That Really Is the Question, Today
By now you have probably read in a trade publication or heard in a seminar about why you should be more engaged in social media. I’m going to assume that you already see the merits – making connections with your customers, strengthening your existing relationships, disseminating information quickly and easily, and utilizing one of the lowest costs for lead generation – so I’m going to offer you my thoughts from a marketing perspective on how best to Tweet, Facebook, blog and stay Linked-in. Then, I will provide you several options on how you can actually implement a social media program.
First, it is important to understand a phenomenon that was once relegated to college students and people who had way too much time on their hands, but now has become so main stream that “Tweeting” and becoming a “Fan” have taken on a new meaning in our vocabulary. Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In have become a major way people stay in touch and maintain relationships. You can easily inform people about what you are doing, display your pictures from your vacation, and show the world how your child or grandchild is in fact the most beautiful in the world. Understanding why and how people are using social media is instrumental to how you ultimately communicate your business message to them.
Don’t become background noise
Those of you already engaged in social media know what I’m talking about. Don’t Tweet or post a message on your wall for the sake of saying something. Only post important, relative information. Therefore, you do not have to worry about what to post, or whether you are posting something every day. If you follow the “shot-gun” approach, and just blast something, anything, out there each day, most likely your followers will simply start tuning you out. Instead, when you have something really important to say, say it.
Use as the vehicle to drive people back to your website
The best place for customers to learn about you, research your products, and ultimately buy something from you is your website. One way to drive more people to this central repository about everything you do is through social media. In your 140 character Tweets, on your Facebook wall, and through your Linked-In messages, try to bring them back to your website, where you could actually sell them something. In your messages, post a piece of an article, or give them some details about a promotion, and bring them home. Of course, your website should be designed and developed with sales in mind, but that is a whole other discussion; the days of the online brochures are long gone.
Keep your website fresh with a blog
One easy way to keep your website interactive and updated with important information is to post a blog within it. This is relatively simple to do, and often times free. A blog enables you to post information quickly on your website; so, no waiting two weeks for your web master to change “a” to “the” in the fifth paragraph on the “About Us” page. I suggest you put out messages through social media announcing why a new article that you posted on your blog can help your followers. They hopefully will in turn visit your blog and website and learn more about what you do, and hopefully buy something. A blog is also a great way to improve your ranking in search engines. Because you will be posting articles about what your customers are looking for, your website will come up higher in Internet searches. Search engines also rank websites based on the extensiveness of their content. With a blog, your website could be rich with important content.
The new form of communications is already here
Many of you already send out newsletters, both printed and electronically, but more and more people are utilizing social networking over email and printed pieces to stay in contact. Other companies already have successfully capitalized on social media to stay in touch with their customers. A major coffee and donut shop Tweets followers with specials, often right at the time when they are driving into work. My wife is a shopper at a certain children’s store, and she received a message that she would get free shipping for being a Facebook Fan. She downloaded the coupon, went to their Web site, and the sale was made. What could you send out to your customers?
Who should be running your social media campaign?
You should. You’re the expert about your business. Social media is being so readily utilized because ANYONE can do it. If you do not have the time to engage in social media, then the best person to do it after you is someone who really understands marketing, and specifically messaging. You, someone in your office, or an individual you contract, can work with you to develop a list of articles and messages you would like to put out to your customers. The articles and 140 character Tweets could be pre-written, approved by you, and then pushed out daily, weekly, or monthly.
Just like so much in marketing, it really comes down to doing, not waiting. No one has the “perfect” social media campaign, but there are many that are “good.” Just do it, but in doing it, please put out good information.
John Houle is the president of JH Communications, a regional public relations and advertising agency.