Social media marketing is a trend, not a fad. Moreover, it’s a terrific extension of your content marketing strategy.
Social media marketing is here to stay. If you are not already active in venues such as a business blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Slideshare, and YouTube, you should be asking yourself whether it’s way past time to jump in with both virtual feet.
The answer to the question is yes with an important caveat…
…Before making the commitment to one or many possible social media outlets, it is vital to determine whether:
- you understand the target audience that you intend to reach
- you have something valuable to communicate to that target audience
- you have someone with the time, skill, and enthusiasm to execute a consistent social media program–either inside or outside your organization
- you will make the time to listen and respond to your social media audience.
There is nothing sadder than a business blog whose most recent post was a year ago. And, there is nothing less impressive than a Facebook fan page with only a few fans and hardly any messages to or from those fans.
Yes, social media can be an extremely effective marketing tool. But, you will need to make a serious company commitment to ensure that it is effective for your organization.
Social Media is the First Cousin to Content Marketing
Social media is really all about content marketing. We have often written about the need to develop a content marketing mindset. This requires companies to think like publishers. And, that sounds an awful lot like social media as Wikipedia defines it:
Social media is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers.
Because social media is in a constant state of flux with new technologies and tools coming and going you might feel intimidated at ever trying to understand the essence of social media. But as Paul Gillen explains in his excellent book Secrets of Social Media Marketing, “there is nothing mysterious about social media. The practices that we all use to maintain meaningful relationships in our personal lives apply just as well online. It’s just that the media is different.”
In a sense, social media goes back to the earliest times, when people gathered together in the marketplace and shared information about crops, food, neighbors, the evil King, and rumors of a scary dragon lurking in the forest.
In the 21st century, we talk about the same sort of stuff, but much of it has moved online and become highly mobile thanks to the Internet, iPhones, iPads, and a host of other leading-edge devices.
Just a few years ago, social media was a relatively marginal phenomenon. Today, just like the Internet, it is absolutely mainstream and therefore belongs as a core part of your marketing mix.
Five Reasons Why You Should Begin Your Social Media Marketing Efforts Now:
- Your customers are using it to make buying decisions. Millions of web users, both in the business to consumer and business-to-business markets, are reading blogs visiting Facebook, and tweeting daily. They are relying increasingly on social media for buying information in both the b2b and b2c worlds.
- Smart news organizations are with the social media program. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and your local newspaper have made social media fundamental to how they learn and how they report. If it’s good enough for their information gathering and sharing where it really counts, it’s certainly good enough for the rest of us.
- Your competitors are using it. You’re almost certainly paying attention to your smartest competition. I’d be surprised if most of them haven’t already dived headfirst into social media waters. Organizations as diverse as law firms, interior designers, real estate agents, and roofing companies are using blogs, podcasts, videos, and user communities such as Facebook to demonstrate their expertise and thought leadership. Don’t let those tough competitors outmarket you via social media.
- It can be your most cost effective marketing strategy. The required financial investment in creating a blog, for example, can be close to zero. The real investment will be in time and thought required to craft a content marketing strategy which provides valuable information to your customers and prospects. You may need to hire specific content creation resources either internally or externally.
- Your old-style marketing is less and less effective. Because buyer behavior has changed, you cannot expect traditional advertising and public relations alone to drive buyers to your business as it did a decade ago. You may certainly want to use those traditional tools to drive them to your online home. That’s where you can prove to prospective customers that you are a reliable supplier who can be trusted, based on your knowledge and understanding of your their problems. A regular blog, a Facebook fan page, an uploaded Slideshare presentation or a series of informative YouTube videos may be just the ticket to prove that you are the best choice to provide essential solutions.
Summing Up the Social Media Marketing Imperative
You can use core social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, both effectively and inexpensively to compete against competitors large and small. But, as with every content marketing effort, it’s vital to make a consistent long-term commitment and to build your social media strategy on a solid understanding of your target customers. By understanding those customers, you will be able to communicate and to interact with those customers in a meaningful way.
We’ll be writing more extensively about the how and why of social media marketing tools in the weeks ahead.