Are social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook a waste of company time for small businesses?
"It depends." It really does. Spending company time tweeting and posting updates to fan pages can be a waste of time for those that do not have a social media marketing strategy that takes factors such as company goals, resources, type and size of business, customer demographics etc. into consideration.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate and form your social media strategy:
• Why are we on social networking sites? What is the purpose?
• What are desired outcomes?
• Which social media marketing tools will be most effective?
• Why will our customers or target audience care?
• How are these tools to be used on a daily basis and by what?
• How do we know when we are succeeding in the social media space?
Once you answer these questions, you will have the basis of a strategy for your business. Still, you may have reservations. A few we have heard and would like to address briefly here.
"I do not need a strategy, the numbers say it all"
What about the fact that so many people are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites? It is easy to get talked up in numbers. The sheer quantities of people on Facebook and Twitter (there are over 370 million people on Facebook, over 750,000 Facebook business pages, 75 million + people tweeting etc.) are impressive; however, they are not in themselves reasons to spend your time and energy tweeting and posting into feeds. If your customers are 70+ women who are disabled, for example, should you be tweeting or calling to deepen relationships? Or, is your target audience their children, who are likely in their 40's and helping to make healthcare decisions for family members? Bottom line: know your audience. Do not get caught up in numbers and think through whether or not there are better ways to deepen relationships and loyalty.
"We asked ourselves these questions and decided social media is not right for our business right now, so we do not need a Twitter or Facebook account."
OK, but think ahead. Social media sites are constantly evolving, though they are not going away any time soon. At a minimum, every business should "own their brand" online. You want your company name (screen name) in your Twitter account, Facebook page etc. and do not want to find out it is unavailable later or even worse, taken by one of your competitors (or dealers). We have seen this happen too frequently. Today, you need to own your name in many medias, not just your domain name (yourbusiness.com URL) and variations on your domain name eg.net
"If sales do not grow directly, then social media marketing is a waste of time."
Take one step back. What is a successful social media campaign? What is success, period? Driving clicks to your website? Being able to respond faster to customer inquiries? The number of "fans" or "likes"? The number of sign ups on your newsletter sign up fan page tab? Even the simple act of engaging company employees more with customers? Bottom line: Know how you define and measure success in the social media space as a standard marketing strategy and in the context of your overall marketing strategy. Then, you will be able to best determine whether or not you are getting a return on your investment and using your time wisely. What are your company's agreed upon metrics?
Here are three other pieces of advice you may know already that we advocate:
1. Be Very Selective When Choosing Who Will Write Content And Make Posts
Be very careful about who in your organization is in charge of generating content. If you are not, you risk not just being inconsistent, "unfollowed" or "blocked," but eroding brands and reputations. Pick someone who is a true brand ambassador and can be trusted. Pick someone who knows your company in and out. Review posts before they are made public and have policies.
2. Do not Cross-Promote In Personal Networks Too Much
Traditionally, sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc., users are communicating, telling their stories, interacting, sharing news and photos, telling self-deprecating tales, catching up etc. In contrast to users directly searching for a product on Google, Facebook users are rarely intent on directly buying a product or purchasing a service.
Even though business promotion and advertising on social media is mainstream through fan pages and pay per click advertising, for example, companies and individuals promoting on Facebook or Twitter should do so with caution and with subtlety within their personal networks. Avoid providing unnecessary unnecessary distractions, over communicating, disproportionately promoting or talking about yourself, and posting content that does not accurately portray company policies or a company's brand voice.
3. Have Principles. Play By The "Rules" of The Game.
Every person should have principles, especially when it comes to social media. People like consistency from brands. Create a set of principles or rules to live by on what you will post and what you will not. What are some safe principals? We advocate "Inspiring, Educating, Sharing Insights" when in doubt. When using humor, stay away from sarcasm and any comments that can be misinterpreted. Tell your own story and post meaningful content to your audience. Nobody wants to see a "copy and pasted form response." Write in an authentic way, share interesting nuggets and show there are real people behind your marketing wall. then you will be on the right path.