Social Media: Marketing or Mania?
Choosing the right forms for your business and highlighting the Pros & Cons
There is a lot of buzz surrounding social media and how businesses can tap into the seemingly limitless possibilities. But which forms are right for your business and how can you use them effectively? What are the advantages and where can you go wrong?
We should start by defining what social media actually is. Wikipedia sums it up perfectly: Social Media is online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. (Source: Wikipedia)
In a word, social media is interactive. It allows you to connect with others in a variety of ways that allow you to promote yourself, your business and generate interest in your products or services.
Some of my colleagues readily sing the praises of LinkedIn and MeetUp but I have yet to find value in these for Mouth Media and in the case of LinkedIn, there appears to be a large learning curve in order to produce results. As a social media platform for business, I also do not see any value in MySpace unless you are in the music or film industry or are targeting teens or young adults. In most cases, YouTube, one of the most radical and popular social media websites and one that loses estimated hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is also not generally a successful option for most small businesses.
In my opinion, the most effective forms of social media are Blogs, Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook is a free-access social networking website. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with other people. People can also add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. (Source: Wikipedia)
Facebook is primarily used for social purposes but it can be a great grassroots way to build a community of interested users through the posting of photos, video and event details. You can create discussion threads and invite users to comment. Be sure to create an account for your business rather than using your personal account to promote your business.
Take advantage of Facebook Marketplace (www.facebook.com/marketplace) to post free classified ads like Job Postings. Marketplace has been compared to Craigslist with the major difference being that listings posted on Marketplace are only seen by users that are in the same network as that user, whereas listings posted on Craigslist can be seen by anyone.
A Blog (a contraction of the term “Web log”) is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. “Blog” can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a Blog. (Source: Wikiedia) Blogs are often a the best source of customers for a business – there is simply less competition for attention among Blogs and articles than on a social news site.
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read each others’ updates, known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters, displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to other users – known as followers – who have subscribed to them. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow open access. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications. (Source: Wikipedia)
Twitter is essentially a mini-Blog or microblog. Twitter is a major buzzword these days. Though rapidly growing in popularity, it is estimated that 73% of new users to Twitter stop tweeting after one month. (Source: Mashable.com) It can be an excellent strategy for businesses that have a lot happening but little time to write full Blog posts and is almost an essential tool for businesses targeting youth
Pros & Cons of Social Media:
- Opportunity to show your human side. You are a person AND a business, not just a business. You can use social media to demonstrate your personality, interact with customers and show them that you care, which, in turn, breeds loyalty.
- Good relationship building opportunities. Potential clients (or friends who can refer potential clients) may comment on your posts or join your groups, etc. and could potentially refer others to you via these mediums.
- You can reach customers that traditional marketing misses. You never know who will direct a friend to your Blog or Facebook page so your potential for reeling in new leads is unlimited.
- Feedback. Great way to solicit feedback from clients or customers or colleagues in your industry and respond to any questions, criticisms or accolades.
- Generate traffic. Great way to build traffic and drive traffic to your website through search engine optimization or linking. Blogs are especially and extremely valuable for search engine optimization.
- Information at your fingertips. When a client asks a question and you happen to already have written a Blog post about that topic you can simply refer to your post saving yourself valuable time and ensuring you are offering a consistent message regarding a specific topic. Email newsletter content ready to go!
- Positions you as a leader in your field. If you are posting relevant, intelligent content you will position yourself as very knowledgeable in your field, which is great for client retention and generating new potential.
- Inexpensive compared to traditional media. Generally very low cost forms of marketing especially after set up.
- Adds competitive advantage. Maybe your competitors are not using social media effectively so it is a good opportunity.
- It is the way the world (including the business world) is headed. It is the wave of the future and 80% of young adults are using social media (Source: Forrester Research).
- Widen your market. Social media is global so connect with potential clients on an international scale.
- Marketing you can manage yourself.Most people can set up a Blog, Facebook page or Twitter, etc. themselves.
- False impression of lead generation.Some business owners may think that social media (or even a website for that matter) works on the “Build it and they will come!” mentality which is not usually the case. It takes considerable time to build up to a larger number of users and these pieces generally need to be promoted ether elsewhere online or in other forms of marketing to really drive traffic. They may sit back and wait for the magic to happen.
- Delayed return on investment. It takes time to build a following so your return on investment may not be immediate.
- Time intensive. It can be very labour intensive as you strive to ensure your mediums are updated frequently with valid content. It can be difficult to constantly come up with innovative exciting content that interests a variety of readers and, without relevance; your efforts will be wasted.
- You lose some control of your marketing efforts. Anything you publish is up for grabs, and others can easily criticize you.
- Need strong writing skills. Users have a variety of writing skills so it is risky if writing is not your strong suit.
- It can be easy to lose yourself in managing your social media. Managing your social media can take you away from performing other essential tasks in your business.
- Maybe your target market is not using social media. Be sure to survey how your clients get information online before you invest time and money in social media.
Don’t try and engage in social media only because it is a buzzword. Determine if it is right for your business and choose the best one or two mediums to start. For social media to be effective, businesses must remain focused on who their customer is and focused on generating valuable content for that audience. Now, get out there and try it!