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Social marketing overview: What you need to know

Social media marketing is, to many, a dark and mysterious art that leaves business owners dazed and confused.

Dennis Armstrong, Entrepreneur, 24 September 2014  Share  0 comments  Print

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Social Media Marketing is, to many, a dark and mysterious art that leaves business owners (and marketers alike) dazed and confused.

Executed well it could be a very worthwhile exercise and to great benefit of your company but it’s not easy, it is not a “part-time” thing and it is not something that should be considered lightly.

Mark my words gentle readers, “A half-baked social media effort will do more harm to your business than good.”

The online world is filled to the brim with companies who follow no clear strategy, with no clear targeted audience or goals in place.

Social Media encourages conversation – sometimes brutally honest conversation – between companies and clients. If you are not interested in listening to the people you serve then I strongly advise you to read no further.

First things first, however. . .

Do you really need social media marketing?

The question is, “how well do you know your existing (and target) customers?”

There are some industries where decision makers are most certainly not going to interact with you via Facebook or Twitter. In fact there are many industries where, if you think you will connect with the right people on those platforms, you would surely be mistaken.

I just cannot see busy C-level execs at a financial institution going onto Facebook to interact with you. Not impossible but highly unlikely – agree?

The point is that Social Media includes a wide variety of platforms and communication solutions through which people interact and that also then covers well-known products like LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and others that can literally be used by any company, in any industry, to promote and communicate with specific audiences.

In my next column I will delve deeper into social channels and tactics available to businesses but, today, I’d like to touch on the basic rules companies should follow in order to make social work for them.

7 Golden rules for social marketing

1.  “Why So Serious?” Let us not forget the “social” part of social media. Yes you are there to engage with the audience and yes, your ultimate goal is to turn some of that engagement into better acquisition or retention of business – but – it doesn’t hurt to show the occasional signs of a heartbeat or, heaven forbid, a personality, regardless of the product or service you specialise in.

People buy from people – always.

2.  You still need to cast a line before you can catch a fish. Inbound activity is not enough. You cannot start a social media channel or all-encompassing social media marketing strategy without normal promotional activity to spark interest and drive conversation. Social Media Marketing does not replace normal digital or, even, traditional marketing – it compliments it and provides you with a way to engage with those taking part or responding to activities.

3.  Quality content and good offers remain king. Again, the modern customer is a savvy one and they can spot nonsense a mile away. And if they don’t, someone else will and post the revelation online. If yours is a B2B marketing model where Thought-leadership content, white papers, industry reports, case studies and the like form the bulk of your marketing then you have to invest in well written, well produced work.

And no, your wife’s friend’s kid who is “good with design” cannot do it for you. Spend the money on professional work – you will not be sorry.

If you are going to run a promotion then don’t insult the intelligence of the public by quoting a “special price” that’s anything but. You will be found out and you will end up with truckloads of digitally-enhanced egg on your face.

4. The Stronger the call, the greater the action. A strong call to action is of equal importance in social media as in other marketing activity. You need to present your audience with clear steps to follow otherwise you will “lose” their hard-gained interest and you will struggle to attain any of the pre-campaign goals you set.

5. Add Value, always. Whatever your offering is (content, advice, service, product or promotion) you need to offer value to those interacting with you on social platforms. They do not have a lot of time and are choosing to spend it interacting with you – best make sure it’s a meaningful interaction or it will be your last.

6. Speak Easy! Social is about having a two-way conversation. It’s not there just for you to broadcast your message but, also, for recipients of that message to respond and interact with your company. Your response has to be quick, honest and decisive where need be – also make sure that you keep a healthy balance between valuable content and promotional material.

7. Smile from Peer-to-Peer. People “like, share, tweet, plus, mail, pin and post” the content and offers they like in a multitude of ways. A largely skeptical public mainly believes what their trusted friends and online communities have to say about a company or product. Be mindful of this and make sure your message is worth hearing, and worth sharing.

Marketing in the 21st century is a very difficult beast. More and more people are on “do not call or contact lists” – excluding them from traditional marketing communication channels.

For example, in the broadcast television space many people have access to devices like PVR where advertising is skipped past and, even if they do not have access to technology like that, research indicates that most people ignore advertising when it appears anyway.

This does not necessarily mean the creative is bad mind you – it just means that it now requires clever boxing and sustained engagement to entice (and then keep) the average customer.

Not everything you try will work and it’s unlikely to work immediately – but if you do decide to give it a go you have to do so with conviction, both in management buy-in and resource allocation. Half-baked efforts will yield exactly the results you fear most.

I look forward to next month’s article where we will delve into the options, strategies, metrics and methodologies you can (and should) consider.

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About the author

Dennis Armstrong, Entrepreneur

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