As the use of social media increases, the capability to use it for marketing is directly affected. However, with so many choices of websites and questions regarding the best way to approach social media marketing, it is easy to become daunted and discouraged. According to eMarketer, smaller companies, those with 20 to 99 employees, are most susceptible to this problem, which is why only 24 percent have been able to effectively structure social media into their business. Nevertheless, with a proper understanding and plan, every company has the capability of integrating social media into their business to increase revenue and brand awareness.
The Advantages to Social Media Marketing
There are many reasons to integrate social media into your company’s marketing plan. The main goal of social media is to quickly spread a message to a mass market while attracting new followers. One of the many advantages to using social media over traditional forms of advertisement, such as radio or magazine ads, is that in many cases it is free. This allows for a company to post on numerous social media sites and reach a greater audience, without fear of needing to cut back spending in other areas. Posting on social media websites is a simple way to spread information to a limitless amount of people. While the business being advertised only needs to post once, their followers can repost or favorite their posts, allowing the post to circulate and resurface multiple times. And while there are countless ways using social media can help your business, shying away from it can not only limit growth, but in fact reduce it. Whether your company uses social media or not, customers still post reviews and comments about your company that may be negative. By not being active on social media websites, your company cannot address these unknown complaints and do damage control if necessary. Social media allows a company to easily improve its reputation and grow its client base.
The Importance of Two-Way Communication in Advertisement
Social media is unique in the fact that you are able to get a direct response from your audience. Most forms of advertisements only go one way, such as TV commercials or newspaper ads; social media allows for your audience to respond, enabling two-way communication. Because of this, your company must be prepared to listen to your audience and know how to address negative posts in a diplomatic way. For tips on responding to negative criticism on you social media pages, visit http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-tips-dealing-with-criticism-your-business-social-media. Social media is essentially a form of customer service. To become a successful social media marketer, your business must listen to the posts from your customers. This can be very helpful to your marketing strategy and your overall business as well. By seeing the various reviews and comments on your media site, you are able to see what is popular and should therefore be expanded, such as a new product. In addition, you are able to see the main focus of negative reviews. This two-way communication can help your business in the same way comment cards or surveys can, but social media is even more helpful because you have access to a greater audience. Because these comments can be liked or re-tweeted (or other site’s versions of these acts) you are able to see how accurate the review is and then prioritize which areas need to be addressed to improve your business. Once these improvements are made, social media allows you to immediately tell your customers and show that customer service is a top priority for your business.
In order to become a successful social media marketer, it is important to create a game plan. This plan should specify what your company hopes to gain from implementing social media and how you plan to reach this goal. The “how” area of this plan includes agreeing upon a specific number of posts your company plans to make per day or per week, as well as, which sites they plan on posting to. There are many factors to consider when choosing which social media sites to focus on. Rieva Lesonsky, a speaker during the National Small Business Week of 2012, recommends that your business should “find out where your customers can be found, go there first, and then spread out from there… if you run a restaurant, yes, you probably should be on Twitter, but you should really be on Yelp first.” It is impractical for a business that is trying to implement social media marketing for the first time to try to post to every website they can find. Once your company has a firm grasp on posting to one social media website, you can prioritize which other websites you should go after. For information on which websites are best for your type of business, visit http://www.audiencebloom.com/2013/05/how-to-determine-which-social-media-network-fits-your-business/.
To measure the success of your plan it is important to track the popularity of your social media posts. There are many apps available to track how many clicks a business’ links or social media page receives, such as the InsTrack for Instagram. This can allow your company to track which posts have received the most followings and can also allow you to adjust your posts accordingly. As it is with many new businesses or outings, the startup may be slow or harder than anticipated; however, it is imperative to stick to the plan for the length of time previously established and to not become discouraged. If after a while you are still not attracting the crowd you had hoped, you may need to rethink your social media strategy. You should not give up on social media, though, or you risk being left behind as technology starts playing a greater role in advertisement. For more details on creating a social media plan for your business, visit http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/how-make-social-media-plan-your-business.
What to Post
Once your business recognizes the value of social media and starts to get involved, don’t let the daunting question of what to post hold you back. Once you understand your target audience and the image you are trying to portray, posting will become second nature. Social media is less formal than many other types of advertising. Know the way you want your business to be portrayed and then post in a manner that is complementary to this. If you own a family run business and emphasize the importance of family, you probably want to post in a manner that sounds like everyone’s likeable uncle or loving mother, someone universally relatable. In addition, your social media page should not sound like a series of sales pitches, or else, you will attract a minimal audience. To understand your target audience, research some of their posts and followings. You can then comment on or share relevant posts that are appealing to your audience. They will, therefore, be more likely to share your posts with their friends and further get your name out. Social media is a more subtle form of advertisement in the way that what you post will not always be directly related to your business. You want your audience to check your page for current news and information, allowing them to build a stronger connection and loyalty to your company; In return, they are more likely to become loyal customers.
Linking Social Media to your other Forms of Marketing
It is important to realize that social media should not replace your other forms of marketing; it should instead be viewed as an enhancement. One example of linking social media to your existing marketing can be demonstrated by showing how email marketing and social media complement each other. While they both advertise via internet, they promote a company in different ways. Social media sites aim to promote brand awareness, give customers important information, and build ties between different customers and the advertised business. While social media is able to build a sense of community, email marketing allows businesses to reach individuals and provide more detailed information. Both these areas of advertising are important for a business to thrive and they can be easily linked to further promote their business. Some examples of linking these include posting a snapshot of your email newsletters on your social media page or pointing out your recent popular social media posts in your emails. While both forms of advertisement have different purposes, they can both effectively promote their company and each other. In order for your social media site to reach its maximum popularity, it must be incorporated into your company’s other forms of advertisement to promote awareness.
Example of a Successful Social Media Campaign
One great example of how a company has used social media to increase its revenue and broaden its range of customers is Starbuck’s Tweet-a-Coffee Campaign. Launched in October 2013, Starbucks allows Twitter members to send each other $5 dollar gift cards by simply typing “@tweetacoffee” and a friend’s handle in a tweet. In order to tweet a friend a gift card, the Twitter user must link their Twitter account to their Starbucks account and provide their credit card information. Within the first three months, Starbucks sold gift cards to 27,000 unique Twitter users, one third of which bought more than one, totaling a profit of over $180,000. In addition to the added revenue, the long-term benefits Starbucks receives are the main reasons why this social media campaign is such a great model for others. Starbucks was cleverly able to link together key information about its customers: Twitter and Starbucks accounts, credit card information, customer electronic devices, geographical location, etc. With this information, Starbucks is able to form a new, more accurate customer list and is better equip to understand and target future customers. This is one of many great ideas for social media campaigns; to get inspiration for your posts, especially when first starting up, research what campaigns have been successful in the past and how you can incorporate aspects of these into your social media marketing model.
One Final Word
Now that your company knows the best way to start pursuing social media, go for it! By committing to social media, your company is making an investment that can promote growth and increase your overall profits. This new venture can dramatically help your business and remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Any company can successfully implement social media and, as is true with anything, social media will become easier with practice.
Article written by Carlie Stewart