Social media has been called the “new marketing”, but today that is like calling email the new snail mail. It’s old news, even though there are still a few holdouts that refuse to see the light. The truth is that social media sites are far more than a marketing tool in the current conditions of global business. They are your customer service, your marketing and advertising, your lead generation, and much more. If you have dipped your toes in the water but haven’t taken the plunge, you have wasted time.
On the other side of the coin, if you are giving it a good effort but not seeing results, you are probably not doing it right. Yes, there are indeed right and wrong ways to handle social media, and they make the difference between growth and lost ROI. Here are 5 things you may be doing that you should change immediately.
1. You’re treating it like a hobby
Facebook is fun, Twitter is interesting, Pinterest can be an enjoyable time-killer. If this is how you are viewing these sites, you are already losing the game before you take your first shot. A business on social sites absolutely has to see them as a vital part of everyday business. You wouldn’t tell sales associates “If you happen to talk to anyone this week, see if a few of them would be interested in our product.” Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Yet you are likely treating what is arguably the largest audience you will ever have exactly that way. Just as you do with sales, traditional marketing, human resources, or any other part of your business, you need to think strategically, have a plan, and work that plan. Social media can’t be a part-time endeavor – jump in and go full speed.
2. You’re not focused
Once you understand that this needs to be an integral part of your business strategy from this day forward, you have to know where your strengths are when it comes to the variety of outlets available. Please don’t misunderstand: you should take advantage of every site you can reasonably manage, but they are definitely not all the same.
For instance, Pinterest is the perfect platform for any business which sells physical items. Visuals are one of the most powerful types of posts on the web today. They generate interest quickly and are the most likely to be shared with others. Facebook and Google+ are also good with visuals, but you’ve got to mix them well with text. Twitter requires concise thinking and links. The demographics for each site vary as well. Do your research to know where you fit best and concentrate your efforts there. Don’t leave the others behind, however, as they will still generate some traffic and can be great outlets to link to your stronger areas.
3. You don’t see the big picture
Facebook bought Instagram. Twitter bought Vine. Yahoo bought Tumblr. Google just bought Waze. The web is becoming more of a web, intermingled and more interconnected all the time. An individual site can’t simply be thought of as a single destination anymore, but must be considered a piece of the puzzle or at most a hub of varied activity. How many websites do you see that don’t have “Like” buttons for Facebook or buttons to tweet the page or article for sharing?
Consumers don’t have to visit social sites to share socially anymore, so you have to recognise the larger picture that the pieces form. That being said, it is my opinion that Google+ should not be ignored. Google is essentially becoming the internet, not just being a part of it, and Google+ is the hub around which all of their products will interact. It is currently seen by many as the red-headed stepchild of social media, but the future will bear out a much different picture. I highly suggest that you have a presence there.
4. You won’t shut up
People don’t want to be bombarded with advertising while they are online, and they will quickly “opt-out” if they are. It’s harder to maintain a captive audience online since others can choose whether or not to see your posts. This is different from muting the television when a commercial comes on. They can actually block you from ever showing up in their field of view. This makes it important to be engaging rather than just a non-stop commercial on social sites. Listen to what others have to say and respond to them. Answer questions, whether it’s about your business or not. Helping others is always the best way to gain a following. Be a part of the conversation, not a loudspeaker that makes people plug their ears.
5. You have no idea if you are making an impact
When you send out a flyer in the mail or list a coupon somewhere, do you measure how effective it is by how many are brought in? Of course you do, if you are doing it right. ROI is vital to effective marketing, and the only way to know your ROI is by measuring it. You have to use a dashboard to measure your reach and influence, or the whole exercise is spitting in the wind. If you are just getting started, free options such as Hootesuite are great. As you develop your strategy and gain momentum, you’ll need something more powerful, like Sendible. There are many options to choose from, and they vary in price and scope. Even having these tools will not take the place of the human element however. Eventually, if not immediately, you should hire a social media manager to run your accounts full-time. By eventually I mean soon, not a year from now or even months. Using someone with other responsibilities will definitely detract from your efforts. You wouldn’t want your sales manager to be in charge of your accounting, and social media is as important today to a business as either of these areas, if not more so.