Why use social media?
As traditional methods of marketing to customers like advertising or direct mail become less and less effective, businesses are turning to social mediums to connect in positive ways with consumers and the people who influence them. We need to be acutely aware just how social media has fundamentally changed the way we are connecting, communicating and collaborating as individuals, and therefore society as a whole.
The key to social media success is not to get hung up on the tools and technology, but to focus on how you can use them more effectively to:
increase the visibility of your personal brand and that of your business
build and cultivate your personal and professional networks
develop and grow relationships with customers and influencers
engage in real-time two-way interaction with people, including answering queries
publish and distribute original content that demonstrates your expertise
share curated links to relevant information that adds value to the lives of your customers
communicate with your community of followers, advocates and supporters
ultimately generate new leads and boost sales for your business.
Understanding the social media equation
Think of social media in two parts.
Firstly, there is social media participation – this is where you’re present on social channels and are constantly delivering value to the online community in the form of:
sharing other people’s content (User Generated Content or UGC) on Facebook or LinkedIn, retweeting them if you’re on Twitter or regramming on Instagram.
answering people’s questions if you’re in a position to help – whether they’re directly related to your business or not
joining the conversation on a particular topic – this could be a group on Twitter talking about a certain issue that’s sprung up through the media, or joining a LinkedIn Group
leaving genuinely interesting and relevant comments on selective blogs you read and podcasts you listen to
promoting other people’s businesses and causes, for example, your municipal council may be running a street festival that could be good for you to be promote via your networks.
Before jumping into conversations on social networks, it’s critical that you:
sit back and take note of the ‘lay of the land’
try and get acquainted with the nuances of the particular network on which you intend to become active.
Secondly, there is the creation and distribution of original content that informs, empowers, educates and/or entertains – content that will attract the right people to your brand, potential customers as well as the people who influence them.
To be effective however, content published and promoted via social media needs to be created with the audience in mind, which is why it’s important you first understand who you’re trying to communicate with and where they hang out online.
Make sure you have a Marketing plan template (DOCX 140.2 KB).
Creating content with the customer in mind
More often than not your content should provide utility. In other words, it needs to be useful, relevant and add value to people’s lives. It could simply be information that answers people’s questions or satisfies a need they have relevant to your business, or it may be more around providing ‘thought leadership’ and demonstrating your knowledge and expertise.
For example, this might mean an accountancy practice that publishes a blog post outlining its top tips on how to approach end-of-financial-year tax issues.
Once you create your content, it’s then simply a matter of publishing it to one or more of the myriad of platforms available which is best suited to your business needs, and sharing the links with your followers on social networks.
Building your presence on social networks is important – not only because they make for excellent content distributors, search engines such as Google use social media shares to determine the usefulness of content to an audience, so social media presence can also positively affect search rankings.