Dispelling the myths of Social Media
Saturday, 7th May 2011
by Liam Bateman, Director, The Think Tank
Marketing through Social Media channels has become a commonly discussed subject in recent years. It is a topic that we are regularly asked to explain, clarify and recommend how it can be used to expand and supplement traditional forms of B2B marketing. The topic itself is quite complex, however Social Media can be used effectively to supplement a wide range of marketing activities including Brand Development, Media Relations, Direct Marketing, Promotions and Advertising.
Social Media is being used extensively within the B2C marketing environment however it has only really starting to take hold in business to business marketing recently with many organisations struggling to find justification for engagement. It is essential to ensure that this marketing channel is used to meet specific objectives, expand current marketing activities and not try and replace them.
Social Media campaigns should be developed to ensure relevance to each organisation's marketing objectives, however for those investigating whether they should engage or not we have dispelled a few myths of Social Media that you may wish to consider:
1. We need to use every Social Media channel that we can find.
Many organisations rush into Social Marketing, signing up for every channel that they can find. Social Marketing is like any form of marketing, you need to use the most appropriate mix of channels to meet your objectives and communicate effectively with your audience, whether that is Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Planning a Social Media campaign is essential, as with any marketing activity. Working out what you want to achieve and setting your objectives from the outset will provide focus and direction for your campaign.
Examining your audiences and their interaction with Social channels will guide where and how you engage. It is also important to consider where your content will come from as there is no point in starting to engage your audience and then running out of things to say.
Therefore, deciding which channels to use is a little more complex than it first appears, especially when you consider the resources that you need to invest in making your campaign a success. Always make a targeted choice, based upon your marketing objectives and your audience, to ensure that you are not wasting your efforts.
2. Social Marketing is free!
There is a common perception that engaging with Social Media is free. Well, signing up for the various channels is but the time it takes to set up these channels, engage with them in a timely and frequent manner and the creation of content that people want to engage with is most definitely not.
Engaging in Social Media requires investment in resources to set up channels, create content and engage on an ongoing basis.
a. Set Up
The initial set up of channels requires the creation of profiles, creation and uploading of content and linking of channels that helps to provide users with the maximum opportunity to engage.
b. Building a following
This is a very time consuming activity that needs to be carried out over a period of time to ensure that people find your channels and continue to engage with them. Essential to this is delivering content that your audience sees value in and wants to return time and time again to view more and pass on to their network.
c. Adding content
Content is king in Social Marketing. Generating regular and interesting content is essential in firstly gaining an audience then engaging them and retaining their interest in the future. There are various sources for this content, such as Press Relations, however you should consider where your content is going to come from. You also need to think about who is going to publish it to Social channels in a regular and timely manner. For many organisations this requires a new way of thinking about the materials they generate, considering the wider use of video, images and interactive content.
d. Engaging you audience
Social channels need to be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure that you reply promptly to comments, questions and your followers. For example, as people follow your Twitter feed you should consider whether you want to follow them back, thank them for following you or engage them in conversation. To get best value from your Social Media campaign you need to be responsive to your audience and engage them in dialogue.
e. Reacting to your industry
Depending upon the objectives of your campaign, you may want to monitor and engage with industry media, adding content, comments or opinion on industry topics. But, of course, this also needs to be timely to ensure relevance and requires thought as you are representing the opinion of an organisation.
All of these activities take time and resources to ensure success. There are many tools; good and bad, available to help you achieve this success however nothing in this life is free.
3. If we set up profiles people will follow us
A goal of most marketing activity is to communicate and engage with as many organisations or individuals within a target audience as possible. When using Social Media channels you have to be proactive in letting people know you exist. Building a following in Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, or moving up search engine rankings, such as Google, is essential if you want to meet your marketing objectives.
This will come from active engagement of audiences, publicity of channels through traditional marketing routes and regular addition of relevant and unique content. But, of course this takes time and requires resources.
4. Social Media is just for chatting with friends
This is where Social Media started out and is still predominantly what it is used for however where you have large numbers of individuals congregating there is an opportunity for business.
Social Marketing can be used to achieve various marketing objectives; Brand Building, Promotion and Publicity, Direct Marketing, Education and driving traffic to your web site, to mention just a few. For example; distributing content through Social channels can help to raise your profile as an industry leader and commentator, whilst using Pay per Click in LinkedIn or Facebook can help deliver new customers to your web site.
How you combine these channels and activities will be determined by your marketing objectives and audiences and how successful you are will be determined by how much effort you put into it.
So, to summarise, there are many myths about Social Media however if you plan well, have the right content and apply the correct resource to it then it could become an essential element of your future marketing campaigns.
Social Marketing can act as a valuable extension of your Media Relations activity, help to promote a new product or service or reposition your brand. However you use it, be prepared to get engaged and stay engaged.