When businesses rush headlong into social media to boost their marketing they risk doing themselves more harm than good. Social media is becoming all the rage for businesses as old-fashioned forms of marketing become increasingly expensive and less effective. But turning to Social Media without a game plan has it’s own perils, especially for businesses who assume that social media is solely for talking about themselves and their businesses.
Businesses need to be engaging their customers and potential customers as much as possible as this article appearing in the business section of The Gazette in Montreal discusses.
Small businesses rushing headlong into social media to boost marketing risk doing themselves more harm than good if they haven’t mapped out a game plan, according to industry experts.
While establishing a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr seems like a no-brainer to get the word out about any kind of business — especially when it seems everyone else is doing it — it could all go for naught without establishing goals and targets, says Mhairi Petrovic.
Petrovic, owner of Vancouver-based Out-Smarts Marketing, teaches social media seminars for Small Business B.C. While 60 per cent of North American small businesses are using social media, many of them are “doing a really bad job of it.”
“Take a step back and understand who you are trying to reach and why are you using these technologies. Is it to build traffic to a website? Communicate with an existing network? Or reach a new audience? It’s important to understand these things before you start,” she said.
It can be “damaging if you do the wrong things.”
That includes establishing a Facebook presence, blog or Twitter account and leaving it dormant after an initial flurry of activity.
“It’s kind of like going to your office, turning on all the lights, turning on your flashing open sign and leaving for the day without telling anyone,” said Terri Davies, founder of Sociability.ca, a Victoria company that specializes in social-media marketing.
“Even if you’re not putting out great information every day and really maintaining it every day, which is the ideal situation, at least respond to people coming into your community and posting questions,” Davies said.
It’s the interaction with that community that’s at the heart of social-media marketing, and it’s where the traditional marketing methods of pushing out information and product gets turned on its head.
“Social media is more of a closed loop. It’s an interaction with your audience and you are building a community with people. If you do a good job they become your marketing department and help you to spread the word to new audiences and new profiles,” said Petrovic of the viral nature of social media that sees Facebook posts and tweets spread through long lists of friends and followers.
“It’s not about you and your company. It’s about how do you get people to interact and build community with you. It’s about your audience and how do you add value for them and stimulate conversation.”
And that is where social media takes the step beyond the simple web presence many small businesses have established. In many cases businesses are online, but there’s little more than a brochure and a contact email or phone number on their website.
Davies said unless that content is updated regularly and the site is engaging, it is static and unlikely to draw attention.
To start, Davies suggests a blog that can be part of a company website for those businesses looking at testing the social media waters
“It makes that (previously static) website more dynamic so you can keep it current,” she said, noting that a blog is the start of a dialogue to build relationships with customers and would-be customers.
Petrovic suggests establishing how much time and energy any business can devote to social-media marketing before taking the first step.
“It can be time consuming,” she said. “If you start a blog or Facebook page and then business takes over and you stop posting to it, that can be damaging. If a potential client finds your blog and sees you haven’t posted for six months, they may think you’re out of business. So it’s important to consider what you like to do. If you hate writing, a blog is not going to be a great way for you.
“If you’re very busy and have small windows of time, then Twitter might be a good tool for you as within 140 characters you can, with sharp, short bursts of information, get your message out.”
Petrovic said if your business has a more visual product or requires help with assembly or use then visual social networks like Flickr and YouTube may be the right avenue.
“Again, it’s about stepping back and thinking who your audience is and what your goals and resources are,” she said. “And recognize who your audience is and what social media they tend to use. Start using that tool and you are more likely to connect with them.”
Both Petrovic and Davies say the small-business sector is starting to get it. “Social media is just a tool like the telephone, the TV or a billboard. It’s a way to convey your marketing message to reach your target audience and build community with them,” said Petrovic. “It’s not a silver bullet or panacea, but it should be a component of your overall business strategy.” Montreal Gazette
All credit to the Montreal Gazette for getting the views of the experts quoted in this article. It certainly reinforces the fact that businesses should always tread carefully when venturing into social media and remain aware that it is far more than a mere advertising tool. Such a mentality would be doomed to failure. Don’t hesitate to let us have your take on this subject.
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