Social media has become huge in the last few years. There are new social media sites that pop up every day. I have been personally involved with social media for about ten years and have found it to be helpful to our freight consulting business. Here are few thoughts on how to make effective us of social media in your company.
Social media is an integral part of a company’s sales and marketing strategy
The first point to consider is that social media should not be looked at independently from a company’s sales and marketing strategy. It should be an integral component and should be used to accomplish a company’s key marketing objectives. The selection, of which media to use, how and when they should be used, should be developed as part of a company’s business plan. The social media strategy should correlate directly with the company’s marketing goals, target markets and revenue targets.
Social media usage should support but not replace other elements of the company’s marketing mix
Social media can be used to increase awareness of the brand and the company’s services, prospect for potential clients, communicate information and/or case histories. Web sites are helpful as a form of passive online brochure. Direct selling can provide face to face communication with clients; Social media can actively seek out and inform prospects and clients of activities and best Ppactices within the industry and the firm. They provide a mechanism for maintaining rapport and loyalty.
Some social media work better for business than others
While there are now a broad range of social media, some have become very popular and effective in certain business applications. LinkedIn can be very useful in identifying and making first contact with prospects or for recruiting potential employees. The search application within LinkedIn allows users to contact prospects that meet specific criteria (i.e. business segment, geography, job title). Unfortunately, many people don’t use this capability effectively. While I periodically receive targeted approaches from interested parties, I too often receive blind requests to join a network. Some people seem to be far more interested in building the size of their network rather than building their business.
Being active and focused on Twitter allows one to establish a large base of followers. Posting interesting and useful content builds awareness of the brand and the businesses’ competencies. Twitter is also a great tool to stay informed of the latest developments on just about any topic.
Being a regular blogger and posting blogs in targeted LinkedIn groups also builds brand awareness. Having been an active blogger for ten years, I have learned that blogging has other benefits. Each blog possesses a set of key words. I am amazed at how often I receive e-mails and calls from potential prospects who find my company through their key word search or who read my blogs on a regular basis. These contacts can lead to a discussion on how we can help them. In some cases, a blog will ultimately lead directly to a business proposal and new business (as does a good website).
Making effective use of social media takes work
Like other aspects of sales and marketing, making effective use of social media takes work, a lot of it. It takes time to write interesting blogs and post them in different groups. It takes time to search LinkedIn for certain potential prospects, write to them and arrange e mail exchanges and/or phone conversations with them. It takes time to participate actively and thoughtfully on Twitter, Google Plus and/or LinkedIn.
If you don’t have time, you have these choices. If you have a budget for a social media person, make the investment. Once you make the investment, make sure you set goals, action plans and measure results. There is no point in hiring social media personnel, no matter how experienced they are, if you don’t monitor results.
If you don’t have the time or the budget to hire someone, you have the choice of starting small (i.e. focus all your efforts in one area (i.e. targeting LinkedIn prospects and following up with only the number of people you can prospect in a week) or postponing your social media launch until there is a person on the team who can devote the necessary time to this activity.
This is not much different from sales. Success in sales requires consistent effort over an extended period of time. Calling or visiting customers once every quarter or six months, with no or minimal follow up, with produce limited results. The same applies to social media. As a company starts to play in this arena, this creates an expectation of ongoing participation. Sporadic social media participation leads to minimal results.
Keep one more tip in mind. One must possess a passion and skill to blog effectively on an ongoing basis. Successful bloggers must continue to produce fresh material. This is not easy for many people.
Personally I very much enjoy participating in the world of social media. I am committed to it and enjoy the interaction and feedback very much. It has been beneficial to my company. Keep these thoughts in mind before you stick your toe in the water.
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