During a Q&A session at a talk on social media for small businesses recently, I was astonished to hear the MD of a digital agency profess to ‘not get’ Twitter. “Why would I be interested in reading that someone has just made a cup of tea”, was the remark, “what’s the point?”. Needless to say, the savvy audience soon led him into a verbal canyon and clubbed him to death with their smartphones. But it’s a refrain I’ve heard before, (though never from someone who probably ought to know better).
The point isn’t the potential for low quality, tea based content – and obviously, you needn’t follow cup-of-tea-guy if you prefer tweets about coffee – it’s the opportunity to share in a larger conversation, and contribute to the quality of that conversation yourself. But quality aside, why do it – what exactly are the benefits? After all, it takes time and effort to maintain a social media presence, let alone craft a social media marketing strategy that translates into sales; especially when the rewards are anything but obvious.
I like to think of it this way – if an organisation’s website is the front of their building; Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Pinterest, whatever the preference, represent people moving around behind the brightly lit windows. They demonstrate that beneath your orgnisation’s façade the lights are on and somebody’s home. In a world full of marketing spin, they represent authenticity – and authenticity is gold.
Another benefit is reach – people talk of developing a social media ‘footprint’, and it’s an apt analogy. The more social media content your organisation is generating and the bigger those footprints, the easier it is for a prospect to find you – if you’re selling a product or a service, that can only be a good thing. If a prospect googles a phrase that bears relevance to you, you’re more likely to reel them in if they hit content from numerous satellite social media platforms as well as your own website – which acts a hub for your social media activity rather than just as a standalone site.
The key thing that is sometimes forgotten amid all the technology, is that social media is just that – social. You’re conversing with real people, kind of like hanging out in the kitchen at a party. And at that party, are you the person who skulks around near the Twiglets, or do you stride up to the hottest girl (or guy) in the room, engage them with your wit and charm, and go about attempting to elicit their digits? (With a long term relationship in mind of course). Social media, like any other social situation rewards those who put in the effort.
Clever marketing copy can be a thing of beauty, but it can only do so much – increasingly people look to social media to ‘take the pulse’ of a business, to get a sense of the people behind the copywriters’ art.
Social media allows small businesses to project their influence way beyond their immediate geographic surroundings – regional, national, global boundaries no longer matter.
With enough insight and a commitment to generating high quality content, your organisation can find itself being listened to more and more. At the top of the pyramid are the thought leaders, those who’s opinions matter to the most people.
Social media is a golden opportunity to strike up dialogue with your past, present, and future customers. People inhabit social platforms to be sociable, so will usually be happy to converse about your product, service, event or opinion, but listening as well as talking can yield valuable insight.
Not only is social media a great way of pursuing leads proactively – as opposed to the passive pitch of a website – it also allows you to be canny about how you discover new leads.
No longer is it necessary to advertise in broad brushstrokes and at significant expense – social media allows for extremely targeted marketing strategies. Spend your time, effort and money marketing to those who are actually interested.
Compared to traditional media, social media participation is a cost efficient precision instrument.
Since social media conversations take place in the here and now – your involvement can be timely, apposite and relevant. If you are more relevant than the competition you have a competitive advantage.
If your company is always there, to respond, engage and support in real time; it generates good will toward your organisation. It gives it a voice, and a face. When the time comes to buy, a prospect may well opt for a company that has made itself approachable in this way.
All is trackable in social, so it is easy to identify the activities that are productive and focus on them. Monitor your traffic with tools such as Google Analytics and identify how much and how well your marketing budget is being spent.
Social media activity across multiple platforms is good for SEO. Search engines will pick up on your activity and boost your ranking, making you even more findable.
All this social media activity can only result in increased traffic across your site, especially if your responsive website design allows people to access and engage with it on the go, or in any situation in which they might be using social media. Social media can enable your business to reach out to the right people, and increase the people coming to you; and because increased traffic from the right people translates into increased sales, social media marketing can help your business grow.
There are now so many social platforms to choose from that any organisation should be able to find a mix of social media to suit their needs. Twitter may be of limited value to one business, but be the lifeblood of another. The choice is almost endless, but the mainstays of social engagement for businesses are Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Foursquare, YouTube and any of the most popular blogging platforms, such as WordPress or Blogger. So it’s fair say the party’s in full swing, and there’s really no point in being shy – time to emerge from behind the Twiglets and get involved.