As a social media consultant, there are a few questions I get all the time from small business owners. They usually run along the lines of:
- “My company’s been around for twenty years and I’ve never done any social media marketing. Why do I have to get into social media marketing now?”
- “I have a brick-and-mortar store and I don’t sell online, do I still need social media?”
- “I only have a small business with a limited budget for advertising, is social media really that effective for me?”
The answer to these questions, in short, is: Yes, you need a social media presence, and there are myriad reasons why. People have written entire books on this very subject, but for now, I’ll give you an abridged version of the most important things social media can do for you, regardless of what type of business you’re in.
Cost Management and Customer Reach
One of the great misconceptions that many business people have, especially those in management I’ve found, is that social media is somehow “easy” or “free.” This misconception is easy to hold because good social media campaigns rely on an element of illusion – they don’t look complicated because they provide a clean, simple user experience for the customer, but they are intricately calculated and constructed on the back end.
Think of social media marketing like attending an amazing public event, like a concert in the park. The venue and all its amenities are free and open to the public, drinks and hors d’oeuvres may be provided, and the music is spectacular. You show up, enjoy the concert, chat with your friends, and leave. This is what it’s like to use social media. You log into your Facebook, see what’s going on, connect with your friends, then close the tab and move on to something else.
But to market on social media is like being the event organizer. The event organizer has to rent the venue, pay the musicians, pay the caterers, arrange for the advertising, and manage the event in real time. That’s a lot more time, effort and money than the person who just shows up to enjoy the performance. Social media marketing is the same way – it requires research, planning and strategic execution in order to be effective. That’s what makes successful social media campaigns so deceptive; they may seem simple, but they’re only simple because a team of professionals put in the time and effort to make them appear that way.
That being said, one of the great benefits of social media marketing is that, compared to traditional advertising, it’s much easier to manage these costs and ensure that you will see a return on your advertising dollars. All social media platforms offer highly targeted advertising options so that only your potential customers will see the advertising content that you paid for. While TV or radio advertising is like a marketing grenade that blasts an entire area and hopes to hit the target, social media marketing is like a precision laser that strikes only the target it’s aiming for. This means you only pay to advertise to the customers you’re aiming for, and the customers who see your ads are much more likely to respond.
Social Media Drives Traffic, Boosts SEO and Differentiates Your Brand
There are many, many things that determine a website’s SEO, but social media is playing an increasingly relevant role in determining how popular your site will be with the search engines. One of the big reasons for this is that steady traffic is imperative for ranking well in search engines. Bringing 1,000 unique visitors per day to your website is much better for your search rankings than bringing 7,000 visitors on a Sunday afternoon and then having no visitors all week. A consistent social media presence can help drive that steady stream of traffic to your website.
Additionally, the type of traffic that social media can drive to your site is important. I’ll give you an example. If you run a coffee shop, there are very likely a dozen other coffee shops in your area that are closely competitive with your own. If a potential customer hears a 15 second ad on the radio for a coffee shop in your area, they likely won’t remember the exact name of the place and will instead Google “coffee shop in (your city).” They will then explore some coffee shops, check out their web pages, and perhaps choose one to frequent.
This is the type of person you don’t want to come to your website because they don’t know anything about you except for something the vaguely remember from a 15 second ad, and therefore you are no different in their mind than any other coffee shop in their area. However, if you have a consistent social media presence and someone sees an ad for your coffee shop show up in their Twitter feed, they can click on that ad and be taken directly to a page where you have a chance to build rapport with that customer and distinguish yourself from everyone else in your market. If you work in a highly competitive industry or you cater to a niche market, you will recognize how valuable an opportunity that 1-on-1 time with a customer is. Only social media can provide your business with that kind of opportunity.
As Demographics Change, Marketing Must Change
It’s a crazy thing to think about, but Millennials are currently the largest generation in the workforce by number, and they constitute over 20% of discretionary purchases in the marketplace. Over the next decade, these numbers will only continue to grow. Numerous studies have shown time and time again that young people react very differently to advertising than the previous generations. Young professionals don’t want ads; they aren’t watching TV, they don’t listen to the radio, and they use adblock online. Young people want to be reached through stories, not ads, and the only way to achieve that end is through content marketing.
And how do we spread the awesome content we create for our websites? Yeah, you guessed it – we market our content through social media.
Customer Service and Brand Loyalty
Social media gives you the rare opportunity to connect with your customer base in real time. That means if your customers take issue with your product or service, they can contact you directly through your Facebook or Twitter feed and give you constructive feedback about your product. Having these interactions with your customers not only satiates their concerns, but also shows other customers that you genuinely care about them and are willing to work with them to resolve problems and provide the best customer experience.
Additionally, social media allows your followers a way to stay current with the happenings at your company. When a customer likes your Facebook page, they will see posts from your page show up in their Facebook feed. This breeds a sense of familiarity with your brand, like you are another one of the customer’s friends. That familiarity leads to loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion; a customer who feels familiar with your brand will be loyal to you, and a loyal customer will share your content with their own social network, thereby organically increasing your brand exposure.
So I’m convinced my business needs social media…
where do I go from here?
I realize that this article may inspire more questions than it answers, and I realize that I haven’t taught you anything about how to actually use social media for your business. So over the course of the next few weeks, the Logical Entrepreneur blog will publish a series of in-depth articles on how to optimize social media for your business. Remember: Social media is not easy, it’s not always free. It takes time, patience and fortitude to build an effective strategy for your business. But if you put your head down, do the research, build your plan and work your plan to completion, you will see results from social media marketing and it will prove effective for your business.