I told a friend the other day that the gee whiz” days of social media are over. Several years ago, mentioning Facebook in a complete sentence was all the proof you needed for a hefty budget. Now, marketing professionals are looking at their campaigns and asking “Is social media a fit for our business?”
I believe content and social media strategists are still on solid ground. Social media still makes sense. Here’s why:
- Top of mind awareness: While Google is still king of bottom-of-the-funnel marketing chores, Facebook and its social cousins dominate the top of the funnel. An ad placed in a Facebook newsfeed gets noticed. Other platforms like the recently bejeweled Snapchat hypnotizes the 13-34 demographic like the latest episode of Love & Hip Hop. If you need new ways to fill your pipeline, social media still has a dog in the fight.
- Targeted messaging: Facebook’s targeting capability is awe-inspiring (and spooky). Right now, I can put an advertisement in the newsfeed of everyone working within 5 blocks of my favorite Monroe cupcake shop. It’s also relatively cheap to do. Facebook dominates, for the moment, in the targeted advertising arena, but Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter have taken notice. Business marketers hungry for access to the specific segment can expect more options and better pricing as competition increases.
- Product and customer research: In 2013, my team wowed clients by uncovering fascinating tidbits about their customer’s lives. We pulled off our magic trick by spending way too much time staring at Twitter activity feeds. In 2016, our ability to assemble astonishingly precise customer intelligence has evolved. We’re getting to the point that any business that launches without robust customer personae derived from social listening is just being lazy.
All of that sounds great, right? It does if you are the right type of business. For every Casper that plays social with preternatural skill, there is an Uber that can’t seem to get out of its own way. In the rest of the time we have, we’ll discuss how to realistically assess your company’s ability to use social effectively.
Why Social Media Doesn’t Work for Some
We have a free Social Media Fit Checklist for you in The Content Toolbox.
Last weekend, I grabbed a basketball and proceeded to show my boys (all basketball fanatics) that I could pull off a fingertip dunk. I was wrong. Time to work on my fadeaway jumper, there are some things I cannot do.
Social media may be something your business just can’t do. Here are some danger signs.
- Your audience doesn’t rely on social for information about your business: SpaceX has been in the market better carbon composite helium technology for its Falcon 9 rockets. Do you think their procurement manager is digging through their Twitter activity feeds looking for contacts? Nope. Businesses with a very specific, highly technical or esoteric niche will have a tough time finding decision-makers on social media.
- Audience prohibited from engaging (competitive, privacy (i.e. HIPPA): Healthcare companies have an amazing opportunity to use social media. But, most companies are restricted by privacy laws and HIPPA requirements. The same applies to financial services companies and educational institutions. Be careful. An engagement mistake here can be costly.
- Unable to create original content: A few years back, we took on a landscaping client. We came up with a clever tactic that offered landscaping advice via Facebook. The idea worked brilliantly. But the owner of the company called within an hour of the program going live begging us to shut it off immediately. He couldn’t answer the questions. It seems that a landscaping company owner likes cutting lawns not writing content. Go figure. If you don’t have the people or the budget to hire the people to create original content then take a pass on social.
Wait! What about curating content from other sources?
Curating, or cherry-picking and publishing other people’s original content doesn’t build your brand or position you as an authority. All you are doing is using your platform to distribute someone else’s content, building their brand, not yours. Plus, curating content takes time and people (AKA
- Lack of resources for consistent engagement, and community building: Social media marketing is designed to encourage conversation. A successful social media effort will generate questions, requests, and other opportunities for engagement. All of the interaction requires a consistent moderation process and supervision. Unfortunately, this isn’t a part-time job, it requires someone’s full attention. Falling asleep at the wheel can have disastrous results crippling a brand and eroding any goodwill.
What to Do Instead
If social media isn’t a viable marketing channel option focus on what you can do. This isn’t a loss for your business; it can actually be a win. Just like a visually impaired individual hones their other senses, your business can enhance its focus on other channels. Here are three simple ways to start.
- Double down on existing dialogue-ready platforms: It’s easy to overlook email. Email remains an effective marketing channel if used correctly. Unfortunately, many companies still rely on obsolete tactics resulting in diminishing month-over-month results. These underperforming tactics include monthly newsletters, untargeted set-and-forget autoresponder campaigns, and promotional drip campaigns.Rethink your email campaign if you are relying on these tactics.Our research shows that shifting to a behavior-based email strategy can immediately boost opens, click-throughs, and replies. Once you are sending response-friendly email, periodically review your email list to identify comments who routinely open your emails (MailChimp and other email marketing providers offer these open reports). These frequent readers could be a potential prospect hiding in plain sight.
- Use Google Analytics to Listen: Google Analytics is the most valuable and most overlooked tool in your marketing toolbox. Did you know that Google Analytics can detail your audience’s demographic and interest data? Google Analytics also can pinpoint which website pages and/or content is already receiving traffic from 3rd party sites. All of this information can be used to create a buyer persona to guide marketing and sales efforts.
- Put social infrastructure in place: Although your business many not be ready for social media now it’s smart to plan for when you will need the social channel. A nimble competitor or a shift in customer needs can suddenly make social media critical for your business. Here’s what you can do now:
- Original content: Identify subject matter experts who have a natural bent toward writing, interviewing, or speaking. You can look outside your business as well. A popular writer for a trade publication could be a potential freelance content writer for your business. Even better, develop your skills as a content producer.
- Polish Your Story: Brilliant social media is built on compelling story-telling. I’m sure you’ll find that your best sales person is a natural storyteller. Your most dangerous competitor is likely telling a compelling story about who they are and how they help customers. It’s vital that you move from reciting features to telling a benefit story.
- Review resource needs: Most of our clients are shocked to see that they have most of what they need to use the social channel. You can start with a plan, a content producer, and a website to start. Making a list of needs and attaching time and dollar amounts turn a scary abstract idea into a concrete plan of action. You can prepare for a rapid ramp-up even if you can’t use social now.