How many marketing meetings in your business stall when someone asks that difficult question: what return are we getting from our social media spend? And how often does that question ultimately remain unanswered?
Engagement with social media among small enterprises is high, with approximately 80%* of business owners using some form of social media activity for business ends. However, not nearly enough entrepreneurs put it to effective use. Less than one third of marketing professionals use social media to gather data, while only 4%* use it to gather the kind of intelligence that could enable them to create better-informed leads.
The good news is that the opportunity exists to get ahead of the competition. Putting time into meaningful content, relationship building and online networking with people and businesses that matter to you can yield substantial results.
As companies build their social media activity, they need to think of this commitment as part of a long term marketing strategy that is consistent with the company’s long term goals and business direction.
The standout feature of social media is the opportunity to build relationships and engage with a potential market. So it makes sense to create a strategy that everyone in a company can take part in – as long as they do so along agreed lines.
Wise up to LinkedIn
With more than 300 million users LinkedIn is a treasure trove of potential business connections, but that potential is underused by many. Adam Gordon, MD of agency Social Media Search, advises putting time into finding all the people you need to know. Finding, joining and participating in all groups that your target audience is interested in is a great way of increasing visibility, as is starting a group aimed at sharing useful relevant content.
The benefits of Twitter
A lot of companies dismiss Twitter as a vehicle for celebrities. This is a mistake, according to Adam. “There are a lot of decision makers on there and they are also looking for business information and expertise,” he says. Spend time on your profile and put yourself through a comprehensive follower management activity to build up and refine a following. Tools like SocialBro are helpful here. It’s also important to Tweet regularly and concentrate on signposting helpful material – articles you want to point out to your community.
As a relative newcomer to the social media scene, joining Google+ as a business has some early mover advantages. As with Facebook, you can build a profile and connect with business contacts and friends. Businesses that also build a Google Brand page can create and join the Google+ Communities feature, unlike Facebook Brand pages, which cannot join Facebook groups.
Its links to Google should also be considered. A Google+ profile is likely to reap the benefits of Google ranking and search criteria. On top of this, Google+ content has greater longevity, as future searches will keep your content and profile regularly resurfacing – long after your Tweets and LinkedIn updates have disappeared.
With 800 million active users, it is hard to stay away from the possibilities that Facebook offers. It’s a useful means of posting updates, information about product launches, competitions or pushing out surveys directly to anyone who has ‘liked’ your page. So put up a business page, promote it widely and let your customers opt in to receive your posts.
YouTube’s primary draw for business users lies in the fact that it is now the number two search engine in the world after Google, so creating a YouTube channel and using any video in LinkedIn and Twitter is a worthwhile exercise.
While video, production time and costs will need to be factored into the marketing budget, participating on YouTube needn’t be prohibitive.
Pinterest and Instagram
For businesses with any visual or design appeal, Pinterest and Instagram can be tremendously powerful tools in the social media armoury. Clothing brand Uniqlo recently managed a Pinterest takeover by persuading 100 users to pin images simultaneously, an exercise that netted the brand 55 million impressions and 6,000 mentions on Twitter.
Social media should be a long-term strategy and investment for your business. Executed well, social media offers the ideal platform to communicate directly with customers, develop relationships and give your brand an online personality. However, it takes time and commitment to build trust, interaction and brand awareness and you will need dedicated people in place to ensure continuity, regularity and quick responses.
* According to a study by advisory company CEB and technology company Radius, entitled 2014 Social Media Report.
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