Is Social Media Really Right For Your Business?
Self-proclaimed social media experts often tell companies developing a social media strategy that they need to be out there everywhere. Where is “out there” and why do you really need to be there? Will it bring you paying customers or just a bunch of likes and follows that don’t mean much to a business’ bottom line?
Start with why and where.
Social media - Why use it at all?
Long gone are the days when a prospect’s product research is limited to the information you provide on your website and the conversation they have with your sales person.
In Q4, 2014, the most famous (and some say infamous) review website, Yelp, had an average of 135 million monthly unique visitors and has had a total of 71 million local reviews posted since its inception in 2004.
The Internet, with the help of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yelp, has become the world’s virtual water cooler, with a 2016 projection of 2.13 billion social network users worldwide. That’s up from 1.79 billion in 2014.
Your prospects and customers are out there. They’re talking to each other, sharing information, getting advice and asking questions about your company and products before they ever share their contact information on your marketing form or pick up the phone to talk to sales. You need to be there too–interacting, communicating and building relationships. They’ll keep talking with or without you, saying positive things and maybe negative things about your business. It's important to be part of the conversation.
Social media - Where should you be?
Now that we've addressed the WHY of social media, let’s talk about what’s actually more important–the WHERE of social media.
First, sit down and compile a list of all of the social media sites you’re currently on or would like to be on. Have you done research on the sites’ users to determine if they fit into your target audience? A site that attracts a majority of young men from 18-35 won’t be the right place for you to spend your marketing resources if your target audience is middle age women from 40-55. Sure, this is an extreme example but you get the picture.
Second, take that list and add your company’s business objectives next to each of your social media channels. For Twitter it could be to drive more traffic to your website. For LinkedIn it could be twofold—customer acquisition and employee recruitment. Different channels can be used for different purposes.
It’s important to first understand the business objective for being on certain sites and then to use marketing analytics to determine whether each social media channel is meeting those objectives. If the goal is to drive website traffic from Twitter, is it doing that successfully? If the goal is customer conversions from Facebook, is it doing that successfully?
You may find that a specific channel is actually driving a smaller percentage of site traffic than the others but is converting a much larger number of leads to customers. This is certainly not a channel you want to eliminate and may actually want to spend more time and resources on building a strong community there than on the others.
The bottom line is that it’s ok to step away from the social media buffet. You don’t need to be everywhere. You just need to be where your audience is.
So, we've decided we’ll have a targeted social media presence and we've determined which sites we’re going to focus on. Now let’s take a quick look at a few social media lies that we hear all the time and you should ignore.
1. Put your updates on auto pilot.
Even if you only have 3 social media accounts, it can be time consuming to manage them correctly. It’s tempting to use an automation tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule your posts ahead of time so they’ll be distributed automatically and you can get back to doing other things.
Remember, social media is about being social, engaging and interactive. Being present and in the moment. It’s pretty easy for people to tell when your updates are automated.
Your automated posts are a reflection on your company and they actually talk to your audience. Do you know what they’re communicating? “We don’t care about you. We’re just pushing out this material because we have to, not because we really care. Now come buy our stuff.”
Things like a new blog post or maybe an article that you were quoted in could be automated but don’t make a habit of it. Follow up your posts with real engagement and conversation. Take the pulse of your audience asking them what they think. This may also enable you to uncover insights that will help you choose relevant topics for future posts.
2. We don’t need to talk to them. They can talk to each other.
Creating your business’ social media account is like throwing a party. You wouldn't send out invitations, buy the refreshments, welcome your guests into your house and then leave, expecting them to fend for themselves and talk to each other without you being there.
Social media is like a party and you’re the host. You've opened your house (or in this case your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn account) to your customers and your social community. If they’re only talking to each other or they’re talking to you and you’re not responding, they’ll leave and may never come back.
Thank people for saying nice things about your company and products, answer their questions, bring up new topics of conversation and offer to help them. Be a good host at your social media party so your guests have a good time and stay longer. They may even encourage their friends to stop by.
3. Inconsistent posting is ok.
Everything from the look of your website’s home page to a customer welcome email to the packaging you ship your product in says something about your business to your customers. They each send messages about your company’s reliability, what you value and how you treat your customers. So does each of your social media channels.
A 3 year old corporate Twitter account with only 10 tweets says more about your commitment to your audience (in a negative way) than if you didn't have a Twitter account at all. When searching for a product or service, prospects research everything about your business including your social media presence. It may not be as important as the price of your product or the level of support they’ll receive, but it is included in their overall decision making process.
Before you set up your account, it’s important to determine if you’ll be able to maintain the same level of quality and consistency in your social media channels that you have throughout the rest of your business.
4. Sell, sell, sell.
There are many business executives who are in mad, passionate love with the idea of having a corporate account on every social media channel.
Not because they want to build relationships with their audience but because they see their Twitter and Facebook accounts as free billboards. They instruct their sales teams to sell, sell, sell and their marketing teams to design promotional banners, offer one day specials and create while supplies last coupons.
This is the quickest way to alienate and drive away your audience.
People use social media to be social. To engage with others. To learn. To share. To discuss new things. Not to be sold to.
I’m sure you understand the Pareto Principle but may know it by its more common name - the 80/20 Rule. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 20% of people in Italy owned 80% of the property. Over the years, it was determined that this principle can also be applied to everything from plant production to employee productivity.
The 80/20 Rule of Sales states that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers or, when referring to channel sales, 80% of your indirect channel sales comes from 20% of your channel partners.
Did you know there is also an 80/20 Rule of Social Media? 80% of your social posts should be helpful, informative and provide value to your audience. 20% of your posts can be used to promote your website, your products and your company.
If you went to a cocktail party and did nothing but talk about yourself to every person you met, you would be quickly ignored. If, on the other hand, you were friendly, interesting and shared information that helped another person in some way, they would stick around to get to know you better. It’s the same for social media.
5. B2B means stiff and corporate.
There are times, maybe when you’re writing a press release or an annual report, when stiff and corporate is a little more appropriate than fun and friendly. But no matter whether your business is B2B or B2C, fun and friendly rules the day on social media.
Think about the kind of person you are. Deep down, you’re the same person in the office from 9 to 5 as you are out of the office with your family and friends, aren't you? You don’t flip your personality switch off when you get to the office and on again when you leave the office. The people in your social media community are the same.
Social media is about being social, engaging and friendly. Listen to them and share with them. Have an interesting conversation. Don’t be afraid to let the personality of your employees and your company shine through. Be human. People like to do business with people they like and can relate to.
6. Ignore them and they’ll go away.
There will always be people out there who have negative things to say about your business. It’s how you handle them that will show your social media community what your company is made of.
Once a comment has been made in a public forum it’s out there for the world to see. By ignoring it and not responding, a small issue could quickly escalate to something you can’t control.
People understand that no company is perfect and issues do arise but what they want to see is how you respond. This will help shape their impression of your brand and whether or not they may become a customer in the future.
Acknowledge the person who made the comment as well as the issue they had. Admit any mistakes that were made and explain how you’re going to rectify the situation. Your whole interaction with that customer doesn't need to play out on social media, just enough for others to see that the company is quick to respond, is sympathetic to the issue of their customer and sincerely wants to correct the problem.
Unhappy customers can actually become extremely loyal and vocal brand advocates if these situations are handled correctly.
On the flip side, there are people out there who just like to stir the pot and make a name for themselves by picking fights. It’s usually easy for everyone to spot them. Don’t take the bait. Know when it’s appropriate to respond to negative comments and when it’s not.
The real bottom line.
So, I hear some of you saying, “If social media should be all fun and conversation and I can’t sell, sell, sell, what’s the point? At the end of the day a company’s objective is to increase revenue, right?”
When managed correctly, social media does have the ability to actually provide you with one of your biggest sales opportunities and the highest close rates that you could hope to have. But, you need to get out of the mindset that you have to be everywhere and customers will beat a path to your door the minute you set up your account.
The time and effort spent building a well-developed and finely tuned social media strategy which nurtures your social community, listens to what they have to say and engages with influencers will pay dividends as the members of your community act as your second sales team, publicly and passionately helping to drive increased customer loyalty, brand advocacy and new customer referrals.
About the Author
Lisa Masiello is an award winning tech industry marketing strategist, start-up advisor and founder of TECHmarc Labs. She writes on B2B growth, channel management, marketing strategy, customer experience, and CMO success. Chat with Lisa by email at Lisa.Masiello@TECHmarcLabs.com. Connect with her on LinkedIn.