Social Media Marketing: Should You Jump In - or Stay Away?
June 12, 2014
The growth of social media, in less than a decade since it first emerged, has
been nothing short of remarkable. The statistics regarding Facebook usage alone
are staggering: There are now a total of 1.4 billion (with a "b") Facebook users
worldwide, which equates to 11 percent of the population of planet Earth. And
the average Facebook user spends more than 15 hours a month on the site.
On Twitter, meanwhile, about 190 million tweets are sent every day. And on
YouTube, 490 million visitors are accessing 92 billion page views every month.
Over at Flickr there are more than five billion photos, with 3,000 more being
uploaded every minute.
Looking at social media usage in the U.S. from a broader perspective, more
than half of Americans (56 percent) have a profile on at least one social media
site. This is up from 52 percent last year and 48 percent in 2010. But the U.S.
only ranks #10 in the world when it comes to the average number of hours spent
per month using social media (7.6) - Israel is #1 at 11.1 hours.
Given such staggering statistics, it’s not surprising that many businesses
have rushed to add social media marketing to their marketing and advertising
mix. Should yours? For many self-employed individuals and solo entrepreneurs,
the answer is a most definite "maybe."
A Concrete Strategy
Why the qualification? Because no business should embark on a social media
marketing campaign without a
concrete strategy in place. This strategy starts with answering a basic but
critical question: Specifically what do you hope to accomplish with social media
Like any marketing or advertising initiative, its critical that you define
your objectives upfront, as well as how you'll go about measuring the program's
effectiveness in reaching the objectives. Unfortunately, though, many businesses
today jump head-first into social media marketing for no reason other than it's
the latest hot marketing and advertising fad and "everybody else is doing it."
"We've got to get our Facebook page up and start getting our customers to
'like' us," the thinking often goes. Or, "We've got to start tweeting out daily
messages to all of our customers and prospects." Or, "We’ve got to get our
customers to 'check in' on Foursquare while they’re here."
The business then proceeds to build its Facebook page, or send its tweets, or
get its customers to check in - and then waits for...what, exactly? More sales?
Higher profits? More new customers?
The primary strength of social media as a marketing and advertising tool is
the ability it gives a business to build and strengthen relationships with its
customers and prospects. This is especially true for self-employed professionals
and professional services firms, since many of these types of businesses are
heavily dependent on building strong relationships with their customers.
Social media is also a great way to monitor customer feedback to your
company's products and services and to your brand in general. Many customers
will share feedback — both good and bad — with you via social media that they
wouldn’t share face-to-face. This gives you an opportunity to respond quickly to
criticism and complaints and try to make things right with unhappy customers,
which can help strengthen customer loyalty.
Establish Realistic Measurements
Social media generally isn’t the kind of marketing vehicle that is going to
result in more direct sales or higher profits. So a realistic social media
marketing goal for a self-employed professional or professional services firm
might be "to increase awareness of and interest in our business among customers
and qualified prospects."
This could be measured by tracking clicks to your website that come directly
from your social media pages, or monitoring your 'likes' and other feedback on
your Facebook page or the LinkedIn recommendations you receive. On the other
hand, "increasing sales or profits by x percent" is probably an unrealistic
social media goal for most self-employed and professional services firms.
"Who's Going to Do It?"
This is the next question you must ask when it comes to social media
marketing. Many big companies are hiring employees and building entire
departments around social media marketing, but that’s probably not feasible for
your small business.
The good news is that social media marketing really isn't rocket science.
There are certainly some do's and don'ts and best practices you should follow,
but you can probably learn what you need to know to create and execute a basic
social media marketing plan by doing some research on your own. Or you can hire
a social media marketing consultant or agency to help you if you prefer not to
go the do-it-yourself route.
A final word of caution: Whatever
social media marketing strategy you decide to pursue, be consistent and
stick with it. Launching a half-hearted social media campaign that doesn't
consistently update your Facebook page, or send out tweets, or perform whatever
social media activity is required, is worse than launching no campaign at all.
It will demonstrate a lack of follow-through on the part of your business
with your customers and prospects and could actually damage your relationships
with them - not to mention end up being a huge waste of your valuable money and