There are two best uses of social media for business: to attract new leads and to keep customers over the long term. These uses are indirectly related to your profits, in that they bring the market to you but, like the proverbial horse, you can’t make them drink. Many will, nonetheless, if your offer is solid. But social media value is usually measured in terms of new and returning traffic, rather than sales.
On the other hand, thousands of businesses make millions of dollars in online sales, often using social media channels as part of their campaigns. Because they use the internet to make sales, they approach social channels as advertisers. It’s a one-way conversation, and it can be wildly successful if the hook catches on. Who cares if it bears no relation to authentic social interaction? It works, right?
I think the personal dialogues and the obvious ads can coexist. SM channels struggle mightily to present them to us cleanly. I just hope we won’t lose interest in social media as a place for interpersonal interaction. If we stop chatting, we regress, forfeiting the enormous gains for individual expression that the web has promised these many years.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest: the requisite vehicles to bring you success in internet marketing efforts.
Interesting how the first two have been leading the social media scene for well over five years; the third was recently purchased by the first; and the fourth burst on the scene only last year, gaining popularity faster than any before.
Note the trend towards graphics. No question that people love pictures.
Also note (once again) Zuckerberg’s prescience in purchasing Instagram. He didn’t just know how important images are; he also knew that the social media times they are a-changin’.
Because it seems obvious that right now there’s dwindling innovation on the social media scene. We’ve been sitting with the giants for several years now without major upheaval (Google+ is cool, but no contender). And the newcomers are decorative rather than substantial.
The reason for this slowdown is, I suspect, providential. We need time to assimilate. A large percent of people in business are not connected yet online. And those who are – who have Facebook pages and/or websites – have a long way to go before they’re gunslingers. Social media is a complex, learned technique and we have a way to go yet.
As social media matures, it becomes more generic and predictable. Which is not necessarily a good thing.
It’s natural for any system to level out to a low-key commonality eventually. But predictability is the enemy of marketing. In that split second of recognition that tells me I’ve seen this before, I tune your message out.
How many of the updates on your Facebook stream do you gloss over because they fit a recognizable formula? How many posts from given people or organizations do you generally ignore because you know what they’ll say? How many tweets do you skip because they’re from certain people or they follow a formula?
I have noticed that tweets without links tend to pull my attention. If there’s no link, it must be an original statement of some kind. This is refreshing and welcome. Your referrals are great, but I love reading your thoughts.
The increasingly sophisticated world of social media suggests that messages must become more attractive in one way or another. It’s not good enough to suggest cool sites and link to your own. You must devise an overarching strategy that builds a compelling ubër message with every post.
And every post must tantalize.
On the phone with a prospective client the other day, I suddenly realized that my hand was making a repetitive circular motion as I explained the way internet marketing for small business works.
Well, after all, it is circular. One event touches off another, which creates another, and so on. Every thing affects all the other things in the cycle.
Your description of the process may vary, depending on basic orientation. But roughly, it’s going to be something like:
- website leads to
- changing content, which leads to
- social media, which leads to
- subscriber list, which leads to
- sales, which leads to
- new website content.
Your online branding, shared via social media, works unceasingly to bring buyers to you. It’s a relatively simple formula.
- Figure out how to represent your biz via recorded media of some kind (written word, audio, video, etc.)
- Create a schedule for ongoing creation of this content – and follow through!
- Offer subscriptions and send valuable information to opt-ins.
- Follow up with honest selling and obsessive customer service.
- Get a recorded testimonial from your thrilled customer. Use the experience of actual sales to create new content.
One of my clients loves social media and internet communications because in those media, she is able to go back and edit her statements. Compared to delivering an elevator speech at a local networking meeting or telling someone in person about your business, talking about your business can be far easier online, where you have the chance to carefully construct your message.
Ironic, isn’t it? The immediacy of the internet is counter-balanced by the slowed pace of written composition that allows for crafting perfected communications. This contrasts with in-person conversations or telephone talk. Most social media updates allow for editing before (and often after) publishing.
What happens online is both word of mouth and ad copy, at the same time. You cannot control what others say about you, but your control of the company message is more powerful than ever before.
This doesn’t just boil down to refraining from tweeting when you’re drunk.
Do you proofread every update to be sure your language makes sense? Do you work diligently to use language that is responsive, authentic, and compassionate? Do you stay alert to issues of concern to your market and address them appropriately?
Smarter conversations. That’s what inbound marketing is.
If you have trouble adjusting to change, you may have problems with the internet, because the overall beta mode of everything online is nothing if not subject to change.
Sometimes I fear that my clients’ patience will give out. We set up some app or site and then the rules shift.
I wonder how anyone who doesn’t study the internet in depth can understand what’s going on, much less trust any of it. When you are there everyday, the pieces fit together; but if you check in only sporadically, it must seem a crazy tangle of nonsense. How can you keep up with all the changes?
This is why the person you select as consultant for your business needs online must be someone you deeply trust. As with your broker, your lawyer, or your doctor, you may at times trust them to take actions on your behalf whether or not you completely understand the rationale. You’re too busy to stay on top of all that: you trust your advisor to handle it.
Look for technical and communications expertise in an inbound marketing consultant; but far more important is to know the person sincerely has only your best interests at heart.
Observing the fluctuations and unpredictability of social media can leave you breathless, dizzy, or entertained – according to personal tendencies.
We thought, a season or two ago, that Google+ was taking over the world. Many still anticipate that will happen. But look at that smooth operator, Pinterest, sneaking into everyone’s heart. Which platform, do you think, is more worthy of your time?
This article about Facebook’s failure as a storefront suggests a cloud over the whole idea of doing business via the SM giant. If customers are not, after all, interested in purchasing from FB … Gee, I guess, we have to use that platform for dialog and engagement outside sales. Still a difficult concept for so many to grasp.
Here’s another one: when QR Codes came on the scene, I was thrilled with its in-person, right now interface of public and website. But as this article shows, there’s a far better technology coming down the pike.
It’s a daily circus, complete with clowns and heroes. It’s in the same category as reading the news always was, except these powers closely affect our daily lives. But don’t panic; let it flow. Detached, slightly amused calm will serve you well online.
An article I read last week finally articulated something crucially important, at least in my comprehension of commerce in the 21st century. Esteban Kolsky outlined three areas where companies often fail vis-à-vis social media. His points are well taken; I highly recommend taking them all seriously. But I wish to mention here just one of them.
And if you’re still clinging to 20th century rules of marketing and PR, you’re not going to like it.
Here’s the crux of Kolsky’s argument:
“Social Media is a long-term, part-of-the-core-business investment you must make. Expecting a return on that investment is naïve – like expecting your purchase of a better telephone system to return your money.”
We make far too much of data collection and ROI regarding social media. Yes, you can definitely see financial returns from your online business presence, but that result is secondary to the greater value of web communications.
For all it may seem that technology has forced new practices upon us, the greater truth is that in a global economy, enterprise thrives when it is obviously, personally attentive to its market; and the internet is the most efficient way to achieve such transparency. Social media is infrastructure, not marketing.
The term social media is not well understood. Business use of social media, for instance, does not amount to an internet marketing presence. If you just chat with friends and family on Facebook, fine. But don’t expect your Facebook page alone to bring you customers.
Social media is a (relatively small) subset of online inbound marketing. And online inbound marketing is a subset of marketing, which also includes inbound efforts that are offline.
Think: a child is a subset of a family, which is a subset of society. They are all equally important and necessary; but each is very different.
For business, the key to inbound marketing is content. Once you have content, you can use social media as one way to give people access to it.
Additional ways would include building landing pages, posting on your blog, writing guest blog posts, sending out a newsletter, offering content to live networking groups and liaisons, and your pick of the thousands of other distribution opportunities.
Somewhat unfortunately, social media is the term the public has adopted, it seems, to refer to online marketing opportunities. Yes, your sharing should be thorough, respectful, and attractive. But it’s what you share that matters most.
Lately, we’re embarking on the fearsome path to purchase a new car. In the process of exploring dealerships, I’ve been thinking about social media. See, even in 2011, the car salesman is still an unsavory character by stereotype and also quite often in actual experience.
Selling cars is a job that attracts hustlers, and while we all want to be clever hustlers, we certainly don’t want to be hustled. My partner and I have gone to great lengths to avoid prolonged contact with these people, just because we expect to have to combat a hard sell from a greasy character.
What a shame. Surely the majority of car salespeople are fine upstanding folk. Their reputation probably does them injustice.
So if I was a car sales person, I would use social media to prove that I am a human being. I’d have a Facebook page for business contacts. I’d blog about the business. I’d collect email addresses and send newsletters full of useful info about cars but also other things besides cars. Advice for golfers, maybe, or travel tips.
I’d use the internet to become a real person, someone trustworthy, instead of a mere stereotype. Bet my sales would skyrocket.