I have been thinking on this since my recent presentation on Social Media for Small Businesses for the local chamber of commerce. Too many small businesses try and lump all Social Media into another simple avenue of marketing, and label it “Internet Marketing” or “Social Media Marketing.” And then to make matters worse, they use it as a glorified brochure or press release, and wonder why it isn’t working. Then worst of all, they abandon their efforts, and leave dead links, and other tattered Social Media remnants laying around for their potential customers to find on the internet, leaving a very bad first impression.
Social Media is NOT a marketing medium, it is a conversation medium. It’s a continual, ongoing discussion. Think of it this way. You are walking down the street, and you see a friend that owns a bakery. The first thing he says is,
“Hey, we just added cinnamon-raisin muffins to our muffin line up. You have got to come over within the next two hours and try them. If you tell them you saw me on the sidewalk, they will give you a 10% discount. Bye.”
Are you actually going to go down to his shop to buy that muffin? Actually, he seemed a bit rude to me. This is why when businesses try to use Social Media as a direct marketing medium, they fail.
Now if you had a nice 2 minute conversation with the friend and he casually mentions the new muffins, then that is socially acceptable. The same is true for Social Media. The secret is to have the conversation, and keep it going. The tricky part about it, is you need to create a Social Media presence that people will go to and invite the conversation to their computer/phone. And then work it over time. Oh, and don’t forget you also need to pick the proper Social Media site. (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
Mirna Bard has a great graphic that shows both the simplicity and complexity of “The Social Web.” For any business to be successful in Social Media, they need to FIRST define their goal(s) in Social Media as it relates to THEIR business, and THEN, create a plan. The plan should touch on a variety of areas within the business, but also have a specific focus helping the business reach their goal(s). A big advantage that Social Media has over traditional advertising is that it is highly measurable. In fact, it is too measurable. So not only must you decide what to measure, you also need to understand how that particular metric affects your goal(s).
For example, it is easy to measure the number of “Likes” that a Facebook page acquires. But what do you do with the Likes? How did you get the Likes? Are those people returning to your Facebook page in any frequency? Is the quantity of Likes adding to your business goal(s)?
A lot of small businesses just create a presence, see what happens, and hope to get lucky. They should treat it like another extension of their business. Do you put out a newspaper ad without a plan? What about a TV commercial?
So . . . What is a small business to do? Assign someone, part time, full time, intern, consultant, marketing department or yourself to take ownership of Social Media. Then create a strategy, implement the plan, monitor, measure, engage your customers, and continue the cycle.
Remember the internet never forgets, once you start down this path, forever will it dominate your destiny.