Investing in marketing campaigns can be a nerve-wracking decision for many small- and medium-sized businesses. CEOs and marketing directors know that when you have limited resources, you must be strategic with your budget, and every marketing investment has to pay off.
This is why social media campaigns tend to be the first thing cut. Although free to set up, they take valuable staff resources to manage, and the return on investment (ROI) is not as apparent. While launching a social media campaign likely won’t bring leads and sales pouring in your door tomorrow, when you implement a few social media success strategies, you’ll find it much easier to drive a positive ROI with social that benefits your organization for years to come.
1Reframe your outlook. Many businesses fail at social media because they think it means Facebook or Twitter. Social media is actually much more than that. Rather than putting labels on social media, think of it as a concept. Social media is actually about engaging with your audience in a broader way. Traditional media has always been one directional—you place an ad, the customer calls and you have a private conversation. Social media is the first time where businesses can interact with their community in a public online forum. That openness and transparency is scary to many business owners, but it’s exactly what customers crave.
2 Start small. As you delve into social media, begin with the platforms that can make the biggest difference for you. Usually, this means starting with the three main platforms that can drive results and interaction: Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Depending on your business model, there may be others, but if you are just getting started, this is a great set to begin with.
• Facebook: Facebook has a high adoption rate and people of all ages spend time on this social media platform, thus giving you great exposure.
• LinkedIn: While LinkedIn is not consumer-focused like Facebook, it can help with B2B sales, vendor connections, recruiting and other business needs.
• YouTube: Although a bigger investment than the others, consumers resonate with different types of content, and YouTube videos tend to pay off in the long term.
3 Don’t be boring. Guess what…your brand, services, mission statement and corporate values are boring. Although they may represent you as a company, they don’t represent the human element and personality of your team. Social media is about not only building a community, but also engaging your customers. Doing that requires that you show some serious personality.
For example, if you’re located in a city that has an NFL football team, you can support the local team as part of your company’s personality. Or, if you’re a family-oriented company, you can post updates about your “Take Your Kids to Work Day” and include photos of the event. In essence, it’s about strategically deciding what your company’s culture or persona will be and then posting interesting content that relates to that. This means getting outside your comfort zone and talking about things that interest you as a company, not about your industry, products and services.
4 Don’t over-invest. As you delve into social media, don’t rush out and hire a full-time person to manage it. Instead, start by looking around your company and finding someone (or a team of people) interested in the additional responsibility. Chances are you have someone personally involved in social media who would love to have this as part of their job description. As your social media presence grows and becomes successful, you can see the business case for growing the department.
5 Look beyond the “likes.” Judging a social media campaign solely by the size of your Facebook likes is a bit backwards. Although “likes” can be a good indicator of success, a new Facebook like won’t feed your sales team’s families. In order to measure a successful social campaign, here are a few of the major metrics that social media can influence, and that you can measure:
• Reach, Likes and Shares. This soft metrics of social media lets you know you are keeping your audience, and your customers, engaged.
• Social Referral Traffic and Goal Completions. This is measured through Google analytics. You can figure out who is coming to your stores from social media and actually buying something.
• Social Media Leads. Yes, you can drive business leads from prospects straight from social media.
• Increased Search Engine Rankings. Having a presence on social media can have a huge effect on any other organic or search engine optimization (SEO) programs you are running. Social media can be a key component of driving search engine traffic to your Website.
• Increases in Branded Traffic. If you are keeping your audience engaged and getting prospects warmed up on social, you should see an increase of consumers searching for your brand in search engines.
6 Measure your results based on goals. Now that you know that results are more than just “likes,” decide how you are going to measure results before you start any social media activity, as well as the specific metrics you’ll use to determine success. Social media is just like any other marketing initiative, which means you have to answer some key questions, such as “Why are we doing this?” and “What are we hoping to get from it?”
Each business will have its own definition of social media success. For one business, a metric like sales is vital. Other businesses focus more on market share. Decide before you start what’s important to you. For a free measurement tool, use Google Analytics. For standardized reports, consider using an out-of-the box report suite, such as Sprout Social or Raven Tools.
7 Commit to it. Too often, a small- or medium-sized business sets up a Facebook page, goes gung-ho with it for a few weeks, and then gets busy and forgets about it. That sends a negative message about the business. To avoid this scenario, start small with activity you can handle and stick with it. Post something daily, or at the very least weekly so your company can stay relevant.
Additionally, make sure what you’re doing looks professional by getting custom banners to match your Website. If you are pinching pennies and don’t have a designer in-house for custom designs, you can get something that looks reasonable on sites like Fiverr, or something that looks very professional on sites like 99 Designs. Both are better than just “winging it.”
Social media can be one of the best investments your company makes. The key is to be smart about it and to treat it like any other business activity.
So if you’ve attempted social media in the past but let it go by the wayside, or if you haven’t embarked on this journey yet, now is the time to take the plunge and get on the social media platforms. By following these strategies, you’ll find social media to be a rewarding, enjoyable and profitable endeavor.
Natalie Henley is vice president of client services at Volume 9 Inc., which creates custom search marketing campaigns for clients, including a mix of SEO, search management, social media, local search marketing and Website development. For more information, visit www.volume9inc.com.