A little more than 5 years ago social media was little more than a novelty that allowed the rising generation to fill their social calendars with duck faced selfies and find out what they should have been studying for their math exam. In those 5 years all channels of social media have undergone a complete reinvention and its importance in the marketing in no longer a point of debate. Businesses have realized the power of social media and are eager to harness it, but, just like any business tool, to maximise its effectiveness – you need to know how to use it.
If you have to ask this question then you may need to take a step back and look how far social media reaches into your life whether your are ‘working your contacts’ or not. Social media is all about connections. Frigyes Karinthy invented the theory that there are 6 degrees of separation between any two people in the world, but with social media that world just shrank to half the estimation. If you want to reach any chosen demographic then social media is the medium to do it. ‘Refer a friend’ programs have always been the most fruitful marketing, and social media, whether professional or personal, is one enormous refer a friend community – the best thing being, as more people get connected, the network is ever changing and ever regenerating. This means as long as you keep in the arena, the audience will keep coming to you.
Social media is more than just an online shop window. Gone are the days when the mere fact that you had a web site was impressive – these days everyone has one. And I mean EVERYONE! The web is full of companies, businesses, celebrities, wannabes and the boy next door are putting up pages on anything they desire. Whatever you looking for, you can find a page on it, or two – or three. Where the social media is concerned, more is not always better. There is so much out there that you need an edge to be seen. Social media is not just about having a great service or product, it’s about company image. To cut through the white noise of the internet, you need to be a brand. You have to have something that makes you noticeable, desirable and current. If you don’t, you’ll just get run over in the stampede of slick, well designed and written media.
On the internet there is one ‘thing’ that rules them all. Content is King. No matter how amazing your presentation is or how hip your chosen channel is – if your content is badly written you won’t make any headway. Infact, you’ll lose ground BIG TIME as your company looks out dated, out of touch and unfit to keep up with the rest of the industry. Not only does the content have to relevant, well written and engaging, it has to be littered with the right amount of keywords tailored for your industry and demographic. This means it has to be meticulously planned by someone who knows what is current and can maximise the impact, without looking like they’re working the system. And that takes time and experience.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a phrase that has many faces. One week it may be the best thing since sliced bread, and the next week the scourge of humanity. This has created a love hate relationship between SEO and the marketing community. If your SEO is done well it can achieve a marketing miracle. Done badly and it can work massively against your marketing goal and search engine are like elephants – they never forget. Social media is a minefield of white noise and to cut through it you HAVE to use SEO, but you have to know HOW to use it to be successful. It takes skill and experience to work it like a pro without looking forced or unreadable, remember the one ‘thing’ to rule them all? If content is King, SEO is the clothes it wears and vehicle that gives it power. If you don’t understand it, employ someone who does.
Remember at school when you were 7 and it was project time? There was always ‘That kid’ at school that bought in a life sized cut out of Albert Einstein, made a scale model of the Challenger space shuttle and had the tastiest cooking from a relevant country? How you hated them – but only because they were more impressive than your malformed blob of modelling clay with a pipe cleaner stuck in it. It’s the same in the grown up world – without the modelling clay. People take notice of the impressive and the beautiful. Don’t believe me? Look at a web page with, and without images. Compare the two. Without reservation the one with images will be more engaging, more persuasive and much more easily read. It will get an infinite amount more traffic too.
Social media has one advantage above all other media – it’s a two way street. One of its great strengths is the ability to allow users, your customers, the ability to have input. They can tell you what they want, what they need and where they are going to get it done through the different channels, in real time. Social media gives your clients a voice and helps them take ownership of their part in the purchasing cycle – to be involved. It can make an emotional bond and forge a loyalty not so readily available on traditional channels. That is REAL power.
The social media scene is in full swing and gaining momentum at an incredible rate. It will not be stopped. Because of this fast pace and ever changing scenery you need to be sure you know which channel will give you the best return on investment for the time and outlay. You need to know the difference between business connections (LinkedIn) and real time news (Twitter), all the time working the media that romances your chosen demographic. The social media arena is VAST, and getting bigger every day. Do you know the difference between your Vimeo and your Instagram? Vital information for any successful media campaign, chose the wrong vehicle and your greatest and most profitable may be like inventing an amazing crash helmet – but marketing it to goldfish.
What’s the one ‘thing’ to rule them all? Content is King. The internet is not like writing your average midterm paper. Everything on social media makes a statement about your company. Bad grammar, spelling mistakes and plagiarised content will not be tolerated by a discerning clientele. There is no ‘F for content, A for effort’, in social media. It’s either worth reading, or it isn’t – and you have exactly 3 seconds to make your WHOLE web site worth reading. How many times have you looked at a title, half the first sentence then back spaced to google to find something else? The one thing you have to do is invest in your content. Some sad and lonely people make writing social media copy a profession. Give them a reason to rejoice – it’s their job to make it relevant, engaging and enticing. Good wordsmiths are worth their weight in gold.
Blogs are big business. There is a new wave of books, merchandise and spin off series that all started with the humble blog. Do not underestimate the power of a blog in promoting your business. When it is properly annexed to your site it can be used as an effective SEO tool that is bang up to date, keep your company image constantly reinventing and create loyalty in your clients as they come to know you as a step above the rest. By creating regular content with links to important information you can romance the search engine bots, and your clients all in one readable package. Remember – there’s a reason why content is King…
One of the most important things you need to understand is that social media is a long term project. If you believe all the side bar advertising on every web page, your hair will grow back, everyone that is middle aged and single looks like Brad Pitt and your next degree can be consolidated into one week’s study and a three hundred word essay. Social media will not bring you 10,000 new orders overnight and to make it work well it needs a huge time investment. When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other and nothing is more true to that than any media channel you chose to work with. Your content needs to be consistent whether it’s hourly, daily, weekly or bi-weekly you need to be consistent for some time before it will give you the return you need. You need to keep going whatever the return at the beginning and turning out top quality content on a regular basis to get people engaged, then you need to turn out top quality content to keep them engaged.
Feelings of frustration, inadequacy and being completely overwhelmed are par for the social media course if you chose to do the project yourself. A successful social media campaign is a huge undertaking and a steep learning curve. For a small company one full time employee can manage a complete portfolio and get the return you need so seriously ask yourself if you have that kind of time to invest in it. The other question you need to ask yourself is – if Content is King, am I King Content of the Content People, or just a knight? If you’re not King, you could very well damage your company image and have a negative audience that people, and search engines, will not forget. Be realistic in your time and energy investment. Good quality social media is not a writing job for the feint hearted. For the best ROI, consider hiring a professional leaving you to run your company and develop the leads it produces into real sales.
The metrics on social media are completely track able, you can get apps, downloads and professional programs that will show exactly how many of what type of people visited your media at any given time on any given day from any given country. Big brother is watching you via social media and is positively encouraging you to ‘poke him’, ‘tweet’ him or tag him in a picture (duck face optional). The biggest metric you can use to see if your social media campaign is working is … are you engaging with more prospective clients? If you are – it’s working. All the other facts and figures you can gather along the way help you refine your social media strategy to make it a work of art that works for you. Does it guarantee a massive, instantaneous increase in sales? No. There is more to selling that social media alone. You web presence, sales ability, company image and brand all play a large part too – but social media helps. Of all your marketing strategies, a robust, educated and professional social media strategy that is well thought out and well executed will give you the best, and quickest, return of any other media. Invest in it and you will keep up with the rest of the industry. Find the right social media company – and you can lead them from way out in front.
No company can afford to ignore its social media strategy. Make it work for you. If you lack the skills to make a cohesive campaign, employ those who do. If you don’t make social media a staple of all your marketing campaigns there is a grave danger you will be drowned out by those who do. Your customers have money to spend, if you don’t bring your product to them via social media, remember… someone else will