social marketing

Social Media: Understand Why Before Hiring an Internal or External Resource (1 of 2)

As the owner of a marketing agency, I am often asked whether a company should take on social media themselves, or hire an outside agency to do it for them. It’s a good question. In fact, it’s one of the most important and frequently asked questions of our digital business age.  However, before I answer who should implement your social media, I want to address why you should make social media an integral part of your marketing strategy.

 

Small and medium business (SMB) owners, particularly those of B2B businesses, struggle with finding the value of social media. They often think of it as nothing more than people talking about what they had for dinner last night, or the music they are listening to (which, depending on your company’s field of expertise, may be rather useful information!). To be sure, there are many conversations occurring, covering a wide array of topics. Regardless, if you have a brand and want to further it,I advise you not toignore social media.

 

If we think back to about 14 years ago, in 1998, when the internet was at its infancy, many SMB’s were questioning whether or not they should have a website.  Although it is hard for us to imagine this debate happening today, business owners were questioning the validity of websites, and wanted to see hard evidence to substantiate their investment.

 

Their questions made perfect sense then, as they do today regarding social media – they want to see real proof to justify an investment in social media, either with internal staff or an external agency.

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There are various statistics bandied about the industry when looking for this “hard evidence” or value in social media, but the top four stats that stand out for me are:

 

  • 62% of the world’s population uses social networking, making it the most popular online activity.
  • Over half of social networkers follow a brand online.
  • Over half of consumers say they are more likely to recommend a brand if they are fans of the company online.
  • Online ad spending increased to just over $30 billion in the U.S. last year, over 20% increase (Source: ComScore).

 

I share these four stats as I feel that they best provide the “hard evidence” a SMB needs to understand why they should integrate social media into their marketing strategy: the audience is there, your competitors are there, the audience wants to engage with brands there, and you can target your advertising there.

 

Simply put, social media is not going away anytime soon. As such, if you are not using social media in your marketing strategy, you run the risk of losing business to other companies that are.

 

In next week’s blog, I’ll outline some points to consider when making a decision to use internal or external resources to execute your social media strategy.

Have you integrated social media into your marketing strategy?  If not, why not? If so, do you have any success stories you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments below.

Look Who’s Using Twitter!

They said it would never happen.  They said it just wasn’t relevant. Well, the tables have turned, and lawyers are now starting to use Twitter to engage and attract clients.

Although many firms do have blogs and Twitter accounts, they often link back to e-newsletters or company bulletins – meaning, lawyers actually do not have much of a presence online beyond what the firm website has to offer.

If lawyers, renowned for their time-tracking activities, are now taking the time to tweet and blog, then it means it’s time for other professionals to get on the bandwagon, too!

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Tweeting doesn’t take as much time as you think. Do a simple test; assess the amount of time you take to write your article in the company e-newsletter or other marketing pieces and compare it to writing a test tweet of 140 characters. It’s 140 characters, not words. This test can be repeated for the blog, too. A blog will take you more time as it should be at least 250 words long.
  2. Create a Twitter account name that makes sense for your business. Cute names or long names are not appropriate for a professional Twitter account.
  3. If you have nothing to tweet about today, then simply let Twitter help you by reviewing the top tweets or news and developments in the business world.  If you see something of interest, then re-tweet it.
  4. If you do find you have the time to write an article, then start a blog. A blog is a document longer than a tweet (250 + words) and it is an opportunity to impart your knowledge and information with your stakeholders.
  5. Create a blog name that is relevant and targeted to what you want to be the “expert” in.
  6. Blogging and Twitter require a commitment from you. Either commit or don’t even start (see #1).

As I have said in many of my previous blogs, don’t start something if you can’t commit to it, otherwise what started out as a great way to increase your exposure and build integrity will do the opposite and make you look worse for having tried.  Consider asking a marketing consultant to help keep you on task with a social media plan. At Creativeworks we not only develop social media plans, we are happy to take the lead in writing and posting your tweets, updates and blogs.

Was this blog helpful?  Do you have any questions I can help you with?  Please share your questions or stories of how you are using Twitter or blogging in your professional career.

The big question – is social media right for us?

There is a growing number of social media networks out there and although they are all good, depending on your business focus and most importantly your time, you are better off to concentrate your efforts on one or two, and for the very keen, all three of the key players and then expand when or if time and/ or budget allows.

Where should we get started?

For small B2B businesses that do not have a dedicated social media person or consultant, I have decided to focus on the three major networking sites that have the greatest voices: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and I will also touch on Google+ and Pinterest – two other prominent names you may have heard about in social networking.

What is the difference and which one should I explore first?

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Facebook: I recommend starting with Facebook as it is the largest with over 900 million active users, more than half of them using Facebook on a mobile device.  Most of us are familiar with this site so it’s a natural to use your knowledge to move into the business side of this site. When it was first launched it was a social networking service with a focus on personal relationships.   It is a great place to connect with friends, old school mates, family and much more.  However, since the launch of Facebook for Business, Facebook has now become a place to connect for business. We have all seen and heard advertising for B2C companies’ Facebook sites, but if done right, it can also be a rewarding networking site for B2B businesses as well.

Quick Facebook Tips:

  • Create a company page and populate it with your branding images and copy
  • The company Facebook site is NOT connected to your personal page (if you have one)
  • Populate the page as frequently as possible using a variety of media (video, images, links and posts)
  • Take advantage of free Facebook Business (Fan) Pages and consider paid advertising
  • There are some great analytics available on this site, but to take full advantage of them, you’ll need to have a minimum of 30 ‘Likes’. This number might sound low, but small B2B businesses may have a difficult time getting to this number. There are several techniques one can use to gain “likes” and I will discuss this in a future blog.

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LinkedIn: LinkedIn is in my second spot because as a business professional you may have already been exposed to or even have a profile on this site.  Moving to the next step of business pages should be fairly painless. LinkedIn is a professional social networking website which is mainly used for professional networking.  LinkedIn reports more than 150 million registered users in more than 200 countries and territories.  This is where you can connect with your business connections as well as their connections.

Advanced searches will map your route, via your connections, to both companies and key executives that you may wish to engage with.  If your contacts change jobs or positions, you will be alerted which allows you to keep up to date on all the happenings. Your profile becomes your online resume (expertise) complete with special skills and recommendations from others. Yes, LinkedIn also has pages for your company and a place to promote your events, advertise and join discussions and groups. A LinkedIn company page gets listed in Google’s and LinkedIn’s search engines, allows others to follow your company’s updates, and gives you a place to promote services and products.

Quick LinkedIn Tips:

  • To create a company page, you need to have a LinkedIn profile first
  • On your profile you need to have an email address listed with your company domain. 
  • You cannot set up a company page using free email services like yahoo, gmail or hotmail.
  • Once you have a personal profile, create a company page and populate it with your branding images, fonts, and content
  • Go to the products and services tab and add detail about your company with links and even video links to relevant information
  • Once the page is set up, you’re ready to invite followers. You can add a “follow” button to your website, blog, email or other promotional materials
  • Populate the page as frequently as possible because every time you update the page, a notice will go out to your followers
  • There are some great analytics available on this site
  • Investigate the paid advertising opportunities
  • Join industry groups or ask others for advice and start a discussion

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Twitter: I have left Twitter to the end because it requires the most amount of time and commitment from you.  Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. It was created by Jack Dorsey and launched in July 2006. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with over 500 million  users as of 2012.  No other network has the ability to distribute information to so many in so short a time. 

Quick Twitter Tips:

  • Tweet frequently and regularly. If all you can afford in terms of time is a tweet once a week, then this network is not a good fit for your business. 
  • There are many opportunities to follow people, but what you want is followers so your voice will be heard.  So clearly define your tweet personality and define the parameters.
  • Your network of other business owners and decision-makers do not want to hear about the dinner you had last night, but they might want to hear about a tip of insight that can help them in their business. 
  • A tweet is only 140 characters long, so you need to write precisely and concisely to get your personality and information communicated.
  • Stay true to the goal to share your message, drive people to your website, and discover new and interesting people, companies, and news.

If you have the time and interest, these two sites are growing in users and popularity.  Here is a brief overview for your consideration.

 

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Google+: Google+ is freewheeling like Twitter and yet conversational like Facebook. It makes it very easy to arrange your contacts into lists, which they call circles and you can post (share) specific updates to one or more circles. Google+ has 250 million plus users and is well indexed by Google searches, so it might be a site worth considering. 

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Pinterest: Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website that is quickly gaining speed. It allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies, and more. Users can browse other pinboards for inspiration, ‘re-pin’ images to their own collections and/or ‘like’ photos. Pinterest is not only a great visual representation of your business; it also has the extra bonus of having SEO value. This is another site you might consider, depending on your business goals and objectives.

So which of these are you willing to try?  Which ones do you want to explore further? Leave me a comment or send me an email to let me know if this blog was helpful in demystifying the social networking sites and giving you some quick tips to get started.