I recently did a guest blog post for the NM AMA on social media for businesses. Here is the post in its entirety.
Social media has been a fairly recent phenomenon in popular culture. It seems that almost everyone is on a social media site (or 2 or 3 or 4) and if they aren’t then we look at them as if they are crazy. Those people who do not subscribe to any social media sites might run the risk of complete social isolation if they don’t jump on the bandwagon soon as a recent study by Experian claims that 91% of todays online adults use social media regularly.
I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt by saying that you already know what the most popular social networks are (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc.) so I won’t bother diving into a description of each social network but I do want to focus on social media and how it is changing our business landscape.
Marketing your online presence has never been as important as it is now and it will only continue to increase as our society becomes ever so dependent on internet and social media channels for all of their informational needs. Ask yourself, when you want to buy something, what is the first thing you do? The first place I visit is a search engine like Google or Bing in order to do my research and due diligence on a product before I even step foot into a store. I want to have that information before I make a purchasing decision and unless the internet goes away tomorrow this habit is not going to change anytime soon. Here are a few stats on internet usage as it pertains to consumer buying behavior:
A recent study by the Forrester research group has forecasted that by 2016 more than half of the dollars spent in the US retail space will be influenced by the web (*source- Forrester). I think this already holds true for many consumers especially the Gen X and Y crowd. I know that most of my purchasing decisions are almost always influenced by the web or social media with the exception of groceries and fuel.
With this information before you where do you stand on the social media front? Do you even have a website set up?
Many large businesses have already adopted a social media strategy in fact, 87% of fortune 100 companies utilize social media platforms. That means that 87 out of the 100 largest companies in the US are using social media to their advantage (*source- DigitalBuzzBlog). On the other side of the spectrum only 27% of small and 34% of medium sized businesses are using social media for their business (*source-MarketingMag). Granted, this is an increase of 10% YoY but with the majority of companies in our country falling into the SMB space there is a lot of room to grow and it goes to show how many SMB’s are not utilizing social media platforms to market their business unlike like their larger more successful competitors who are jumping head first into social media strategy.
It is obvious that social media is quickly becoming a way of life and if you still don’t have a managed social media site you run the risk of becoming passé and not trusted in the quickly changing mind of the consumer.
So what can you do? Well here are 5 tips to get you started today!
1.) Create your accounts but only choose ONE to start–
This is an obvious step but a necessary one. You don’t have to be on every single social media platform but it is important to distinguish which platform will work best with your company and can integrate into your current marketing strategy. My advice for a social media novice would be to start with one social media site and then gradually sign up for more. If you are selling to consumers and you have a visually appealing product then you might want to use Pinterest as it has recently taken over as the 3rd most popular social network and uses images to attract clients. However, if you are marketing to B2B clients then LinkedIN might be a better choice. Facebook is the most popular social network and should eventually have a spot in your social media strategy if you are not already using it.
2.) Complete and constantly update your profiles–
Once you have set up your social media account you need to add relevant content. Adding information about your brand such as your companies URL, ‘about us’ section and address are essential for making connections on these networks. Also remember to add a great profile pic that includes your logo or a professional picture of yourself. This helps to solidify that you are a real human and not just some spam bot clogging your followers social streams. It will also make it easier for search engines to find and rank your site.
3.) Clarify Your Social Media Goals.
What do you want to accomplish using social media? Do you want to generate leads, create professional connections or do you just want to get your name out to the public? It is important that you sit down and plan your strategy and clearly define who your true target market is when it pertains to your online fan base. It is important that you test your strategy to see what works with your intended audience and what does not. At the beginning you want to make sure you are attracting followers because without people consuming your content your strategy will surely fall flat.
4.) Allocate time to your social media channels.
Managing a social media site for a brand or business is more difficult than one might think and can prove to be a gigantic time suck. On top of that It is extremely easy to get distracted on social media sites. One minute you are creating a post and all of a sudden you notice your friends just posted something so you rush over to check it out. The next thing you know 3 hours have passed by and you haven’t even finished your original post that should have taken you about 5 minutes in the first place. Set aside at least 30 minutes out of your day to devote to your social media profiles. You want to be consistent with your posts and updates and you want to make sure that you are creating good quality content. As you get more popular you might need to reassess the amount of time you spend in order to interact with your fans and respond to their questions. Many companies are hiring new employees or outsourcing their social media tasks due to the amount of time it can take up.
5.) Research and Observe other brands.
Is there a brand that you know of that is all over social media? Is there a competitor that has taken to social media with great success? Try and observe brands that are having great success in social media and, if it fits with your marketing strategy, utilize what they are doing. Don’t think of it as copying and don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel, they are successful because they are doing what works on that particular social media site. I can tell you that your competition is probably doing the same.
These are the first steps (but definitely not the last) you will be taking on your journey to social media domination. It is important to be active on your social media sites and stay the course while constantly testing new ideas and strategies along the way. If you wish to seek a competitive advantage over your competition you cannot afford to shy away from social media channels any longer because as humans collectively get deeper into the world of technology I do not see us turning back. I have a sneaking suspicion that social media is here to stay and it would be in all businesses best interest to utilize it to its full potential.
Check out the NMAMA’s new blog site here. http://blog.nmama.org/