I spoke at a small business workshop last evening. The topic was market research, but toward the end the conversation turned to social media. That’s no surprise, because it seems like every marketing conversation veers to social media lately.
Clients ask about it. My students want more information on it. Many businesses are still trying to figure it out – some in panic because they don’t know what to do, and others doing something, but not sure how to tell if it matters. And just about every marketing job anymore calls for someone with social media experience.
Why not? After all, social media is everywhere. About 10 percent of the world population is on Facebook (70 percent are outside the U.S). Twitter boasts 190 million users generating 65 million tweets each day. No one can accurately count the number of blogs out there – some estimates put it at more than 150 million.
Clearly, businesses that don’t jump on the bandwagon will die, right?
Wrong! To be sure, social media is huge, it’s relevant, it’s powerful, and it’s here to stay. And it can be a big reason – even the reason – for success in some instances. But it’s not everything, and the hype right now is just incredible.
Last year, Dell proudly proclaimed it achieved more than $6 million in sales from its Twitter presence – a whopping 1/10th of 1 percent of its revenue, give or take. Hey, $6 million isn’t peanuts I guess, but you won’t see Dell ditching its other marketing efforts anytime soon.
I see too many businesses and organizations so mesmerized by the social media hype they fail to grasp that it’s but one part of an overall marketing strategy – and that it doesn’t always make sense or add value.
Here are a few tips for those trying to figure it out:
o Focus on strategy first. Just like a company wouldn’t plunge into advertising or direct mail or create a brochure or even buy a blimp without having a goal in mind, neither should it dive into social media without knowing why. In the end, social media is just another communication channel – albeit it a different, more personal, perhaps more engaging one. But it’s just that: A channel.
o Content trumps technology. You can learn to tweet in 20 minutes, but knowing what to say and how to engage and motivate followers is another story. Anyone with a computer can blog, but not everyone knows how to promote it, gain readers, build credibility and spark discussion. It’s too easy to get consumed by the “how” at the expense of the “why” and the “what.”
o Speaking of challenges: social media is work. And it takes time to do. Think it’s a snap to write a relevant blog, come up with a daily tweet or keep a Facebook page updated? Try it. I guarantee, it’ll take more effort than you ever thought possible.
o Still not sure? Give it a try. One of the nice things about social media is the ability to learn it and test your appetite and tenacity for it without others seeing it. I advise people who aren’t sure to set up an account, start a blog or whatever – but don’t publish, activate or make public until you’re convinced you want to do it.
o Be committed. If you do flip the switch, stick with it. Few things mess with a brand more than content that’s old or outdated. Ever see a blog that hasn’t had a post in months? Did that person give up or the company go out of business? And why would anyone follow a tweeter that only tweets twice a year, or pay attention to a Linked In profile that’s not been changed since it was created? If you’re going to do it, do it often.
o Remember, it’s not really about you – it’s about customers and prospects. Social media is a great way to learn, gather feedback, and really listen to the needs of others. (Even companies that don’t use social media should be monitoring conversations to know what’s being said.)
o Finally, don’t neglect other marketing tactics. Honestly, I see some business owners get so consumed with social media (in addition to everything else they have to do) they overlook or neglect doing things that would likely be a more effective way of promoting their organization. Don’t fall into that trap!