The Social Media Dilemma for Business
Unless you live under a rock you have at least some knowledge of “social media.” As a business person you know that you should probably “do something” with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and all the other new ways to reach out and touch someone electronically.
Everybody says it’s easy to get started. That’s true, if you are a teenager, pop singer or NBA player who simply must use social media to let everybody know what you are doing every hour of the day. Basic use of social media is a fairly simple process. (It must be – have you seen some of the idiots who are tweeting?)
But it’s not easy for a business to launch a social media program that has substance and staying power. In fact, it is a mistake to take the social media plunge unless and until you have a plan in place and you are committed to making it an integral part of your overall marketing mission.
Sustaining the Effort.
The problem most businesses face with social media is not the initial entry. The challenge comes in sustaining the effort over time in a way that has an effect on the marketplace. Your social media presence will only deliver customers if they are presented with interesting and valuable information, and a reason to act on that information.
Strip away the newness and technology of social media and what do you get? Additional ways to put your company’s message in front of people. That’s why it is called “media.” And, like any other media, you need to fill the pipeline and keep it filled.
Would you reserve a full-page newspaper ad every week and then run the same ad over and over again? Of course not. Similarly, you don’t want to create a corporate Facebook page and leave the same basic information up month after month. If anything, content gets old faster in the social media environment.
Getting Off on the Right Foot.
When you are ready to incorporate social media into the marketing mix, make sure you devote the resources it needs to succeed. Decide which of the many channels of communication are most appropriate for your needs; it will probably be several different platforms. The most popular (for good reason) are Facebook fan pages, Twitter, LinkedIn (especially for professional networking) and company blogs
In setting up your various accounts (all free) be sure the information and graphics you use adhere to corporate standards. Don’t get sloppy just because the media is new and free. Whether it is a blog header or profile information on Facebook, do it right to make the biggest impact.
Content is Key.
Even before you set up your Facebook page or send out your first Tweet, establish a schedule of regular updates and assign the responsibility for making them happen. This is where many businesses fall down. They get all excited about sending out a Tweet, getting fans on Facebook, or posting a blog entry that they forget that it is not a one-time event, but a process.
This is where professional help is needed. Either hire somebody in-house or contract with an outside writer to keep your messaging fresh, consistent and credible. Just as with any other type of advertising, it is the message that gets people to take action, not the fact that it came via e-mail or Twitter.
Customize your message for your business and your audience. Test out coupons and sales via Twitter. Get customers to share their experience with your company on your Facebook site. Make yourself an authority and expert in your field by posting compelling blog entries. Be interesting and people will be interested!
No Quick Fix.
Don’t expect a flood of response right away. Like anything else that is new, you’ll need to promote your social media presence and build up an audience before you start converting them into customers. But the advantages social media bring are enormous: instantaneous delivery of your message across multiple platforms, the ability to test various messages, measurement and accountability. Don’t waste these excellent tools by using “cheap lumber” in the form of poor and inconsistent content.
GenNext Media Lab Guest Author
Bob Sheehan is the founder of Coastline Advertising and a Surefire Social Certified Coach. As an advertising executive with broad experience in advertising and marketing, Bob is focused on generating actual measurable results for clients in a wide array of businesses. Bob has become a leader in contractor coaching by catering to the needs and wants of our clients.