Social media has rocketed into business marketing over the last 18 months. With the proliferation of the internet have come many new methods of communication, which has led to increased user interactivity. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide platforms for businesses to connect with their customers on a more personal level, enabling them to post comments, or tweets about the products and services they receive. Here, users can chat to the real people behind the businesses, as well as with each other, sharing their own opinions and experiences. Social media is a cheap and easy way for companies on a tight budget to market their business, and it is rapidly becoming a huge player in the promotional industry.
According to Regus, provider of workplace solutions, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are more successfully utilising social media as a revenue generation tool than larger companies. Some 44% of SMEs have acquired new customers through their use of networking sites, compared with 28% of large businesses. There are currently 700,000 small businesses with fan pages on Facebook, and 28% are now even dedicating their marketing budget to social media.
Christian Nellemann, founder of XLN Telecom, explains that when it was first launched in 2006, Twitter was dismissed by critics as a cult trend, however the site now boasts 100m users worldwide and has become a valuable platform for businesses to develop dialogue with existing and prospective clients.
However, despite the recent hype about social media, many businesses remain at the foot of a very steep learning curve, and are hesitant to take the plunge. Melanie Seasons, social media strategist at PR agency Onlinefire, says that when shaping your social media plan you must bear the following in mind:
To get people talking about you, you have to know all the background. Research your typical customer – what are his/her online habits? What does he/she talk about online? What’s the tone of voice? Are people already talking about you? Once you have a clear idea where your audience is and what they’re saying, you’ll know where you should have a presence
2. Conversation platforms
Don’t join Facebook or set up a Twitter profile just because you think you should. Think about who your audience is. You should be engaging on the sites that your customers are on.
3. Your presence
Your website is the face of your brand and often the hub of your business, and so it should be the hub of social media as well. Make sure all your social media channels are integrated and on the front page. Try to drive people back to your website, but equally keep your content ‘out there’ and circulating. You should be integrating with your customers’ online lives.
4. Building followers
Unfortunately there’s no quick, easy way to do this! It’s all about having something interesting to say and giving your audience what they want. Chances are, unless you’re Apple or the BBC, people aren’t going to be interested in internal appointments and financial figures – they want to know about the people behind the company. Be personable, approachable, funny and smart. Promotions and giveaways for your social media fans can help boost your numbers, but it’s your personality that will keep them there.
Social media is not an isolated channel. If you’re not prepared to integrate social media with your overall marketing, digital, search, and/or customer service strategies, you’re not ready for social media. Identify how the social media conversations you’re having can be fed back into the business.
Social media is highly measurable, but only if you’re using the right tools. Make sure you’ve incorporated Google Analytics to track conversions from your social media sites. If you’re using any social media monitoring tools, such as Radian 6, set out from the beginning some benchmarks. It’s not just about sales – you also have to think about brand perception, buzz and sentiment.