Just a few short years ago, if you had a business, you advertised it by placing ads in print media, perhaps even radio or TV; maybe you even did some email blasts. If you were really “cutting edge” you had a stagnant website. All of this was pretty expensive stuff. Today that strategy would get you exactly “nowhere” because it’s a brave new world of advertising out there & one that utilizes online social media as a central means of communication. Additionally, deploying these new methods will not only keep you current today but will keep you competitive tomorrow. The good news is the cost is comparatively small which levels the playing field pretty quickly. Although print media isn’t completely dead, it’s dying fast & no longer the best way to reach your customers along with any other interruption based advertising. What do I mean by this? Old-style advertising distracted you from what you were doing by intruding on their terms…maybe with a TV or radio ad or intrusive print advertisement. In short it was advertising that came to you whether you wanted it or not rather than today’s style of advertising which seeks to draw you to them typically because most companies’ users are right here online seeking information, shopping, or being entertained. Add that to the power of social recommendation and you have a considerable force. Today there are an infinite number of tools used to block out old style advertising or unwanted “noise” but no matter what product or service you need, the very first place you begin your search is right here online.
All of this means social media marketing is no longer just hip or avant-garde, it’s essential if you want to reach your customers where they are spending most of their time. The evidence is plain to see in runaway successful companies like Facebook, Twitter, and the “new kid on the block” Pinterest. If however, like Rip Van Winkle, you’ve "just awakened from a rather long sleep" and find yourself wondering “ ok, it’s important but what do I have to do,” here’s a quick outline for you:
- First, develop a plan. Like anything else, a hit or miss approach rarely works which is why it does pay to bring in someone to at least help you formulate what I call a social media blueprint. It still means that there will be probably be tweaking and revising in order to be sure that it is one that is as finely tuned as possible. However, once launched, a small business can maintain the campaign itself without outsourcing it if need be.
- Fresh content, content, content… social media is a hungry thing, so you constantly have to “feed the beast” creating fresh content. This is the best way to keep potential customers coming back AND to keep the search engine bots happy so they will provide good page rank [it’s all about being on p1 of Google & any other search engine]. Monitor what works by keeping a close eye on metrics & refine, refine, refine.
- Time & patience. Advertising via social media is not expensive but it does require time and commitment. It takes time to build content, to find your voice, find your audience, and work the entire process. It’s a 10-15 hour job all by itself to do it right [which is why companies hire people to do it]. Seeing a return also takes time so don't be discouraged if you don't see results right away.
- Build relationships, be engaging, authoritative, personal and above all, authentic..
Don't Get Caught In 'Analysis Paralysis'
Rather than be intimidated or find yourself caught in “analysis paralysis,” start small, maybe with a Facebook business page or using Twitter. Also, start a blog [great for building content which keeps your website fresh & relevant]. Bear in mind that every forum has its own rules and culture. Hire someone to at least get you through those early days charting a strategic path. Remember that while as I pointed out in an earlier post, if done well, activity on these other sites establishes you as en expert, driving people to your site, putting you in direct communication with your customers and potentially creating new leads for you to "close," this is NOT, repeat NOT the time to "sell." This is the time to connect, help, educate, & be engaging. No one except you cares about your business. Others care about getting their needs met. The idea is to make them want to seek out your services to achieve that end. Then you can "nurture the lead & close the deal."
For more detailed information on this check out a great article by Steve McKee