Starting a social media campaign for your business is like entering into a relationship. For it to succeed over the long term you must be committed to it and have realistic expectations as to what you’ll get out of it.
Current statistics show that that 73% of Twitter registrants have posted fewer than 10 messages and one third have posted none at all.
The majority of Facebook fan pages give visitors no incentive to “like” the page. As well, they rarely develop ongoing communication campaigns catered to their fans.
These trends are a clear indication that both people and businesses are participating in social media with either no plan, no goals, or no idea why.
So before you make your first tweet, create a Facebook fan page, or start searching for Linked In connections, ask yourself these questions. The answers may help you better focus your time, resources, and better understand how to include social media into your company’s marketing program.
Why do I want to participate in social media?
With social media “experts” declaring that any business not tweeting or without a Facebook fan page is losing business to competitors, many entrepreneurs feel compelled to participate out of fear. This just leads to frustration when time and money is spent on setting up accounts and custom pages, only to not see any measurable results. The fact is that social media is like any other marketing tool and may not be right for every business. Even so, it must still be used effectively, perhaps as part of a bigger campaign, for any benefits to be seen.
Do I have the time and resources?
Unlike conventional marketing such as ads in a newspaper, direct mail, or even a web site, social media requires continuous attention. Depending on your business, this could range from a few minutes a day to over an hour. Do you have the time, desire and patience to make regular and relevant tweets or update your Facebook page? And while you could have a staff member or virtual assistant do this for you, that means allocating resources and money that you may or may not be able to afford, or could better be used elsewhere.
Can I continuously come up with great content?
Unlike a blog where you can post content on your own schedule, making social media work means posting interesting and relevant content on an ongoing basis. Depending on which guru you listen to, this can mean a few tweets a day to more than 10 per hour. Can you keep up this pace? And do you really have enough to say? Even sharing a mix of personal anecdotes, relevant links, retweets, and business information can only go so far before you start getting mentally exhausted – and frustrated.
What are my goals?
Unless you’re involved in social media for purely social purposes, it’s likely that you are hoping to get some form of financial return out of it. The goals of attracting more clients and more sales is what drives most businesses to social media in the first place. So let’s be realistic – from a business perspective, followers, friends, fans and connections are really nothing more than lists. And if the names on those lists are not the kinds of clients you would like to attract, then you may be preaching to the wrong crowd. The best thing to do is decide what your goals are from the start. For many businesses, clients can come from any geographic area or be any demographic, so social media may be ideal. Think about if you’re trying to create awareness for your company, product, or just you
What are my alternatives?
Social media is just one of hundreds of ways to reach people. Depending on your goals you may find some old fashioned methods produce better results with less resources. Trade shows, direct mail, email, seminars, networking events, newspaper ads, or publicity stunts can still garner the kinds of result you may be looking for. Many companies have successfully used social media to build word-of-mouth “momentum” that originally started from a conventional marketing campaign. Remember the old spice guy? That campaign started as just a television commercial and went on to become the most successful social media campaign ever.
Do people really care?
The open forum concept of Twitter, Facebook and Linked In groups allows for huge numbers of people to talk about common interests. But let’s be honest here. Is your business worthy of discussion? A client of mine who is a self employed dental hygienist was disappointed when her tweets and Facebook postings garnered little response. While they were quality posts, it seemed teeth cleaning was just not a big draw for online discussion. It can be tough to hear, but sometimes the world does not share your passion about your product or service.
How do I measure success?
While many web designers and consultants will point to Google Analytics when asked about return on investment, the fact is that ROI can only be measured in dollars and cents. Your time and resources are worth something, so you must put a value to them and factor that in when developing your social media campaign. If you make $80.00 an hour doing what your core service is, then investing 10 hours in social media will cost you $800.00. If you don’t make that money back in a reasonable period of time, then you will have a negative return. Factor in other costs such as a graphic designer or marketing consultant, and your costs will be even higher. Success should be defined by a set of criteria before you begin your campaign – social media or otherwise.
Think of social media as just one tool in your marketing toolbox. And the most effective marketing campaigns come from knowing what tools to use and when to use them, either alone or in combination.