As new features and applications develop for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, more companies are realizing the importance of utilizing these tools in their marketing plans however, many simply do not know how to effectively use these tools to communicate with their online customer base. Many people think that just simply offering specials or news about your own company will draw in business but this is simply not the case. It can take some time to build up a captive online audience, but if done right, your business can grow by leaps and bounds as you connect with your consumer base. Here are some tips for using social media in your marketing plan:
1. The goal is NOT to make money!
Here’s a major misconception about utilizing social marketing. Your number one goal is to connect with your online audience, your customer base…the end result of this is loyal customers, but get it out of your mind that you can use social marketing to make money, it just won’t happen!
You must go into social marketing with the idea of connecting with other people, gaining fans, friends and followers. Remember that whatever your selling, whatever your service or product is, it is a solution to someone’s problem. Showing yourself as a personable expert in your field, giving advice, showing your personality and letting people know you are a real person will help you gain trust. As you interact with other users, you’ll gain free advertising as other users share their experiences about your business online. If your audience feels that your wish is to help them solve their problem, they will return over and over again. Building trust takes time and you have to be genuine. People will figure it out if you are faking. There are companies who present themselves as genuine, you become their friend, fan or follower, and within a few posts, you realize that it is a sales pitch with no help.
2. How to engage Your online audience.
Many business owners make the mistake of posting canned messages or specials they are offering. They make it all about themselves instead of connecting with others. It’s important to provide content that engages your audience. Post interesting photos from events or your daily work life, post interesting stories from your experiences, show your audience that you’re real and allow them to comment and relate to your own experiences.
I’ve met a few clients who worry that users may say bad things about their business. Here’s what Chris Aaron’s has to say about that on iMediaConnections.com:
Further, if you enter the social media space as a way to pacify concerns that someone is going to say something bad about your company, campaign, or brand, simply do a search on Google. If there are consumers, competitors, and the like who are going to speak poorly of you, the odds are they already are and won’t respond well to a canned talking-points approach to social media. A wise MBA marketing professor once said, “You can’t out-market a bad product.” If you are going down this road, ask yourself why you feel your brand can’t stand up to a truly interactive dialogue with customers?
Takeaway: What someone says about you is more important than what you say about yourself.
3. Creating content to go Viral is NOT the strategy
– it’s a result of good social marketing.
Many companies have heard of viral campaigns, videos or games that everyone has interacted with and passed on to their family and friends, and it’s often hit or miss if your goal is to go viral. Chris Aaron’s gives a great example in his blog post on iMediaConnection.com:
If you believe you can extract a positive outcome from a viral effort, you may find yourself in the same situation as Elfyourself.com — a lot of content and participation, but very little sales or even brand awareness from the campaign. In fact, test your friends. Ask them if they remember the campaign and ask them which brand did it? When we have asked this question, about 1 in 500 knew it was OfficeMax. Did you?
It’s important to think outside the box when wanting to create online applications that have the potential to go viral, but straying from the core of social media can result in disaster. It’s important to create applications that allow users to interact with each other and your brand while having fun doing so. This is the key to a successful application but not necessarily guarantees a viral campaign.
4. Social Media can be FREE PR!
As you begin to venture into social media marketing it’s important to ask yourself a few questions. What do people want to know about my product or service and what do people want to know about me and how I operate? Your online audience wants to know who you are and how your business can help them. Also ask yourself how you can leverage your social presence beyond just product launches and news events? PR is great for news and launches, but social media creates the ongoing and sustained interest between news and launches.
“Not all social media platforms are the same, just like not all marketing is the same. However, like with marketing campaigns, it is important to fully consider your goals, objectives, and what your company is ready for before entering the social media space. This assessment will help you determine the right technologies, approaches, and platforms to use based on your goals and ability to follow through.”
-Chris Aarons on iMediaConnection.com