Are you fairly new to social media marketing? Are you a social media marketing beginner? Fear not!
In all likelihood, you know more than a little about social media already. You probably have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile. Maybe you are on Google + or whatever else is the hot social media flavor of the month. No doubt you have watched videos on YouTube. But that said, being a casual participant on social media in a personal way is a lot different than actively and purposefully using it to grow your business, and that is and should be our goal – to use it to grow your business.
The problem is that social media is a double-edged sword
The problem is that social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it offers a vast sea of possibilities and people to meet; people and opportunities you otherwise would not meet and have in the physical, real, non-nonvirtual world. It is a very tangible way to get found, and chosen.
But on the other hand, it is far too easy for many people to get lost in that vast social media sea, or to spend too much time there because being at sea can be more fun than working. You can even drown in this sea if you end up wasting your time, marketing efforts, energy, and precious capital chasing leads that never materialize.
Or maybe you are of the other ilk. Maybe you think that social media is not for you and your business and so are reading this chapter out of curiosity and not much more. If that is the case, then I say to you, my friend, that you are missing the boat as much as the person people who is are spending all day tweeting and posting and updating their Facebook status with nothing to show for it.
Let me suggest that the best way to think about this thing called social media is as a conversation. People are already online, on these sites, having conversations about everything imaginable. They are talking about your industry, your products, your competitors, maybe even your business. There are strangers having these conversations, but so are your customers, associates, colleagues, friends, and competitors. You can be part of these conversations and help guide and influence them, or you can keep your head in the sand, convinced that your participation makes no difference. Which sounds more accurate?
Does your business really need a Facebook business page? Of course not.
Now, do you have to become part of this social media revolution? Does your business really need a Facebook business page? Of course not. You can survive just fine without jumping in. But that said, does it not make a little sense to join the conversation and see where it leads?
What about joining in if for no other reason than to be part of the online conversation with your own, current customers? What about using it to build your brand, prospect, and make more sales? Do you see how powerful it might actually be for your business? I bet it leads to new opportunities. It should.
It should be apparent that there are all sorts of benefits of becoming engaged in social media for your business than just the aforementioned ability to make new relationships. For instance, by becoming a font for valuable content, you are creating and enhancing your brand; that is, by consistently posting the right content, you will get more people to think of you in a certain way, and after all, isn’t that the whole purpose of branding?
According to a Social Media Marketing Industry Report, of all categories of users, small business owners are seeing the greatest benefits from social media marketing. Indeed, the report found that 67 percent of the self-employed and 66 percent of small business owners said that social media was “important to their business” mostly because of the increased exposure created by the platform.
The self-employed and small business owners were more likely to report new partnerships, with at least 59% noting a benefit.
According to the Social Media Examiner, the main benefits that small businesses are seeing from their social media efforts are these:
- “The self-employed and small business owners were more likely to report new partnerships, with at least 59% noting a benefit.
- “Small businesses were twice as likely to find qualified leads than other types of businesses.
- “48% of self-employed and small business owners saw improved sales as a direct result of their social media efforts.
- “The self-employed (59%) and small business owners (58%) were more likely than others to see reductions in marketing costs when using social media marketing.”
Other benefits of your social media efforts should likely include:
More traffic. This could mean more people reading your blog, more hits on your website, more people shopping in your e-store, or more people coming into the physical store.
More relationships. Although having a lot of Twitter followers or people who like your Facebook page is nice, the real value in social media is that you can actually meet and get to do business with some new folks; people you would not otherwise normally meet. The people who really make money with social media and who have figured out how to use it to grow their business in fact use it to meet and create relationships.
Better brand awareness. While real relationships are a valuable way to measure your social media return on investment (ROI), it is nevertheless also true that another valuable benefit is that more people will learn of your business. Having a lot of fans and followers, or having your tweets re-retweeted, increases brand awareness. Social networking, when done right, builds your brand.
As indicated, social media for business is different than social media for you. The first thing you need to decide then is which site best fits your business; which one offers you the best chance to meet new people and get some business?
So you begin by spending some time on each main sites – Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube – and getting a feel for how your business might participate. The process is
1. Set up accounts. Create business accounts at all three. Be thorough and add enough information to make you and/or your business relevant and interesting. On LinkedIn, be sure to add all of your contacts. On Facebook, create a business page. If you know of any niche social media sites that specifically cater to your industry or business, definitely consider setting up shop at those as well.
2. Choose. While I am suggesting that you cast a wide net at the beginning, what people often find is that, with this sea as vast as it is, it helps to narrow it down and, sooner rather than later, concentrate on one site in particular. Social media takes time and effort, especially in the beginning, so concentrating on one social networking site will enable you to most efficiently master that site. After that, if so desired, you can tackle another site.
3. Get involved. Whatever site you choose, the secret is to immerse yourself in it. If you like LinkedIn, join a group, create new connections, add apps to your home page. On Twitter, the key is to create useful content that people like, tweet it, follow, and get followers. The point is, you must do more than merely sign up if you are to make a go of this. You have to find the social media site that is best for you and spend time there. Meet people. Make connections.
4. Stick with it. Mastering social media takes time, and getting business results from it takes even more time. Spending an hour a day on it is not uncommon in the beginning, and as you really get into it, that may increase multi-fold. Don’t get discouraged. The trick is to begin to meet and engage people, to become part of the conversation, and get your business out there. The more you do that, the more your network will grow, the more your will build your brand, and the more business opportunities you will get.
Once you sign up and are started, then what? The thing to understand about social media is that it has to become more about them and less about you. Your job is to become added value to their day, and you do that by tweeting or posting content that you think your friends (old and new alike) would find interesting and useful.
If all you do is post what you have on sale that day or other such mundane stuff, you will not go far.
If all you do is post what you have on sale that day or other such mundane stuff, you will not go far. If on the other hand you learn to post interesting, intriguing, smart, valuable, funny, quirky, or insightful content (either by you or others), you will attract attention, impress people, and forge new connections.
A study by the tech company Roost looked at how small businesses can best engage their social media audience. The survey found that the following types of content offer maximum social media value:
- Visuals: Publishing photos on your Facebook page generates 50 percent more impressions than any other type of post. Photos are great because they are friendly, and engaging, easy, and quick. Pictures of your business, your products, your people, all would work. On our Facebook page, inspirational sayings get shared a lot.
- Questions: Posting a question on Twitter or your Facebook or LinkedIn page is an excellent way to engage people and get them to begin to chat with you, and each other. The survey found that questions generate almost two times as many comments as any other type of post. Added bonus: Questions that foster discussions equal comments full of keywords that boosts SEO.
- Quotes: The study found that quotations drive an average of 54 percent more retweets than any other type of tweet.
This is just for starters. Other things to post: Articles of interest, free e-books, resources, links, and contests.
Using Social Media for Lead Generation
As opposed to using social media to build your brand or attract a ton of Twitter followers (both of which can be useful in their own right), using social media to create leads and sales can happen immediately, and you don’t even have to be a social-media expert to do it.
The trick is to use the search function within each of the main social media sites to search for and locate people who would likely be interested in what you sell and do.
The trick is to use the search function within each of the main social media sites to search for and locate people who would likely be interested in what you sell and do. That is, you can use these search tools to instantly create a list of viable leads:
- On Facebook, simply search for the relevant keywords words (like, say, “sporting goods stores” in “San Antonio.”)
- On LinkedIn, check out the “advanced search” function. By using this tool, you can find people with a specific job title or who work for a specific company. You can also search professions, businesses, industries, and so on.
- On Twitter, use hashtags (#) to locate discussions around certain areas, or simply use the Twitter search function to find people in your field.
Then, once you have your list of potential leads from these three sites, whittle it down, and away you go.
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The New Marketing: According to the Mobile Marketing Association, the way to measure the success of a marketing campaign today requires a new sort of analysis, which includes: “The number of eyeballs, shakes and finger swipes. The number of blogs, articles, tweets and diggs. The number of acquisitions, conversions, calls, responses or purchases. Total basket size, consumer recall, loyalty and recommendations. Check-ins on foursquare and check-outs on Amazon.”