Managing And Growing Your Social Network
No matter how good your website is, your constant challenge is to pull potential customers there to make them aware of your services. This is why is it is standard practice to include your website address and email address on your business card and your marketing materials. The more website traffic, the better, even if every visit is not tied to an immediate sale. Over the last few years, one great way to do this is to utilize social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other sites.
A Revolution In The Making
By posting a frequent stream of content, you derive a number of marketing benefits with minimal effort. While adding to your website content is important and necessary for continually Google attention, much of your website content is static and unchanging to human viewers. In addition, adding new content can be time-consuming. With a small commitment of time each week, you can get great exposure through social media that is free, aside from the labor involved in developing and posting it. You can even use a posting service such as Hootsuite, so you can post once and have you content appear in several venues.
Some people who been in business for a long time have been resistant to use social media but recent statistics presented in the 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report point out that the time to get involved is now. The statistics are staggering:
- 86% of marketers said that social media was valuable to the business
- 64% of marketers generated leads from this activity with a time commitment of less than an hour per day
- 75% of marketers saw increased website traffic as a result of social media
- 89% included social media in their marketing plan
- Over 50% of marketers who use social media marketing saw increase in sales within three years.
The conclusion? Participation in social media is not a silver bullet for instant business success, but can dramatically benefit your business in time. The benefits fall into several areas, not all of which means the instant sale.
How Social Media Can Help You
What social media has the potential of doing is of far more value than producing a few sales. In the long run what social media does is:
- Puts your brand on display. Whether you want to create brand awareness, build relationships with potential customers, or drive your sales, you can make people more aware of your company. Potential customers make the choice to follow you, like you, or otherwise opt in to see your postings often when they are made aware of you because their friends have followed you. You combine your marketing with “social proof,” which means more people learn about you because they see that their friends have a “relationship” with you that may make them more willing to take a look. Social media develops an interested community for your product that you could not buy outright.
- Creates digital exposure. To paraphrase an old saying, “no social media site is an island.” What you post on social media is immediately visible to millions of people throughout the world. If viewers find your content interesting, they may also share it with others which increases your exposure even more. While not everything you put on social media will “go viral'” and encourage people to pass it on, social media offers you the potential of being seen more broadly than a website alone could do.
- Makes you a trusted source. Social media gives you the opportunity to post related information about your industry, your community, and issues that might be relevant to potential customers. Rather than being a direct pitch to people to buy your product, you transform yourself into a good corporate citizen that wants to help people make informed decisions about what to buy.
- Makes you an interactive partner. Rather than just presenting information, social media often solicits participation by viewers to contests, polls, and opportunities to comment on content and share it with their friends. This changes the marketing approach from a top-down one of dispensing information to people, to a more interactive approach. If you have customers who complain about quality, service, or delivery, your quick reply can nullify bad impressions. Even if your company is experiencing some bad press about a defective product, you can use social media to counteract negative information.
- Offers tangible benefits. Social media has the potential to both bring more traffic to your website and increase your sales. What you post on social media often shows up in search results, so people can see your interaction days or months after they occurred. Meanwhile, Google sees the traffic to generate as proof that your company is an industry leader. Especially if you strategically plan your post to include keywords in the title and description, you can receive SEO benefits from your posts. Want to check whether this is true? Review your Google Analytics to see where you website traffic is coming from. If you are active in creating good content, you will see that the sources listed include a high percentage from social media.
- Presents an opportunity for effective, low-cost marketing. Since you don’t need a huge budget to make an effective social media splash, social media equalizes companies of all sizes. Given that most social media sites are free, the cost of your participation is labor from you or your staff. Unlike printed media and advertising where you may need to commit large sums of money far in advance of the publication date, social media offers you the opportunity to experiment to see what works for you. Statistics indicate that you should have a long-term commitment to social media, but you can test various strategies to see what works.
Social Media In Action
A good example of many of these points is Omaha Steaks, an online seller of gourmet meat, side dishes, and desserts. This company sees social media as so vital to their marketing that they have devoted a large amount of their marketing budget to developing social media. The company supplements their daily emails to current customers with a frequent presence on social networks.
While they occasionally post links to special deals, they often post recipes and ideas for holiday meals that may not always include their product. They ask customers to compare products. They hold weekly giveaways for gift cards. They use humor, such as with posts about Lady Gaga and her meat outfit at an awards ceremony. They see social media as customer service outreach. When someone makes a comment positive or negative a representative replies. If a customer post a problem, they not only public at publicly address the issue, but promise an immediate email which they send, as promised.
The results? On Facebook alone, they have over 269,000 people who like the page and have a steady volume of people who like their posts and respond. Even if viewers who had never thought of ordering gourmet meat online, they may change their mind after seeing the great-looking selections and reading the interesting posts. Though buying from Omaha Steaks can be expensive, new customers might be willing to try a $39.99 deal from a great company.
Getting Into Social Media
Aside from the most popular social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest, there are dozens of other sites you can join. You should at least set up profiles on the major ones and develop a plan for contributing content. Things change rapidly in the social media world, and you need to start reaping the benefits as you learn more about it and see the initial benefits for your company.