Ten Top Social Media Marketing Truths in a Nutshell
The explosive growth of social media in the years since the launch of Facebook in 2004 has lead many marketing executives and consultants to see social media marketing as a kind of universal panacea for all their online marketing needs. This is belied by the fact that, despite the hype, the jury is still out on whether or not social media is actually able to deliver the goods in financial terms – as opposed to other forms of internet marketing. Here are ten points to bear in mind when starting out in the world of social media
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1. ‘Social’ Media is about building relationships with customers
Do not fall into the mistaken belief that your Facebook page will directly sell your products – its only on some rare cases. What social media does provide is a toolset whereby you can keep in touch with and develop relationships with your customers. This depends very much on the culture of your business. Social media won’t do it for you. In order to get the most out of your social media accounts, you need to cultivate an attitude of pro-actively keeping in touch with your customers. If social media is approached as a banal online bulletin board, it will not yield results for you.
2. Genuine relationships cannot be outsourced
Many marketing professionals, myself included, receive regular requests from clients to manage their social media for them. The high demand for these services has lead to the popularity of scheduling platforms such as Hootsuite, whereby Tweets and Facebook updates are written sometimes many weeks in advance. I once spoke to an executive who scheduled his client’s daily ‘good morning’ tweets six months in advance. To take this approach is to completely misunderstand what social media is all about. Real relationships with your clients cannot be outsourced to an agency – anymore than your relationships with your friends can. This is something you need to do in real time, in house. If you are not prepared to do this, it is better that you don’t bother at all.
3. Marketing material published on blogs is still just propaganda
Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that the very act of posting something onto a blog will lend it a veneer of authenticity and authority, comparable to a print magazine article. This may be true in some cases, but the content still needs to be relevant to the intended audience. The practice of thinly dressing up marketing propaganda as blog posts and then using blog platforms as free advertising is frowned upon by serious blog enthusiasts – and web users are not dumb. People will automatically see through these efforts and the end result will reflect poorly on your business. Whether you host your blog on your own site or on a free blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger, restrict your posts to genuinely interesting updates and content. Keep your sales spiel for other contexts.
4. Social media platforms are not free advertising outlets.
In the same way as your blog should not become a dumping ground for your marketing spin, it is a mistake to use social media outlets as posting boards for your marketing campaigns. Remember that social media is about relationships, which necessarily involve two way communication and interactivity. Your social media applications are not bulletin boards and should not be handled like e-newsletters. If you use social media in this way you will find it difficult to build a genuine following.
5. Social media reflects the people who use it
The key to success on social media is the people who use it. The person in your business should be a person who genuinely cares about building relationships with people. Think carefully about who you delegate this important task to. It should not, for instance, instinctively be handed over to the IT department who do not necessarily have a stake in client relations. Social media management should be treated in the same way as any other customer facing role; certain personality qualities work in such a position, others don’t.
6. Social media is about customer service, and not marketing
This previous point, if thought about carefully, should herald a revolution in priorities in many businesses. A significant proportion of social media managers are marketing or sales professionals whose bottom line is generating new business. This attitude is the source of many of the big mistakes made by companies when approaching social media marketing. A more realistic approach would be to divorce social media from marketing altogether, and place it instead within the customer service function.
7. Listening is more important than speaking
Once it has been established that social media is a service, rather than a sales function, it is time to take a second look at your content. Most businesses spend a lot of time and money creating content and visuals for use in social media, reflecting the marketing pre-occupations of their authors. In reality, social media is much more effective as a listening tool. It offers you an unparalleled opportunity to interact with your customers in real time, and to give prompt, no nonsense answers to their queries.
8. Communicate honestly on social media
Take advantage of the opportunities offered by social media for real time communication. Pius platitudes and carefully crafted ‘customer service’ letters have no place on Facebook and twitter. Communication should be open, transparent and honest; about your failures as well as your successes. Your customers will respond positively to this, and a genuine relationship of loyalty and respect will be the result.
9. Social Media is not a quick fix
As a relationship building tool, making the most of social media platforms takes time. You should not expect your website search rankings or new customer volumes to shoot up overnight. Social media should be used as an extension of a communications culture that is already well established in your business, and not to expect the mere act of signing up for a social media application to solve all your business ills.
10. Talk to your followers and friends like they are human beings
When you sign up for social media platforms, start off on the right foot and link that profile to a genuine, named person and preferably a photograph, not an anonymous company profile with a logo. This will reduce the innate temptation to hide behind the logo and speak to your social media followers using company jargon and marketing speak. Instead, speak to them as if they were friends, with candid openness and as human beings, not merely as customers.Businesses embarking on a new social media adventure have to face some pretty bald truths in order to reap any benefit from the various platforms available. If this is you, then take careful note of the points listed in this article. Many of them are common sense, but it is knowledge that a lot of self styled social media gurus are less than transparent about. Social media does have its uses as an online business tool, but only when properly understood and approached in the spirit in which it was intended.