Every social media expert today has an opinion on how, why and when to start a social media campaign for your business. Usually the answer is an in-with-both-feet approach that gets you out there, but may not look beyond that.
Many businesses are afraid to start working with social media because they’ve bought the line these experts are selling, and it’s left them discouraged, frustrated and confused.
So it’s worthwhile to look at the conventional wisdom around social media for business, and get the whole story. Here we go.
1. Your business has to be everywhere.
Not every business needs to/should have a Twitter page. Facebook may or may not be a good place to talk to your customers. It’s easy to say that a business needs to do everything it can for visibility, but here in the real world there are budgets, time constraints and priorities.
You can decide that Facebook is a good place to connect with potential and existing customers — maybe the demographics are right, maybe Facebook’s format makes it easiest to update for your team. It’s okay to say no to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, whatever. At least for now.
Putting all your resources into establishing one platform is a good way to make sure you succeed. Too many businesses are spread too thin, updating statuses on a half-dozen sites each day and watching for retweets, comments and responses. If you don’t have the resources to support a great social media effort on all platforms, you’re unlikely to see the results you’re hoping for.
Remember: one great platform will be better for your business than five mediocre ones.
2. Social media makes everyone your potential customer.
In theory. But practice is a different beast.
Let’s take Twitter for example. Of the registered users, only about half follow more than two others. 10% follow 50 or more other users. So your viable audience is smaller than you thought.
Then, once someone follows you, they may never actually see your tweets. Most Twitter users are looking at current tweets. If you tweet at noon, only those people following you and online at noon are likely to see your tweet.
Add to this that many Twitter users have tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite that help them focus on their favorite people online — which may not be you — and you see how breaking through the noise can be harder than you think.
Instead of focusing on the millions of people you could potentially reach, consider the smaller, more valuable group that you might engage with. For instance, letting your customers know that your technical support hangs out on Twitter during business hours could lead to more loyalty from your users. Or, if your target market is marketing managers, you can find the corners of the Twitterverse where those people hang out and tweet with them directly.
It’s not the vast reach that’s the real value here.
3. You can measure ROI/You can’t measure ROI.
Depending on where someone’s bias falls, you’re just as likely to hear both sides on this issue. It typically sounds like this:
The optimist: Social media is totally trackable. We monitor things like the number of tweets generated, the number of followers you have, and the number of retweets of your content. This way we can easily see the impact.
The pessimist: Social media by its nature isn’t trackable. It’s hard to tell how a customer gets to the sale, and how social media affects that. So we look at social media as a branding and PR exercise. It’s all about building relationships, which build value.
The truth is somewhere in between.
Yes, you can have key performance indicators like number of followers and number of replies. But what does a follower mean to your bottom line? Not much.
The good news is there are some new tools available that can track things more concretely, including how social media can influence web traffic from search engines. In combination with tracking click-throughs from tweets, it’s now possible to see some payoff from social media, beyond “PR.”
It’s important in any social media effort to realize the real value does come from branding, relationships and exposure. But if it’s important for you to understand the bottom line impact of the exercise, it can be done.
4. You can build a social media brand in 15 minutes a day.
How long would it take you to become fluent in French, studying 15 minutes a day?
Social media is like a foreign country, with its own language, customs and practices. You can’t expect to understand the nuances in short bursts like this, and you certainly won’t build relationships with the locals.
It’s true at some point you may be able to monitor and manage a page or a few in that 15 minutes. But in that short of time, there’s no wiggle room to allow for building a strategy, or coordinating with other marketing efforts.
With some simple planning and solid execution, you can release press releases about new employees, share photos from the company picnic, recognize staff promotions and more, all while inviting people to visit the website for deals/offers, etc. You can create a balanced, compelling and interesting presence that invites people back for more. You can build relationships, identify prospects and connect with influencers. But all of these things need some extra time for strategy and creativity.
5. Anyone can manage social media effectively.
Businesses have been burned by turning over their social media to college interns. While college-age staffers are well versed in how to use Facebook and Twitter as tools, rarely do they have enough understanding about a business and its marketing strategy to be effective brand champions.
Solid social media campaigns are more than chit-chat and promos. Social media is an immediate, public voice of the company, and therefore should be very tied to an organization’s strategic goals.
The right person or team to manage your social media efforts should have:
- the technical know-how to write quality Facebook posts and tweets.
- the diplomatic savvy to identify and properly respond to complaints, criticism and other feedback.
- the strategic perspective to understand how social media integrates with everything else going on in the business.
- and good writing skills.
Far better to have an effective spokesperson for your company who needs to learn the ins and outs of online discussions, then to have someone who gets the tools but not the purpose.
Either way, you’ll need to train someone to understand the role social media plays for your company, and the way you want them to manage their efforts.
What have you learned since starting with social media? Is it easier or harder than you thought? If you’re not using social media for your business today, what’s stopping you?