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Bruce Mayhew
Communication Trainer / Speaker: Email Etiquette and Business Writing Training
Toronto, Ontario Canada

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Social Media is a Marketing Strategy: An Introduction to Social Media

Social media is similar to creating a place where people share information and build a sense of community and will help keep your contacts coming back and engaged. That is why – and how businesses should care about social media.
Written Jan 02, 2010, read 2690 times since then.
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"Should I include social media into my business marketing strategy?"

Let’s answer the question “what is social media?” Using social media is similar to creating a virtual place where people and businesses share information and build a sense of community – all of which are essential to your business. This is why even companies that don’t rely heavily on their web presence need to care about and include social media in the strategic business marketing mix.

You want people discussing your business and the unique value you offer. When you take control of your social media profile you can influence (but not control), the message into a two-way relationship that empowers and educates your social media community. That’s an advantage to you because an engaged, empowered community is more likely to continue to give you their attention, refer you and buy from you – again and again. In a way, it becomes a member of your sales and marketing teams. That’s why you should add social media to your businesses marketing strategy.

So, as a person not familiar with social media, how do you go about including social media into your marketing mix / marketing strategy? There is no one solution – and likely if you are just starting to develop your social media marketing strategy the right solution for you today (and I mean today), might be different tomorrow (and I mean tomorrow… or next week).

But I urge you to choose this moment to establish your social media presence. This one step will prepare you to take another step tomorrow. Take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

To help you build on your successes (and not become overwhelmed), I have broken down a processs you can follow into five steps. Do one at a time, or do a few. The beauty about the process I'm suggesting is that at any time you can stop and consider what you've done, what you've learned and how you can adapt as you move into the next step.

Most importantly, try to enjoy the process and consider how what you are doing is relevant to your target audience - and to your long term success.

<h3>Step 1. Start Today</h3>

If you are establishing your presence without the help of a professional social media consultant, I recommend you start slowly. Don’t join all groups and start asking every Tom, Dick and Sally to be your friend, contact or follower. And accept that some social media sites are not suited to you or your business.

You want to avoid establishing an social media user profile that wastes your time and does nothing for your business reputation. You want to avoid contacts where the people post they are “feeling down” or post a photo or video that doesn’t interest you.

As a business you want to choose a popular business social media connection like LinkedIn or BizNik. Start today by completing your profile and including your company logo and website link. Most social media sites are free but require you to upgrade to a paid service to add extras like your logo. Only you can decide the value this might add.

If you are setting up an account for a business, in most cases you will use an email address like account@yourcompany.com. If you're setting up an account for you at work – you likely will want to use your business email address.

<h3>Step 2. Fill it up</h3>

Once you have spent a few minutes to create a social media user profile, the next step is to expand your brand and your market by asking people to connect with you.

Think about the close business associates / partners you work with. Again, take your time. Next consider associates you have worked with in the past and want to work with in the future. Invite people who are your best target audience (like customers). You can use the search function of your chosen social media site to find these people.

If you've been collecting customer email addresses, plan to email them and invite them to join your community. Create interest with these past customers by letting them know that your social media contacts will receive a special offer / coupon. Do this and you might find that social media might actually boost to your bottom line right away.

You also want to join and participate in social media groups and associations. By joining relevant groups and associations you will be stepping ahead of the pack. Groups and associations open you up to prospects and may give you an opportunity to join in a discussion… and enable you to demonstrate your unique value.

Do not collect social media groups and associations like badges. If you join them be prepared to be active in them. This is key to making social media work for you. People join groups and associations because they want access to quality information about your industry, your business, new products and perhaps sales or deals.

If you belong to a relevant association now use the search function in your social media group to find it. If it exists - join it. Check which groups / associations your new contacts have joined. At a minimum it might help you create deeper relationships and help you know what trends they are following. Join the group and associations that are appropriate.

<h3>Step 3. Set Goals, Make a Plan, Execute</h3>

I like planning, so normally I would want goals, a plan and perhaps an editorial calendar before starting any of this. But context is important; and if you are new to social media and if you are doing this by yourself it’s important for you to “experience” your profile and a few other profiles before you envision how using social media will work for you.

The key to making social media work is to know how you want to use it. Many expect their initial profile; or perhaps an announcement will immediately generate business. When it doesn’t they conclude social media doesn’t work – at least for them. Well, that isn’t how social media drives success. Social media is all about sharing information, demonstrating value and building relationships.

So, what will success mean for you? Do you need more website traffic? Do you want to create a community that will generate good press? How about attract prospect clients? How will you measure success? Then, what is your step by step plan and perhaps your editorial calendar?

<h3>Step 4. Engage</h3>

Once you have people in your community - or following you, you have to constantly engage them with new content and exclusive offers. The best way to grow your community is to consistently offer your contacts quality information they can’t get anywhere else. Keep people interested in your profile by positing activity regularly. For example:

  • Were you at an industry conference and saw or heard something of industry value?
  • How about a link to an online article in a newspaper or magazine you just read?
  • Are you working on a special event where you invite clients to hear a guest speaker?
  • Do you have a monthly special or perhaps are hosting a webinar?
  • Perhaps you have just updated your blog?
  • Can you introduce a friend to a business partner who is looking for staff?

The idea is to be involved and demonstrate your knowledge, experience and unique value. Show everyone you are a valuable contact. You don’t have to be ‘on-line’ all day. Post or answer something and then log-out until the next day.

Building your social media community / relationships takes time and respect.

<h3>Step 5. Promote – it's location, location, location</h3>

Create a link to your company’s social media profile from your:

  • Email signature block
  • Web page
  • Other social media sites (i.e.: Identify your Twitter account on LinkedIn)
  • Company Newsletters
  • Magazine articles / advertisement
  • Radio spots
  • Voice message

Many of your customers already log into social media every day, but they only visit your company website when they need. Social media helps you keep your unique value top of mind and creates the opportunity for continual and timely interaction with them.

There are natural opportunities to promote and expand your community. For example, do you have a busy season? Many businesses have peak seasons – or reasons why new customers will be attracted to them. For example:

  • Valentines, Mother's Day and Christmas for a florist
  • Winter for a tire store
  • During a recession for a Human Resources firm
  • During and after a local or national advertising campaign for any business

It can be as simple as offering new members to your social media community an incentive. For example, offer them bonuses or exclusive discounts on future purchases (great for business to consumer market), or first opportunity to register for exclusive seminars (great for business to business market).

Social media generated offers will help keep your contacts coming back and engaged – and this will help you to further build a community around your store, service or brand. This will lead to deeper relationships with you and their commitment to buy from you and refer business. Consider it a reward for investing their time, comments, ideas, and referrals into your two-way social media relationship.

That is why – and how traditional businesses should care about social media.

Learn more about the author, Bruce Mayhew.

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