As I talk with potential clients about the use of social media as part of their overall marketing mix I have encountered a number of myths, misconceptions and assumptions that are impacting their decision to confidently move forward on social media platforms. Many times the conversations reveal a basic lack of knowledge about social media platforms, how they work and, more importantly, how they can be leveraged to their advantage.
If you don't have all the facts, it's not your fault. Even those of us that swim in fast-running social media waters every day are constantly researching and learning from one another. And just like the doctor whose patient walks through the door armed to teeth with internet research, having a spot on diagnosis that he's never seen, so too does the social media "specialist" get the occasional surprise from a client. Social media is a fast moving target that requires intellectual rigor, marketing smarts and persistent determination to attract and retain clients, members and supporters through relevant, timely conversations.
Once armed with the right information you will be empowered to put a plan in place, test your assumptions and learn as you go. Social media marketing is not a quick fix. It's an essential strategy that, when executed properly, is designed for the long haul.
Social Media's Impact
First things first. If you are unsure of the power of social media's impact, check out this video from Shout Out Digital. Although released in late 2015, it clearly and succinctly provides the right context, foreshadowing social media's continued impact, which has only grown in both influence and sophistication since the video's release. Watch it. It's worth the three minutes.
Now that the stage is set, let's jump into some of the most common misunderstandings surrounding social media marketing.
Social media marketing is a nice to have
If competing in the modern digital age and keeping your brand in front of current and potential customers is not important then you're right; social media marketing is not essential. Rest assured, however, competitors and leaders in your industry, especially at the local level, are using social media to win and retain customers and in the process eating your lunch. They've figured out the platforms and strategies that work for them and, where appropriate, are either turning over their social media strategy and execution to a marketing firm or using a firm to augment and amplify their existing efforts.
Social media marketing is a fad
If the video above wasn't proof enough, Google "social media impact", "social media infographics" or "social media marketing" and you'll quickly see that social media is a Tsunami, the crest of which is just starting to hit. Platforms are maturing. Ever more sophisticated advertising strategies are being enabled almost on a weekly basis. The rise of monster mobile use is being paired with highly functional mobile solutions. The handwriting is on the wall or rather the iPhone. Social media and digital marketing is here to stay.
Okay, so it's not a fad but it's too expensive
When compared with other forms of advertising, getting your message out on social media is actually a steal. The graphic to the right shows the cost per thousand disparity between newspaper, magazine, radio and cable TV advertising when compared with a few social media channels. Price, combined with social media's ability to tailor and target messages to discrete audiences, delivers a low cost, high impact marketing vehicle.
I don't want to be on social media because it's all noise
The more fluent you become, the more you'll realize that social media marketing actually cuts through the general platform noise by reaching your intended audience in a clear, direct way. The art is in sorting through and negotiating the babel.
Strong branding and original content that speaks directly to your targeted audience is what helps differentiate you and your brand from kitten videos (although I personally really like cats and the videos), humans doing incredibly stupid stuff and your friend's latest breakup that really doesn't ever need to see the light of day. By they way, if you're facing far too much clutter in your personal feed simply hide posts from people that are not positively contributing to the conversation. It isn't perfect but it does offer some measure of control and filtering.
A final thought on social media preferences. Even if you personally don't like social media, suck it up and do it for the sake of your business, cause or association. It's where the eyeballs are looking.
So you convinced me but I can do this myself
Sure you can if you work in a company large enough to employ a team of strategists, marketers, content creators and analysts. If, however, you're a small to medium sized business owner, non profit or association currently borrowing bits and pieces of time from a staffer's primary duties, you're likely struggling with relevant, compelling content that is posted on a regular basis; content that will resonate with your audience. If that's the case, work with a social media marketing firm that can lift that burden entirely or augment your efforts. A solid firm should be able to assist with a social media assessment, strategy, content curation/creation and execution and the all-important reporting that lets you know if what you're doing is working.
You said social media marketing was cheap so I can do it all on a shoestring, right?
Not so fast there Tex. I said inexpensive, not cheap. If you have no budget then find some. If you are underfunded you are very likely to fall short of your goals.
While platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and the like are free to join and you can quickly crank up a business presence, that free for all environment is quite literally a free for all. Research, customer avatars, planned campaigns, tightly executed schedules to highly targeted audiences - sometimes across multiple platforms - are exactly why social media marketing firms exist. In many cases, it takes professional management and discipline to help you bring it all together.
OK, I have a confession to make. I don't know or wonder about who my ideal customer actually is or might be
Even if you don't know who your ideal customer is, this very handy customer avatar worksheet from the folks at Digital Marketer can help sort it out. Click below, download and get cracking!