If you listen to enough experts, you’ll soon believe it’s the silver bullet, the magic elixir, the one every advertiser has been waiting for.
And what’s not to love? With social media, there’s no newspaper, radio or TV ads to buy, no printing or postage for direct mail campaigns, no media reps to haggle with, and your message will be out there for the entire universe to see.
FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, all no cost marketing vehicles, until you start paying for the expertise needed to establish and maintain an effective presence on-line.
To be successful with social media, it is critical for advertisers to know what it can (and cannot) do. Getting the negatives out of the way, here is what social media will not accomplish:
(1): Social media will never take the place of a sound marketing strategy. You need to plan, set objectives and measure the performance. “Just Do It” might work for Nike, it won’t with social media.
(2): Social media will never take the place of a well executed media plan. While the majority of adults are on-line every week, TV, radio, and print still deliver large bodies of consumers in one hit. Time spent watching TV and listening to the radio far outweighs time spent on-line.
(3): Social media will not provide a “quick-fix” for your communication challenges. Social media is built around relationships, and those don’t come easy. If you’re not ready for a long commitment, don’t even start.
(4): Social media will not cover up a broken business. If you manufacture the worst widgets on the planet, practice poor customer relations or have products no one wants to buy, all of the fans on FaceBook won’t save you.
(5): Social media won’t provide free advertising. True, the hard cost of media is little to none, but when you add up the expense of having qualified experts manage your on-line campaign, it’s no where near free.
Now…Here’s What Social Media Can Do When Done Well:
(1): Establish your company as the trusted expert. People buy from those they know and trust. If consumers see you providing useful, relevant content and participating in conversations without trying to sell something, your credibility will increase.
(2): Provide a channel of open dialogue between you, your customers and consumers. By dialoging and answering questions, you build trust and have a better chance of being added to the shopping list.
(3): Provide in depth information to potential customers. Blogs, online videos and discussion forums allow consumers to dig for lots of information before they buy.
(4): Make your internet marketing more effective by becoming more visible and easily found. Search engines look for newly updated, relevant content. This venue provides the means for you to improve your search results and be found much easier.
(5): Reach and communicate with younger demographics. The web and social media is the place to reach those young consumers who have no brand preference. For your business to remain viable tomorrow, you need to start filling your customer pipeline with younger consumers.
(6): Provide you with a means of proactive PR. Social media will give you the opportunity to communicate with those who have had a bad experience and are telling everyone they can. As you communicate with these people, others will listen in and watch how you handle things. Do it right and you might just pick up new customers who never intended to buy from you.
So where do you start? Like any other marketing vehicle, the first thing you need to do is find out if your customers are using this medium. If they are, make a plan and start executing it.