We hear a lot of opinions about social media. Whether it’s the self-proclaimed social media guru or the small business owner that thinks social media is for teenagers, people always have something to say about it. We are not arrogant enough to say we have all the answers in this rapidly evolving field, but we can say with certainty that some opinions are clearly misinformed. Let us share a few misconceptions…
1) Your Customers Aren’t Using Social Media…
This mindset is changing, but we still talk to potential clients who believe that their customers aren’t using social media. Not only are people using social networks, they are using them for extended periods of time. People spend an average of 4.6 hours per week on social networks. That is more time than they spend on email, news, games, or anything else on the Internet. In fact, 1 out of every 8 minutes online is spent on Facebook. In addition to following their Facebook news feed to keep up with their friends, people now use it as a gateway for many Internet activities that once took place elsewhere. Messaging and media sharing are more efficiently done through Facebook than email. People use Facebook to get their news, play games, and shop for product and services.
In the same way that every business needs a website, you now need a social media presence. You went to the Internet to meet your customers where they were. Now they’re on social media. They use it at home, on their phones, and even at work. You can’t afford to be left out of the conversation.
Here are a few statistics about Social Media:
• 93% of US adult Internet users are on Facebook.
• Over 150 million tweets post on Twitter every day.
• LinkedIn, the leading business-to-business social network, has over 100 million registered users. 43% of those users are over the age of 35.
• FourSquare, a popular location-based social network, is growing by 35,000 users per day.
2) Social Media is Free…
While the social networks do not charge for entry, establishing an effective social media presence is far from free. The primary cost is the labor. You will need people to:
￼• Build your pages and profiles
• Plan a strategic engagement plan
• Create, update, and share content
• Interact with your customers
• Monitor the success of your social media efforts
The social media manager, a new breed of professionals can handle all of these tasks for you. Companies now have social media managers on staff with salaries ranging from $50,000 – $80,000 a year. Depending on the size of the company, a business may require several professionals to execute these tasks.
In addition to the cost of labor, companies really need to purchase software for customer relationship management (CRM) to effectively execute and measure their social media campaigns. Social media data, when collected in a meaningful way, can be a roadmap to satisfying your customers. CRM software comes in many different varieties, but a package that includes campaign management, post scheduling, brand monitoring, and a robust analytics engine can cost thousands of dollars per month.
￼It’s not free, but . . .
The average cost of a lead generated through social media is 62% less than one generated through traditional outbound marketing. Social media marketing efforts average a 95% ROI. The actual spend for a particular company will vary by the type of business, but many companies are reallocating up to 25% of their marketing budget to social media. This percentage is rapidly increasing as more customers become involved in social networks and companies see the return on investment from their social media efforts.
3) Social Media is Like Every Other Marketing Medium…
Social media marketing is different from traditional marketing. With the traditional approach you reach customers by pushing information through ads or relying on customers to actively search for keywords related to your brand. With social media, your message can organically spread simply through connections in the social network. The more your existing customers interact with you, the more potential customers will see your message. This is spontaneous lead generation. The potential customer wasn’t even thinking about buying your product or service, but now he or she is seeing your message because of a friend’s interaction.
Crafting effective marketing messages and public relations definitely play a role in engaging your customer through social media, but social media management is about much more than just marketing your brand. It’s really about engaging your customer in a conversation. What does it mean to engage through social media?
• Initiate new conversations
• Participate in existing conversations
• Educate and entertain your customers
• Appreciate positive comments
• Quickly resolve customer concerns
Ask yourself, “Do I like having a conversation with someone who is constantly talking about himself?” Of course you don’t. That’s how customers will feel about your company if you’re constantly pushing a marketing message through social media. In short, it’s not about pushing your message. It’s about drawing people in to hear what you have to say. This doesn’t happen overnight, but once the relationship is built, the depth of information you can share is far more meaningful that what you could share in a traditional ad.
The information you gain by listening to the social conversations about your brand, industry, product or services can strengthen product development and customer service. By listening and engaging on the social platforms you have a chance to quickly respond and show your customer commitment to your entire network of fans.
4) You Need Content to Get Started…
There is no doubt that content is king in social media. Fans, customer’s and potential customer’s tune in because of what you have to offer. That doesn’t mean you have to reinvent your company to develop free content for your customers. 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. 150 million blogs are online. Content creators love it when you share their work; they want views. That’s why the content is open to all who can find it.
We are not saying that there is no value in creating your own content. Sharing your own content is a great way to establish trust and expertise, but so is sharing the quality content of others.
When you look at a piece of content to share, consider these factors:
• Is it relevant to your customer?
• Is it from a respected source?
• Is it in alignment with your business goals?
• Is there an opportunity to add further value and personalization by commenting on the content?
We did not say that the content has to be about your business. It doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be about your industry either. Subject matter is wide open as long it speaks to your audience and paints your business in a positive light.
Encouraging customer-created content is one of the best ways to engage your audience and provide value. It inspires brand loyalty and can often provide valuable intelligence about brand perception and customer desires. When your fans engage with your page it can spread awareness of your brand in a hurry.
Social media can give to the small businesses the exact same audience that the big brands have. Once you understand the true power of social media, execution becomes the issue to overcome. For the small to medium size business, carving out the time and budget to do social media right is challenging. If you are unable to meet the challenge at this time, hire an agency that provides enterprise-level service at a much lower cost. An agency who is dedicated to social media will be more attuned to the subject matter that is attracting conversation.
Take advantage of social media and turn your misconceptions into bottom line influencers.