Take a breath and rethink your social marketing activities

Since social media arrived on the scene, companies of all sizes—both B2C and B2B—have tried to figure out how to best use this channel to get their messages to their consumers. Their biggest challenge has been finding ways to get customers to do more than just “like” them. Social media efforts aimed at engaging customers and driving purchases have produced mixed results.

Some brands have embraced social platforms like Twitter, which facilitates constant and easy interaction, for better or worse, with customers.

Others, like General Motors, very publicly turned away from social media last year when they announced they would stop advertising on Facebook—citing disappointing results.  Today they are testing a pilot program of paid ads aimed at mobile or tablet users who check Facebook.com while on the move.

It’s a very unsettled landscape and it’s not easy to figure out what will work for your particular needs. Many brands are questioning whether the ‘costs’ of being on social media are really worth it.

Information overload.

If you think you’ll break through the clutter with social media, think again. Here are some quick statistics for you:

By our quick count on Wikipedia, there are 200+ ‘social media’ sites.  Other reports suggest there are upwards of 500. Each with its own like-minded users and subscribers.

Intel recently posted an article on What happens in an internet minute? With some staggering statistics (remember, these events occur every minute):

  • There are 1,300 new mobile users.
  • 204 million emails are sent.
  • Facebook receives 6 million views.
  • There are 2+ million Google searches.
  • And 1.3 million You Tube video views.

Smart marketers know social media is important to the mix, and that a mix of integrated tactics works best. According to Marketo, only 79% of B2C and 68% of B2B companies are involved in social marketing.  Time is often cited as the problem.

A recently published Ragan & Nasdaq survey* shed some light on the social marketing challenge for many marketing departments:

  • 65% of companies use staff to “do social media” on top of their other duties.
  • 57% don’t monitor the competition.
  • 78% of brands don’t plan to hire internally in 2013 for social media.
  • Brands struggle with monitoring and measurements—65% say it’s due to a lack of time while 63% say they simply lack the staffing.

If you’re considering adding or expanding your social media marketing activities, be sure you understand your reasons why. What are your business objectives?

  • More feedback on products before launch?
  • Reduce customer service operational costs?
  • Change brand perception?
  • Increase awareness of brand message?
  • Open access to information before customers purchase?
  • Increase employee morale?
  • Capitalize on real time events and activities?
  • Crisis management?
  • Better understanding of the competition?

Once you have clarified your business objectives, you need a good strategy. To get there, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I selling and to whom? This will help focus where your buyers are and where to reach them.
  2. Who am I trying to reach? Perhaps current customer’s only, current customers and new customers, or a combination. Also are you reaching influencers or decision makers—the buyers.
  3. What am I trying to say? You could be using social media to educate, share experiences, inform or persuade.  Identify an approach and voice before you start and be consistent.
  4. How often? Set a schedule of how many times per week you want to send out information. A word of caution: This is a balancing act. You want to be informative and top of mind rather than annoying or considered junk.
  5. Where are my customers or prospects on social media?  According to a Hubspot study, 77% of B2C (retail) companies use Facebook and acquired a customer through it.  While this report doesn’t state the value of a customer acquired through Facebook, not all your potential customers are frequenting Facebook. If you’re a B2B organization, your customers may prefer Twitter or LinkedIn.
  6. How to measure if it’s working?  There are many free tools out there you can use, such as Social MentionGoogleAddict-o-maticHow Sociable and many others. There are also some solid subscription services such as MarketoHubspot and Awareness that make tracking and monitoring the effectiveness of your activities easier with at-a-glance dashboard access and insight across multiple campaigns.

‘Doing’ social media is no small task. It takes time, staff, and a solid strategic and business commitment to create content that’s really valuable and reputation building.

Now that you have a strategy and approach, start small. Create your own unique content, something that you can truly ‘own’ to share with your current customers and prospects. This way you add something of value, rather than circulating other people’s content and adding to the noise. Pick a few social media tactics to start with and test them. You can always add content, ramp up or dial back the volume, and refine your channel outlets once you see what works and what doesn’t. That’s the one attractive aspect of social media—It’s flexible.

Overall your goal should be about building relationships with your audience, not preaching about your product. No one wants to be sold. If there is one thing that is certain, social marketing is a process, not an overnight solution. It takes time to build your credibility and your followers.

* Source: Ragan & Nasdaq OMX Corporate Solution Survey Results, 2013