The first truth I need to reveal is that the idea for this post is a bit of a response to a post by Sonia Simone of copyblogger titled – The 7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing. Sonia and I sparred a bit over the fact that “harsh realities” and making all this sound hard is something that keeps some small biz folks from diving in the way they should. Yes, it’s work, but what about marketing isn’t?
First, understand that I think Sonia is brilliant and copyblogger gets a daily visit from me, but – using social media to grow your business just isn’t that harsh and it doesn’t need to be that hard. Okay, it’s new and there are some new names to learn, cultures to understand and lingo to get comfortable with, but the fundamentals of marketing are the same, only the platforms have changed.
Here’s my 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing
1) Listening is the best way to develop strategy
Everyone knows they should develop a social media strategy before diving into to every network they can. The problem is, few can tell you how to do this because any real marketing strategy is highly personal and involves your customers, market, competitors, suppliers, products and services. The best way to approach discovering a strategy for your social media participation, and perhaps all of your communications, is to listen really, really well. Social media is one of the greatest listening tools on the planet. Your customers are telling you about their fears and hopes, they’re telling about what they like about your products and dislike about the competition, they’re telling you what they wish someone would make – and now you can hear it. If you do nothing but set-up listening stations, using free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search, you can get an enormous return on your time invested.
Once you spend time listening to your market, understanding how people use blogs and just what seems to work and not work on LinkedIn you may be more prepared to develop a marketing strategy, once that based on achieving marketing objectives, than ever. Don’t skip this step for tactics!
2) Nobody really wants to read another blog
I’m fond of telling anyone that will listen that every small business should have a blog. I don’t say that because I think your customers are itching to grab a cup of green tea and fire up what you wrote in your blog today. In fact, if you polled most of your customers and inquired as to whether you should write a blog, most would tell you no. But, those same customers go to search engines like Google and Bing every second of every day looking for answers to questions, suppliers in their town, and ways to solve pressing problems. And when they do, guess what most of them find, that’s right, blog content!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t write incredible stuff, with a long term goal of attracting lots of readers – when these readers start linking back to that content your search results will soar – what I am saying is, write what people search in your market and your town, educate with your posts and you blog will pay off faster than any other online play.
And it that weren’t enough blog software, like WordPress, is so user simple and feature rich that it’s the best way to run your entire web presence.
3) It’s kind of a real estate game
While I started this post off talking about the virtues of a solid strategy, there is a bit of a real estate grab that comes on the front end of getting value from social media. There are many profiles that you can claim and optimize, even if you don’t quite yet know what your development strategy is, and you should claim them. Creating spokes of branded and optimized content in sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Slideshare and YouTube has become standard SEO practice, but don’t forget about taking the time to build very rich profiles on sites like Biznik, BusinessWeek’s Exchange, OPENForum, and BizSugar. (Disclosure: I write for OpenForum)
Your profiles in these outposts will serve as content real estate that you control and can help fill in the gaps when someone Google’s You.
4) Sell awareness and the money will follow
A lot of people will tell you, and perhaps you’ve experienced it first hand, that you can’t sell using social media sites. Let me ask you this, have you ever really have much luck selling anything to anyone just because they happened to be standing in front of you. The only difference is social media makes it easier to stand in front of someone. You can’t really sell anything to anyone until you’ve built trust. The most effective way to build trust in any setting is to show someone how to get what they want and allow them to come to the conclusion that you have something they might want to buy.
Social media, just like the most effective advertising, is a great place to build awareness about your content: blog, white paper, seminar, workbook. If you do that, and your content builds trust, social media is a great place to make money – think of it as another version of 2-step advertising.
5) Networking hasn’t really changed
I really believe that effective networking on social media sites like Biznik, Facebook, or LinkedIn greatly resembles that of effective networking at in person Chamber or Association events. The key difference being one of a style of engagement and perhaps a different set of follow-up steps.
Before you do, act, or respond in any manner on a social media site, ask yourself if it would be an effective response to a prospect you’ve just met at an business event? You know, you wouldn’t go shirtless, with beer in hand to an association meet and greet, why would you post the same on your Facebook profile? This varies to some degree, but not that much.
6) It makes your offline play stronger
One of the things I don’t hear enough people talking about is how much social media can impact your offline efforts. Most business is still done across a desk, but starting relationships on LinkedIn and then building them much deeper over lunch is the killerest combination.
Social media also allows you to more easily and more consistently stay on top of what’s going on in your customer’s world. A growing number of CRM tools, such as ACT2010! and BatchBook make social media activity a part of a contact’s record.
7) A system is the solution
A well run business is a collection of systems. Marketing is a system and one of the best ways to keep social media participation from becoming your full time job is to create systems and process for how you participate.
I know you see people that spend their entire day on Twitter, but you must understand that they fall into two camps a) people who make a living teaching people how to use Twitter, b) people getting ready to go out of business.
It may seem a bit robotic to talk about social media and engagement as a process, but scheduling routines for your blog posting, commenting, tweeting, fanning and friending is a must, just as scheduling the appropriate time for selling, training employees and meeting strategic partners. Here’s a look at what an example social media routine might look like
Image credit: viralbus