tell people about that crazy company Christmas party!
2. Use SMM to show your followers that you’re a human, not a company. This runs in with Number 5 of “Do Not”. When you’re talking to your customers and fans, don’t be a company. Social media is a medium more than anything, allowing you to converse with your followers and show them that you’re not just another BS company trying to sell something (even if you really are). They like that.
Example: Reply. When people comment on your blog posts, reply to the comments. When people comment your Facebook page, reply to the comments. When people say something to you, reply. And when you reply, don’t be a stoic, uptight company representative. Be a person, have feelings, emotions and an actual face. This is a powerful tactic for any business.
3. Use SMM to connect with your audience. A really great advantage of social media is the ability to take your business to a more personal level with your customers. Become their friend, become their light, become a trusted provider of what they need… and if at all possible, become their life partner. Make it to where they’ll go to you when they need what you offer, not always because the price is low or the product is great, but because they trust you.
Example: Forums are an awesome way to build trust. Getting in-the-scene on all of the major forums in your field, and then actively participating in them, will show people that you care about more than just making money. Answer questions for people that have them, talk about what you know and even ask questions when you don’t know something. We’re all human, you should be no different.
4. Use SMM to make beneficial relationships with other businesses. Up to this point, many of you have been stuck in the idea that SMM is solely for getting to your customers and helping you sell your product. But that’s only half the battle. Social media is a place where communities of like-minded entities are brought together to connect, share and learn from one another. Business-to-business is no exception.
Example: Comment on other Facebook business pages with your opinions and feedback. Guest post on other company blogs that are similar to yours. Use LinkedIn to network with other CEOs, marketing specialists, and representatives. Follow and be followed by other business on Twitter. The possibilities are endless.
5. Use SMM to enhance your brand. I recently attended a webinar at SEOmoz that concentrated on sending brand signals to Google. Some of these tactics involved using SMM. SMM allows you to build brand trust, contribute valuable content to the web with your brand’s name and add even more personality to your brand. Brand trust and domain authority are ranking factors that are often overlooked by beginner SEOs.
Example: Use LinkedIn to create a company profile… now have as many people in your company as possible get on-board with that profile. Create (and fill in!) profiles on social sites (not just Facebook and Twitter, buddy). Encourage employees to create separate profiles and affiliate them with yours. Regularly participate in the communities these profiles are located on. Make friends, incite followings and become a valuable member of virtual society.
I hope this has been an eye-opener. I enjoy social media, so expect to hear from me more often!