by Raj Nisankarao, National Business Association
It wasn’t too long ago that I completed "expert certification" programs in social media and email marketing offered by Constant Contact. To enhance my experience I attended a workshop hosted by the Collin Small Business Development Center along with a couple of webinars for good measure. All good but why you may ask?! It was a topic that kept coming up more frequently and at more places than I could possibly imagine. Everyone seems to have their own take on the subject and of course, most are publicly declared pundits on the matter.
Here is a description from Webtrends at About.com (http://webtrends.about.com/od/web20/a/social-media.htm) If you have the time, you should read the entire article – it is really good.
Is it social networking? Is it social bookmarking? Is it wiki?
What is Social Media? The best way to define social media is to break it down. Media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper or a radio, so social media would be a social instrument of communication."
Just as unique an image as one sees under a Kaleidoscope, social media is as unique and encompassing as what you decide it should be. The key is to successfully connect the dots.
Steps for Adopting a Successful Strategy for Social Media Marketing
1. You must be sold on the concept: If you engage in social media marketing because your competition is, changes are your ROI will be dismal. First and foremost, make the sale to yourself.
2. Believe it or not you are good at social media: It is your business – you know what is best. The rules of engagement are just about the same with the only change being in delivery and feedback – some better and others not necessarily so.
3. Take it one step at a time: Your options are almost limitless and diverse in reach and technology. Start with one that you are familiar and comfortable with. Be prepared to spend more time during setup. If you are not on Facebook, for example, open an account and connect with others. Then go to your favorite store and visit their Facebook page and interact with them. It really is easy.
4. Define implementation strategy with current marketing: Try not to separate and compete with your traditional and social media marketing. The goal of your marketing strategies no matter what medium should be unified and complement each other unless your strategy is to separate them. For example, let your customer service representatives know they should close each call by asking a client to visit your website or Facebook page. How about $10.00 off on purchases over $100.00 when you show you are a fan while at your store via your mobile phone?
5. Learn to appreciate and not resist change: As with your product line and customer base, appreciate social media marketing. We all are social beings and enjoy social engagement no matter what the communication medium is. You can email your latest product and instantly get feedback either via click through or user feedback forms. No more guess work as to who read your post card! Using Constant Contact email is a good example.
6. Do not abandon your existing marketing strategies: Look to social media as an enhancement to your current marketing strategies and not a replacement. They actually complement each other. Your direct mail could give a discount code one can redeem on Facebook for a "Like"
7. Involve and engage your audience: Do not assume you know what your audience wants with out regular engagement. Put a posting on a product for your audience to comment on and give feedback not just to you but possibly with each other as well. It is okay to offer incentives in the form of points or additional discounts in exchange for feedback provided it is open and disclosed. Ask for a review on your Google Places - the higher your reviews, the higher your listing.
8. When possible, delegate: Try to engage a diverse as possible audience and delegate parts of the strategy to someone comfortable with social media. Engaging one on Facebook is a lot different from one on Linkedin. Networks are more personal and close knit on Facebook while more professional and business oriented on Linkedin. I am on both but what I expect from each is different in nature.
9. And no, you do not need to spend 100 hours a week managing your social media: One common misconception is that it takes a lot of time and effort to manage all your social media. Not true. You can set them up in a manner that can be managed with little or no time. But remember when successful, your social media marketing strategy will become part of your sales force-the more time you spend, the more you make.
10. If within your budget, hire an outside firm to manage your social media or part of it: If you have a budget, you should hire a reputable firm to develop and implement your social media marketing for you and depending on your staff and your comfort level, manage part or your entire marketing yourself.
Remember that marketing strategies change with time but it is your product line, reputation, and service that decide on your ultimate success. You should attend a webinar periodically, online research, as well as take a long lunch to attend a workshop on social marketing similar to ones that are hosted by the Small Business Development Centers in your area.
See you on Facebook?