This discussion piece is for business owners seeking a no-frills explanation on how social media can add value to their business.
The post will cover the following:
- What is the fundamental change to marketing that businesses must be aware of.
- How social media tools can help with success in this new marketing environment.
- How our business utilizes some of the social media tools to help retain our existing customers and attract then convert our target prospects.
But first lets get down to why you are here. I assume as a business owner you are seeking the answers to the following:
- Will social media help my business increase revenue?
- How much effort is involved and what skills and resources do I need?
- Is this just some glossy hype for consultants to sell me stuff I don’t need?
This discussion piece is not about selling you into social media. Its about showing you that social media tools can help your business adapt to the fundamental changes taking place within marketing which all business owners know is happening but have no idea what to do.
So in essence social media is the effect not the cause for change. You first need to understand why social media has ramped up in importance for business.
So what is the fundamental change in marketing?
Easy… Answer the questions below.
>> When was the last time you clicked on a web site banner (or for that matter even noticed the banners on a web site)?
>> When was the last time you even read an unsolicited email that was sent to you from a business?
>> When was the last time you answered the telemarketers questions?
>> When was the last time you bothered to read the averts within a newspaper?
If the answer is “don’t know” to the questions above you are not alone. Your prospects and clients are answering “don’t know” as well.
The fundamental change for business is the change from “Outbound Marketing” to “Inbound Marketing”.
Inbound Marketing – The shift in how people interact with your business
The bulk of businesses today have an “Outbound” marketing strategy that is focused on disrupting the recipient in order to get the message across.
Outbound marketing use tools that cause disruption such as telemarketing, unsolicited (opt-out) emails, unsolicited postal mail and adverts within printed media.
“Its all about pushing your wares in-front of the consumer even when they are not interested.”
People (including yourself) have either devised ways to ignore the disruption or employed tools that do the blocking for you such as CallerID, spam filters or email cleaning filters and the trusty trash bin for postal mail. This is creating a virtual brick wall against the disruption.
Marketers have in fact shot themselves in the foot by over disrupting people enough that now they are considered an annoyance and even worse ignored.
This is where inbound marketing is maturing and replacing outbound.
Instead of attempting (and now failing) to disrupt people why not encourage a relationship between you, the business, and your customers and prospects where they talk and you listen (and respond).
Inbound marketing is about building a relationship with your consumers and prospects with the intention of establishing open and transparent communication channels. The key thing here is that you as a business actually listen and respond.
Examples of inbound marketing tools are blogs, forums, Twitter and chat.
How we use social media tools to support inbound marketing
Here is an example of how we use inbound marketing to attract new customers and keep existing customers happy by using social media tools which are perfect for inbound marketing.
First off we have created a blog that our staff can contribute posts to such as software updates, business social events, customer support FAQ’s but the most important topic that is fundamental to our customers and prospects is our research findings on email marketing. A blog is an ideal tool to transmit our research data to the public in a way that is easy categorized, read and archived.
We allow comments to be posted on the blog that we monitor and respond to. This shows that we as a business are interested in what customers and prospects have to say.
Another benefit of providing a blog is that prospects who are not yet ready to engage us in a sales cycle can subscribe to the blogs RSS feed or subscribe to our newsletter. This allows them to keep track of what we are doing without having to directly contact to us. When they are ready to engage us in a sales cycle they already know how we operate and what we represent.
The end result of this effort is the creation of a community of loyal followers who believe in what we do and feel respected by us.
Stop for one moment and think about the previous sentence for it highlights one of the positive results of using inbound marketing.
We have now created a community of followers who know that we care about what they have to say. They talk – we listen and respond. It is not hard to imagine that given the chance they will mention us in their conversations and hopefully go out of their way to recommend us.
We have now moved to third party endorsement which is the most powerful form of marketing you can get.
So by using a blog we have provided a communications channel between our customers and prospects that not only reveals a more human side to our business but also allows people to directly communicate with us.
Okay, But What is Social Media?
Below is my definition of the term “social media”. You may find that our use of a blog resonates with this definition and you would be correct. A blog is a social media tool.
Social media is a set of tools that when executed correctly help in the building of personal and business relationships and networks – which when you think about it is what a good sales person does constantly – build their network.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube.. the list goes on. They are all social media tools that can help you with inbound marketing.
To further our example we use Twitter to provide another communication channel to the public if they need to contact us.
New Zealand Vodafone and Telecom both have Twitter accounts that are monitored constantly. I have posted (called a “Tweet”) to Vodafone on Twitter and got an instant response!
Reality Check with Social Media Tools
The most important thing to remember as a business owner when looking at social media tools is to not assume that having a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter account is going to be the best thing for your business.
You need to first identify how your customers and propsects want to deal with you. For example a blog’s topic and frequency is controlled by approved authors normally the staff. Once a blog post is published only then can the public respond but of course only respond within the context of the post. A forum environment allows the public to start a topic of their choice thus giving control to the public not the business.
Social Media ROI?
I need to sort this out quick smart as well.
Basically there is no real ROI measurement that can directly provide you with the conversions you need to prove that the time and effort you put into using social media is worth it. Think back to all those coffee expense claims your sales reps submit each month. Did each coffee result in a sale? I doubt it and you would not measure the expense in that way.
You can of course measure the traffic coming to your web site via the different social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube but if the bulk of that traffic did not covert to a sale would that mean social media has failed? My opinion is that it does not nor should you think apply those metrics to using social media.
I think its now appropriate to add someone else’s opinion to this discussion that helps support my own theory on how social media benefits business:
Stephen Smith writes: “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable.”
“To illustrate that point for all our measurement and metric geeks out there, what you are trying to do is assign multiple choice scoring to an essay question. It’s not possible.”
… “Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the conversation?’” And, as stubborn as it sounds Mr. CEO, you don’t get money out of a conversation.
“To further the discussion a bit, I sat down with Katie for an episode of SME-TV, which will be added to this post later today.”
“What Katie evangelized a bit in her session was that the conversation (comments on your content) was the best measure of a level of engagement. Avinash Kaushik says much of the same in his discussions on web analytics. This isn’t an end-around the need for ROI, it’s the answer. Or at least a big part of the answer.”
“When you ask businesses why they are participating in social media, what do they say? If they say, “to make money,” then they will fail because currency in the social web is found in both relationships and content. If they say, “to grow our business,” they’re just saying, “to make money,” in a nicer way. If they say, “to participate in the conversation,” which is the more appropriate reason to be involved in the social web, then why on earth would they not measure success by the value of the conversations they have?”
Whew! The summary!
Social media tools help greatly in forming a community of customers and prospects that think highly of your business because the tools allow for more direct and transparent access to you.
Will this take effort on your part? Absolutely! But we have found the rewards to exceed the effort involved. We have been rewarded with:
- Great feedback about our product and willing free testers for the latest releases of our software,
- Increased business referrals that have dramatically increased our pipeline of opportunities.
- An increase of traffic to our web site from search results that include discussion about our business in the social media networks and not forgetting our blog posts.
But remember you first need to understand how your customers and prospects want to communicate with you. Only then should you select the social media tools that provide the environment they want.
You will constantly need to review the effectiveness of the tools you have implemented. You may need to remove some of the current ones and replace with other tools.
I hope that this discussion has helped you understand what is social media and why you should be using it for your business.
If you have further questions please ask it the comments section below.
How do you think social media will help your business?
How to Define Your Brand’s “Twitter Voice”
Your Twitter is failing, if you don’t have a strategy and strong brand image behind it.
That’s where your Twitter voice comes in. It’s the strategy and tone that should flow easily through your entire profile. Want to know how to find yours? Read on below.
What Is a Twitter Brand?
To define what a Twitter brand is, let’s look at someone who’s rocking their own unique one. That brand…Wendy’s. The other-wise and previously non-opinionated chain makes a splash on Twitter.
No one was expecting them to “come after” other burger chains or even individual users like they do. It made a lot of people not only laugh but respect Wendy’s more.
And due to the way they conduct themselves on Twitter, we know Wendy’s doesn’t mess around with sub-par ingredients and practices.
Like the time they tweeted about using never frozen beef, unlike other big chains. A twitter user (who has since deactivated their account) tweeted them back saying that was impossible.
Wendy’s fired back a tweet saying something like “don’t blame us because you forgot refrigerators exist”.
A harmless comment in the long run, but it got the point across. We could write a whole article about Wendy’s tweets, but we’ll leave you with one more before we move on.
In a response to Bailey (@Mr._Anderson 36) tweet “@Wendy’s Where’s the beef?” The account replied:
“@Mr_Anderson36 In our cheeseburgers and on our timeline”. In case you’re behind on the times, beef is another term for a drama or disagreement.
Not into the catty stuff? Smart Circle tweets are inspiring, instead.
Defining Your Own Twitter Voice: How to Do It
First thing first, you need to understand yourself as a brand. What’s your image? What’s your brand definition? What’s your mission? If you are or you work at a well-established business, this is probably all wrapped up in your past work.
That means the about page where your mission statement and purpose are, but also the tone in past articles and publications. Even your Instagram captions define and describe your brand.
So if you can’t write out who your brand is and describe it in three ways, do some research. That’s step one.
Step 2: Find Your Audience’s Interests
Wendy’s is lucky in that they have a pretty wide audience. They know that they’re the “one” different competitor between McDonald’s and Burger King. At least that’s how they’ve always marketed themselves.
And they know that their followers see them that way too. If they didn’t, they’d go to one of the other chains instead of Wendy’s. So it was easy for Wendy’s to know that poking fun at the other brands would go over well, as a marketing tactic.
But you may not have that clear cut of an audience and there’s no one secret to finding out what they like. Okay, there is – research and hard work. Check out your current followers and audience. Who do they follow?
Who do they retweet? What tone are those tweets? That’s where you should aim to meet them (where they already are).
Step 3 (The Final Step): Be Consistent
Wendy’s doesn’t always tweet mean things, but if you look through their Twitter, you can definitely see their attitude. You don’t have to be catty or clever all the time but sprinkle those tweets through.
You want people to expect that from you. Deliver it more than or at fifty percent of the time.
Follow these steps and you’ll find your Twitter voice. It’ll take research and practice, but you’ll come off as and be more authentic along the way.
Want to know that we practice what we preach? Follow us on Twitter.
How Social Media Can Influence Buying Decisions?
Social media started out as an online platform for people to share personal photos and communicate with others. However, it has systemically evolved to become the holy grail of marketing.
Recent research reveals that social media is playing a major role on influencing buying decisions. This means that it’s about time that companies start paying more attention to their social strategy.
It’s unfortunate to see companies diving into social media marketing without any clear strategy. These firms only end up with disappointment. There’s strong evidence that shows that if social media is approached correctly, it can influence people’s buying decisions. But, how does social media influence buying decisions?
In order for you to understand how social media influences buying decisions, you should comprehend the psychology behind decisions. Buying decisions are much more complex than you think. Social media has gained a lot of traction for influencing consumer decisions because of these reasons:
Emotions can Influence Decisions
Buyers are influenced by emotions. People make buying decisions using both the right and left regions of the brain. They aren’t robots, so it’s highly unlikely that they’ll make decisions based only on analytical and logical basis. Think about when you’re buying a smartphone. You may have seen a photo of a cell phone on a social media post by the company selling it and then rationalized your buying decisions by checking its specs. This can happen with anyone.
Indeed, many people who purchase something say that they landed on it and had not thought about buying something like it. The reason is that emotions can sometimes affect our decisions and we can end up buying something we hadn’t planned.
We Are Naturally Suspicious
Sales representatives usually find it hard to convince people to buy. That’s because we’re naturally suspicious. Strong emphasis must be placed on establishing trust and credibility with customers before one can pitch their idea. In this regard, social media is extremely effective as people trust a product when they see that their family or friend have bought the same. They’re influenced by people they can trust.
People feel safer to move in large groups. That’s because human beings generally have crowd mentality. Thus, it’s easier to sway people when they’re in group. That is one of the reasons social media is so powerful in influencing buying decisions. People will be convinced to buy something if they see their peers purchasing the same. All a company has to do is show them how their friends and peers have benefited from the same product. Thus, positive customer reviews are extremely important for social media marketing.
These are just a few of the ways in which social media influences people’s buying decisions. If you’re looking to promote your product or service, you should consider using social media as it has the ability to reach potential customers and influence their purchase decision.
Which Social Media Platform Performs The Best For Start Ups
Social media is an essential marketing tool for startups. It’s a great way to get your message out there for not much money, although it does take some effort to get noticed. When you launch your business, it’s a good idea to establish a presence on social media as soon as you can.
Stretching yourself across every social media platform isn’t really possible, especially when you’re short on time and money, so choosing the best one or two platforms to focus on is smart. There are several big name players in social media, and choosing between them take some thought.
Does One Social Media Platform Work for All Startups?
The first question that you might have is whether there’s one social media platform that will work for all startups. If there’s a king of all social media, you want to be on it. However, there isn’t exactly one social media platform that will work for everyone. Each platform has different benefits and it suitable for various content and differing audiences.
B2B brands might find that professional network LinkedIn is the best option for them. Fashion retailers could find a highly visual platform like Instagram to be the right choice for them. You can expand your social media presence later, but if you want to start with just one, you need to think about which one is best for your startup specifically.
What to Consider to Choose the Best Network
You might want to take the overall numbers of each of the highest performing platforms. If you’re looking for the biggest audience, you’ll find it on Facebook where more than two billion people can be found each month. It’s followed by the likes of YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Tumblr. However, numbers aren’t everything. It’s not just about founding the most users, but also the most suitable audience for your startup. When you’re trying to decide which platform to start with, you should consider the demographics of your target audience.
Younger social media users are increasingly choosing platforms like Instagram and Snapchat over Facebook. Pinterest has more female users than male, while LinkedIn is clearly better for targeting other businesses and professionals.
You need to think about your goals before you choose a social media platform. What sort of content will you be sharing? How do you want to communicate with your audience?
The Benefits of the Major Players
Every social media platform offers different benefits to startups. It’s important to know how each one could help you to reach your audience and promote your startup business.
Facebook has the most users of any social network, but it’s important to recognize that things are starting to shift. There’s a great range of users across different ages, locations and genders, but younger people are starting to move away from it. Facebook is excellent for posting a range of different content, from links and text posts to images and videos. It also has its own PPC advertising platform, and you can pay to promote your posts too.
LinkedIn is best for any startups trying to reach professionals and other businesses. If you’re promoting a B2B business, looking for staff or perhaps trying to connect with other business people for funding purposes, LinkedIn is a great choice.
Twitter can help you to get in touch with professionals, but it’s good for B2C brands too. The short posts can be good for conversation and banter, and several brands have found success with humorous Twitter interactions. Twitter doesn’t have the highest user base, but there are still plenty of people on there.
Instagram is a visual platform, perfect for sharing photos, videos and Stories, which lets you share a series of photos or video clips. The audience on Instagram is a little younger than some other platforms, so it’s ideal for finding a younger audience.
Using Social Media Together With Your Blog
Blog posts provide the perfect content to share on social media. A business blog is an essential content marketing strategy, so get started by setting up a blog on your website. By writing regular posts and sharing them on your social media channels, you can bring more people to your site. When you share on social media, for example by creating a Facebook post or tweeting a link to your blog post, you can use social media tools to monitor the performance of your post and see how people are engaging in it. For example, Facebook offers you analytics so you can see how many people have clicked on your link, on your post or on your page.
You need to choose the right social media platform for your startup by considering your audience. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may be better for sharing blog posts than more visual networks.
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