Social Media is Here to Stay
The shift towards online communities and customer-centric websites continues to move in the direction of dynamic and relevant content available through social media. The platforms for social media are changing rapidly and will continue to develop as the World Wide Web grows. Right now, the main online platforms include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and blogs. These will most likely evolve to include other online standards, but social media will remain a major communication channel.
The rapid growth of social media has been fueled by people’s personal interests and their desire to share their enthusiasm with other like-minded individuals. The internet has proved to be the perfect place to reach out and find new friends that have a common interest. We have seen social media go from this purely social content to being influenced by the forces of marketing as businesses found their customers were online participating in these communities.
A New Way to CommunicateOur traditional marketing channels, such as brand marketing and direct marketing, are one-way communications that we push out to the consumer with the intention of interrupting them so they will take notice of our message. Social media allows your business to send out messaging but now the consumer can decide if and when they will take notice. The consumer can also talk back to your company and even more importantly, consumers can talk to each other about your company. That puts a lot of power in the hands of the consumer.
What Can You ExpectMany businesses are wondering what they can expect as a return on this investment of time and expertise. It can be hard to evaluate and document the results of your social media activities. You should start by having clarified your desired outcomes so you can monitor results based upon those expectations.
Positive social media results can include:
- increased website activity
- establishing your brand personality
- generation of more leads
- increased sales
- reaching new audiences
- better understanding of your customers and their needs
- greater customer loyalty
- improved products
- showing the "human side" of your business
- creating communities of like minded people
As you see there are many benefits to social media, but you need to keep your commitment to participate regularly. Consumers will only stay involved with your messaging if it is current and relevant.
Getting StartedStart by visiting these social networking platforms to get a feel for the type of communities they host. You can then begin to participate in those communities by joining groups and responding to their posts. Once you have a feel for these conversations you can create a plan for your own sites. Start with who you would like to reach and what they are interested in. Brainstorm the types of relevant information you could provide to them, remembering that social media is all about the consumer and not about your company. Determine what assets you have that can be used for social media including staff with appropriate skill sets, existing content that can be repurposed, and time available each week for managing social media. Then define what your goals will be using these new channels. Work on the messages you plan to send out and what channels will work best for those topics. Be sure to make your communications two-way, always inviting the consumer to respond back to you.
Social media marketing may require some time to take hold and produce results. The challenge is to allocate enough time and resources to effectively test these new channels and how they are working in conjunction with your larger marketing plan.