This is a guest post written by Gina Smith. If you’d like to write a guest post please contact me.
Everybody wants to succeed at social media marketing. It seems like such a good idea when you think about it. Social media, on the face of it, appears inexpensive and immediate and imminently scalable. Social media is guerrilla marketing on steroids; a tempting sea of potential customers lurking out there on Facebook and Twitter, just waiting to “Like” your product or become your company’s friend. Or so it seems.
In some ways social media is almost too useful a tool for marketers. Far too many of them have succumbed to the temptation to indulge old bad marketing habits in their social media marketing campaigns. They go for big numbers and neglect to personalize their contacts. They create new organizational silos by forgetting to connect their social marketing to customer call centers, special events and more traditional types of advertising.
They frequently use the wrong metrics, measure the wrong thing or fail to do any measuring at all. Marketers often flood social media because it’s easy and cheap to do. In the process, they wind up diluting their own message and turning off potential customers.
Finally, some of our marketing brethren fall back on the same old boring marketing tricks, using the same incredibly dull content, sanitized by the legal department. Many of these outbound marketing strategies hardly worked when they were new. They certainly don’t gain any power simply because they’ve been foisted on a new medium.
Successful social media marketing campaigns require five key elements to insure that you accomplish what you set out to do and that’s win friends for your company.
- Listen: Before you ever post the first blog, tweet the first Tweet or put up a company Facebook page, listen to what your customers are saying to you. Find out the five W’s – who they are, what they want, when and how they want it, where they want it and why they want it. Studying the demographics of your target group is essential. Just because social media is cheaper, doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost anything. Your time is extremely valuable. Social media makes up for its low up-front costs by draining your time.
- Plan: Draw up a clear marketing plan. Decide who does what and which medium each of the elements of your team is going to target. Develop guidelines for what can be said and almost as importantly, what CANNOT be said. A lot of companies have paid dearly for ill-chosen comments by their young social media “experts” on Twitter and Facebook. Even informal stories and jokes need to advance your marketing goals in some way. You can’t afford to let those who generate your inbound marketing content indulge their private whims.
- Communicate: The strength of social media is the facility with which it opens doors to potential customers. But having 20,000 “friends” doesn’t mean you’re getting through to any of them. If you are not communicating with them in a meaningful way, your blast posts have likely been reduced to white noise and are being ignored. Spend some real time communicating, not just with groups, but with individuals. Reply to their comments. Offer them help or content that’s of value to them. In-bound social media marketing is all about building the relationship. You cannot do that unless you’re spending a great deal of time producing content that makes your customers sit up and take notice. Whether it’s humor, important information or special things that are of real help to them, customers notice companies that give them things they enjoy, want or need.
- Monitor & Measure: If you aren’t monitoring what’s going on with your marketing efforts on social media, you’re wasting your time. Facebook, Google and Twitter all have tools that help you monitor the behavior of your fans. Use them. Track how often your posts are shared or your company is mentioned. Social media is, after all, largely electronic word of mouth. If they’re not talking about you, you have to give them something to say.
- Adapt: The other part of monitoring and measuring is putting that knowledge to use. You have to adapt and change your strategy if your tracking data shows you’re not getting through to your customers. Social media marketing is a dynamic process. This is living organic communication. It’s about building relationships and delivering more value to your customers than the other guy. You have to always be striving to be honest and genuine with your customers. If you’re phony or you assume their loyalty without delivering the goods, you’ll make far more enemies than friends.
Social media marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To work it has to be interconnecting with everything you do from manufacturing to marketing and sales. Done well, social media marketing is the job of every single person that works for the company. Failing to back your social media marketing with alternative communication tools like customer service call centers, chat rooms, excellent tech support, focus groups and surveys soon waters down everything you’re doing on social media.
Social media IS important, but it’s no magic wand. You can’t wave a bunch of tweets over the heads of your online friends and expect to generate the kind of buzz that gets your YouTube video three million hits in a week. It can be done, but it takes hard work, thorough research, planning and imagination.
Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications on behalf of a number of companies, including Spanning.com. She covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.