I remember when social media first popped up on my radar screen. It was about six years ago, and I started getting these emails from people I knew asking if I wanted to connect with them on something called LinkedIn. I just deleted them, because I’d never heard of LinkedIn and didn’t really want to be bothered with it.
About a year later as I was launching my freelance writing business, I learned more about LinkedIn and found out that it was absolutely essential for any professional starting a new business or self-employment venture. So I created a LinkedIn profile and started connecting with other professionals
What About Facebook and Twitter?
It took me a little bit longer to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. In fact, I was adamantly opposed to “doing” Facebook for quite awhile – I guess it was the anti-conformity part of my personality(“Everybody else is doing Facebook, so I’m not!”). I eventually gave in, and now I dutifully check my Facebook news feed a couple of times every day, just like everybody else.
As for the other one of the Big 3 social media services, I still haven’t gotten on board with Twitter yet. I created a Twitter profile a couple of years ago, but I never tweet anything and I don’t really follow anybody. Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see how tweeting out 140 character messages left and right to tell people I’m at Starbucks or the grocery store is really going to help me grow my business.
Which brings me to what I want to talk about this month: How to use social media to market and grow a business. As social media has exploded over the past few years – there are now 1.4 BILLION Facebook users, or about one out of every ten people on planet Earth – lots of businesses have rushed to add social media into their marketing mix. The problem, as I see it, is that many are doing this without an overall social media marketing strategy in place.
Two Basic Questions
This strategy should start by answering two basic questions: First, what are your goals for social media marketing? And second, how will you measure your social media marketing efforts to see whether or not you’re reaching your goals?
It seems to me that a lot of businesses are launching social media campaigns with a “follow the herd” mentality. They see that other businesses, including their competitors, are doing social media and they don’t want to be left behind. So they build a business Facebook page and ask customers to “like” them, or ask customers to check-in on Foursquare, and then wait for results.
But what, exactly, are the results of a successful social media marketing campaign? I’m not a social media expert, so I asked Richard Sink, the founder of Critical Connections and a pioneer in social media marketing, for his thoughts.
Richard says that one of the main strengths of social media as a marketing tool is its ability to help companies build and strengthen relationships with customers and prospects. “But it’s often harder to tie sales and profits directly back to your social media marketing efforts, like you can with a direct response advertising campaign,” he says.
So one goal for a social media marketing campaign might be to increase awareness of your business and your products and services among your customers and prospects while you deepen relationships with them. “I like to refer to social media marketing as conversational marketing,” is how Richard puts it.
How It Should Work
Personally, I almost never “like” businesses on Facebook. I guess I’m afraid that I’m going to get bombarded with annoying posts by a business if I “like” them. But I did make an exception recently: I “liked” a local record store, Mojo Vinyl, that my family likes to visit to browse through new and used record albums.
Mojo usually adds a few posts every day – things like interesting articles about rock bands or the growing popularity of vinyl records. They also post when cool new albums come into the store. Last week, they posted that they just got an album by a band I recently discovered that I love (The War on Drugs – check ’em out!), so guess what? We went down last weekend and bought it.
To me, that’s a perfect example of how an effective social media marketing campaign should work. Mojo is strengthening their relationship with me by providing interesting and helpful content on Facebook. This has earned my trust to the point that I don’t mind when they post content that might be considered more “salesy,” like new inventory in the store. In fact, I welcome it!
“You need to make a distinction between content that is meant to clearly define your product and services offerings, and content that’s meant to engage your audience by providing them with useful and entertaining information,” said Richard. “And don’t be afraid to share your expertise freely. A lot of businesses are afraid to give away information that educates and informs their customers – they think they maintain a competitive edge by being secretive. But this is very rarely the case.”
Next month, we’ll talk in more detail about specifically how to go about creating an effective social media marketing campaign.