This is a guest post by Beth Hrusch.
Why do businesses need social media? It’s a good question, and one that everyone should ask before they get started. After all, spending time, money, and other precious resources on social media marketing before you have an understanding of what it can do for you is kind of like putting the cart before the horse (not advisable).
What are your goals? Just because you’ve heard that other companies are doing it doesn’t mean that social media will magically work for you. Like any marketing strategy, it takes maintenance and a clear vision of the bigger picture. Your tweets, posts and comments should all be coordinated to meet the ultimate goal, which is to establish trust, build your brand, and increase sales.
Which is why, of course, your business needs a killer social media strategy. In order to tap the potential of this fabulous marketing tool, you’ll want to first determine if social media can meet your goals and objectives. If you’re still figuring out your marketing plan for 2010, consider the following 10 reasons why a social media strategy may be well worth the effort.
It finds your customers
Companies using traditional marketing methods (e.g. surveys, focus groups, test marketing) often spend millions to locate their target markets. Where are the people most likely to buy your products and services? Establishing a social media strategy will help you see where potential customers are hanging out. You can search for related groups and Fan Pages through Facebook, start accounts on social bookmarking sites such as Digg or StumbleUpon, and check on who is linking to your site to find out who’s interested.
It tells you what they like
…and what they don’t like. Social media gives businesses on small budgets the ability to find out what people are saying about them (and others) in their industry, without paying large sums on market research. With your ear to the ground on social media, you’ll be the first to know if your product is working or if changes need to be made. Does your brand need a makeover? You’ll find out here first.
It reveals their interests
Regardless of what people are saying about you, it’s important to know what they’re talking about in general. What motivates them? What are their issues? In every industry, there are existing conversations going on. A social media strategy will allow you to get in on these conversations so that you can offer solutions, push buttons, and get people talking.
It introduces your brand
Is your company new? Or has it been around awhile but hasn’t been using social media? Starting a fan page on Facebook and a business account with Twitter is sort of like moving into a new neighborhood. You can introduce yourself, hold get-togethers and talk about topics of interest. Friends and followers will soon start inviting their friends over to see what’s going on. This is an effective way to make the connections that lead to sales.
It expands your reach
Even an established brand may be missing out on potential customers. Through social media, you can find out what online communities your existing customers belong to. These places can become portals to a larger audience for your products and services. And don’t forget that your customers can spread the word for you to these communities. Interest them with compelling and useful content, contests and giveaways, etc. They’ll soon be telling their friends and colleagues to check you out.
It gives you feedback
A big advantage to using social media is the “give and take” built into it. While large corporations are paying people to give them feedback, you can invite comments and opinions through your blog posts and fan pages for free. Then, channel them into improving your products, your brand image, etc. When you listen and respond to your customers’ opinions, suggestions and even criticisms, they start to feel invested in you.
It provides a test audience
No company wants to throw a new product or concept out there without first testing it out. You can tap into your pool of social media groupies to find those willing to test out your ideas and give you valuable feedback before you launch. Your social media pages offer places where people interested in your ideas are already gathered, so you don’t have to take a “hit or miss” approach to beta testing.
It showcases your company’s personality
Engaging through social media lends itself to more personal contact with customers. You can avoid being a faceless, impersonal storefront by letting people know who you are. Commenting, posting blogs and inviting conversation allow customers to connect with you and your brand. This builds stronger relationships over time.
It makes you accessible
Fans, friends, and followers have direct access to you. Unlike the pre-social media days, when consumers often had to deal with companies that they perceived as unreachable, you can quickly respond to your customers’ problems and frustrations before they balloon into a big mess. Likewise, being able to personally respond to positive feedback strengthens bonds by making people feel that their opinions matter.
It lets you share
Through social media, you can create all kinds of content and post it in one place. Make videos, write articles, and post blogs and podcasts to your pages, where everyone can access them. You can communicate in fun and inventive ways because there are no rules for how to best reach your audience, so you can mix it up and appeal to everyone. Sharing also gets people to share back, and gives you access to resources and links that could become invaluable to you.
There are many things that social media can do for your business. Developing a strategy for using it means that you need to think about what you want to accomplish this year and determine how social media fits into the plan. One of the benefits of a social media strategy is the fact that you can customize the available tools for your particular needs. You can choose to concentrate your efforts on the sites that seem to offer the best return on investment, while taking a “wait and see” stand on the others.
The bottom line is this: your customers are out there having conversations on social media with or without you. You can choose to join in or not. But when you think about the potential that social media marketing offers, it may be well worth your time to at least start exploring the possibilities it offers.
Beth Hrusch is Senior Editor at Interact Media, a business blog writing service that teaches writing tips and best practices.
Photos (except for the Twistori screenshot have been provided by Shutterstock.
Nice. If I may add, perhaps one thing to also consider is your strategy isn’t like a 30 year mortgage where you are locked in.
We all know tech is changing at the speed of..ummm..something fast.
New tools pop up. Some are great. Some not so much.
Also, some things may work now and not later. Opposite is also true.
I think a good way to look at strategy is like a lab: Experimental…but still having the end goal in mind.
It is has never been smarter, faster, cheaper to slightly pivot directions, introduce something new and continuing to innovate.
My 1.5 cents 🙂
It is always a good idea to have a social media strategy.
The most important point you made? Have a test audience. Rather than investing money into a limited number of tangible marketing items why not reach out to a virtually unlimited number of prospects and clients?
I also really appreciate the way my customers can interact with me, provide me feedback, and also stir up a conversation on my blog. And social media is a really fun way to help keep your clients from yester-year in the know about your changes and improvements 😉
Great article! It covers everything anyone needs to know when considering social media!
Simply put. Well done!
Powerful points, social media tools are making more easier to check your SMO efforts via social stats with google analytics.
@tamar, i am considering social media strategy to promote your business in the right direction to promote your brand name/products with the help of powerful and interesting content.it can be done only if you’ve some expertise on social/business networking’s smart techniques.
correct me if not so.
It’s about time everyone jumps on the band wagon! Social media is here to stay and a plan is essential in order to get the most out of the experience. Don’t just do whatever one else is doing. Research the best strategies for you and the plan accordingly. Just like you said, explore your options before deciding whether to proceed or not.
Couldn’t have said it any better Beth.
@ David, Spot-on opinion.
I see more and more people complain about not being able to measure social media ROI and I wonder what they may be doing wrong.
I think when businesses get experimental and do some SWOT analysis of their social media engagements, they will be able to know which areas to keep on experimenting to find a better strategy.
My $10. Now who’s going to pay me :).
Great article! Social media is changing how we do buisness. Twitter is a fantastic tool to use.
I really like this breakdown. It’s an easy list to follow and I’m sure it will get stuck on more than one bulletin board on a cubicle wall.
The most important thing though is to just do something. Get your face and name out there. As long as you’re being authentic, honest and open people will forgive the little missteps that are bound to happen.
Social Media Networking Strategyc will buzz traffic to your company website.. I put pluggin socmed in my website and that’s work, increasing 100 persen traffic before
Great points. Replicating the Geico commercials I’ll also have to say:
“I just saved a lot of [marketing expenses, time, etc.] by switching to social media marketing!” =)
Yet another great post specifying the need of having a killer strategy in place as we all talk about it, but still the companies find it difficult to implement because they just try to be there and follow the updating method, just do not have the right Q&A platform in place from which they can obtain actual feedback.
The best thing about social media is that the conversations are natural occurring real time so the methods like survey lag far behind in providing the right information, bet we don’t need more to understand a consumer as we can measure sentiments now.
@Beth Thanks for outlining the points so well.
Right, if you did not dive into social media 3-4 years ago, especially in business where networking is crucial (like real estate, insurance, mortgages etc.), than you missed pretty much. And social media will grow stronger and stronger; I wonder what Web 3.0 will bring!
@Beth: Thanks for this concise article. Great bottom line. I guess everyone will understand if you explain that the social web is happening, whether or not they choose to participate. Sp better participate and have at least knowledge and some semblance of control.
@ Jay B. If only half of Ray Kurtzweils predictions are true, Web 3.0 will be beyond our wildes dreams
I like the article. Google Maps is very handy, and Twitter is very good, especially for Social Media!
Thanks for that great article. The truth is that social media really opens up a new world for marketing and allows you to reach prospective customers who wolud otherwise be un-reachable!
Social media really opens up a new world for marketing. Allowing you reach reach people who you otherwise be unreachable.
I know that it is becoming increasingly important to embrace social media, but at this point I really don’t enjoy it. Just maintaining a website and a blog is already a lot of work, and we have these new avenues opening up gobbling up more time… I would like to be out there working with clients instead of sitting at the computer, although I must say that the internet has been good to and for me in regard to bringing me those clients to work with; I just wish it was not so time consuming.
Jordy, check out Todd’s post for tips on dealing with overload.
I hadn’t got the chance to see this post up until now, and let me say that I like it, because you explain clearly the benefits of adopting a social media strategy, very clear and plain. love it! Thanks!
So Sorry! I meant Beth : )
Frankly, you can’t participate in social media without being…social. And that means engaging in a conversation with customers. Once you engage in a conversation, you have to give up control. So, are you prepared to let go of control of your brand, at least a little? And participating in social media takes a lot of work. You must have something to say and you must have someone to say it on a regular basis. It won’t happen unless it becomes part of someone’s job.
This is a very important list. I just started working for a company in Madison, WI that is very traditional and doesn’t understand the power of social media. They don’t even have a Facebook or Twitter page. I’m going to have to set them up with at least the basics. However, they did introduce me to Constant Contact which is great for sending out mass emails with “weekly specials.”
Excellent article!! This definitely helps business owners who are considering getting in to Social Media understand how helpful it can be. Great job!