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Why Your Business Should be Using Social Media

Social Media Is No Longer An Option...

Is your business still holding out thinking social media is just a passing fad? Social media is no longer an option for businesses, but an integral piece of their overall marketing strategy.

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • The benefits and challenges of social media.
  • Why your business needs a social media strategy and what should be included in it.
  • How to measure your business’s success on social media and determine ROI.
  • Why social media should be integrated with your larger business and marketing goals.

Speaker: Kathy Gray, Brand Engagement Strategist

Watch Time: 00:20:17

Download Why Your Business Should be Using Social Media slides on SlideShare.

[Video Transcript]

This is Kathy Gray, Social Media Marketing Strategist for Pole Position Marketing. Today, we’re going to be talking about why you should use social media for your business. Let’s get started.

First, I think it’s important to explore some of the benefits and challenges of social media. Many businesses jump into social media without a plan, or even knowing what it takes to sustain social media success.

I remember comments when social media first became a hot topic. Business owners were saying it was just a fad. It would pass. “There’s no need to get involved.” Social media has really become a part of our everyday lives. Yes, there are still some holdouts who don’t use it. But for an increasing number of people, social media has become a form of communication secondary in nature like email, texting, or picking up the phone. Adoption of social media only continues to increase.

Pew Internet Research publishes a great study every year on social media adoption and behavior. As you can see, over the past three years, usage only continues to rise. It’s also interesting to note that the percentage of internet users using only one site is decreasing, while we’re seeing an increase in those using two, three, four, or even five sites. It’s not just the social media marketers like me that are on a bunch of channels anymore, it’s the general public as well.

Social media is evolving, but it’s not going anywhere. So what are the benefits of social media for your business? Social media often doesn’t lead to a direct sale. It’s not the direct sales pitch. So how does it benefit a business?

It benefits businesses through branding, customer loyalty, reputation management, authority building, website traffic, increased indirectly search rankings, purchasing decisions, and this is really a big one I think, with purchasing decisions.

Just a few weeks ago, a friend that I grew up with who now lives on the other side of the country posted that she was looking for a new vacuum cleaner, and I happen to have a vacuum cleaner that I love. It’s actually kind of crazy that I’m at this weird stage in my life where I get excited about vacuum cleaners. But she wanted to know who could help her. So I commented back and said, “I have this great vacuum cleaner. I love my Shark Navigator Pro.” Then, a couple of her other friends commented back, “Oh, I have the Shark Navigator Pro, too, and love it.”

What’s interesting is that I bought my Shark Navigator Pro because I saw a blogger that I follow post on social media one night how she had gotten the vacuum cleaner, absolutely loved it. It was the best vacuum cleaner she had ever used. I was in the market, so I took that recommendation and review and ended up purchasing that vacuum cleaner. Two days ago, my friend tags me in a post on Facebook and says, “Thanks for your recommendation. I bought the vacuum cleaner, and it really sucks. But in a good way.” She was really excited about it, and so here two people, myself and my friend, have both bought the Shark Navigator Pro off of recommendations on social media from people we trust.

It’s not just vacuum cleaners that people are buying. It’s insurance products. It’s cars. It’s recommendations on where to travel, where to go, where to stay. A whole variety of different items that people are purchasing that they’re asking their friends and family for advice on, or other people they trust, and also going to review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. All of these together lead to the ROI of social media.

What are the challenges of social media for businesses? These are the three biggest challenges that I see businesses struggling with and the stumbling blocks toward their success. The first is time. Everybody could use more time. I could use, oh, about three extra days in the week to manage work, kids, life, the whole thing. This same thing happens with social media. Even I, as a social media marketing strategist and consultant, struggle to have enough time to stay on top of social media. You could have an entire team that did nothing but social media, and there would be still more opportunities that your business could latch onto and take advantage of, but it’s just not possible. So you need to be realistic and think about the time that you have available to invest in social media.

The second challenge is knowledge. A lot of us who had been traditional marketers before social media came onto the scene are used to that traditional way of marketing to people. But social media is totally different, and you need a different approach because it’s all about the engagement and creating a relationship with your customer versus selling to them. So for some of us, that’s a big switch in the way we think about marketing. There are some great resources online to learn more about social media and increase your knowledge. One place that I send a lot of beginners to is SocialMediaExaminer.com. It’s a great place to go and learn the basics of social media, the best practices, the latest changes to the platforms.

The third challenge is money, another thing that we could all use more of, right? Social media isn’t free. It’s kind of a misnomer. Sure, you can set up your profile for free and you can send out updates for free. But to really take advantage of social media and be successful, you need a mix of organic posting and paid promoted posts, or sponsored updates depending on the channel that you’re using.

It’s very much like Google. With Google, you want your organic listings, and you want your organic listings to bring you traffic, and you want to rank well for your core keywords for your business. But in addition to that, you want to use paid advertising as well, because the mix of organic and paid placements on Google are going to give you the most bang for your buck and the biggest ROI. It’s the same thing on social media. You need that combination of organic and paid.

How are we going to overcome the challenges and reap the benefits of social media? By creating a sound social media strategy. To run a marathon, you prepare. You train. You have a strategy as to how you’re going to complete the goal. You don’t show up on race day with no prep, no training, and finish a marathon. Well, unless you’re my six-year-old daughter who’s cute as a button, and they let you count running the last block across the finish line with your uncle and say that you ran the marathon. But let’s face it. That doesn’t happen.

Aside from the challenges mentioned before, a social media strategy is also going to help you avoid the all too common pitfall of social media ADD. I think every marketer has been there at some point. “Ooh, new network. Shiny. Let’s forget our goals and run after it. Everyone is saying this is the hot new thing. We have to do it.” It’s like an industrial manufacturer wanting to use Pinterest because all of the experts are saying it’s great for referral traffic. Well, Pinterest is great for referral traffic, but it’s only great for referral traffic if your ideal customers are there and actively engaging in the platform.

A strategy that defines your goals, who your ideal customers are, which social networks they use, and tactics to achieve your business goals will help you avoid social media ADD. When that new, shiny channel comes along, you can go back to the social media strategy and ask yourself if this new platform is going to help you achieve your goals or just distract you.

Know thy audience. Know thy audience. Know thy audience. If you take away anything from this presentation it is to know thy audience. Who are you trying to reach and talk to? Is it the nerdy kid, is it the fashionista, or is it the biker?

Develop well-thought-out buyer personas for your ideal customers. Who are they? What age are they? What gender? Where do they live? What are their likes and dislikes? Where do they hang out online? What resources do they consult to make important buying decisions? If you’re B2B, you want to outline their job titles, industries, trade associations, industry publications, etc.

Download our buyer persona worksheet which will help you define each of your ideal customers. The more detail you have on who your customers are, their likes, their dislikes, their demographics, the better you are going to be able to market to them online.

We want to be smart about our social media strategy, so we will create SMART goals. What are smart goals? They’re specific, measurable, attainable, results-based, and time-based. To get our brains working, let’s take a look at some of the types of social media goals. There are branding goals, loyalty, reputation management, customer service, authority and thought leadership, website traffic, and sales and leads.

What’s a bad goal? Collecting fans like Beanie Babies. This is a very bad goal. Maybe I’m dating myself with this, but in the late ’90s Beanie Babies were a hot commodity. I worked at a drugstore during college that sold them, and when they got a new shipment we would have women lined up in front of the door before we opened for the day. It was like the people who camp out overnight for a new iPhone, except this was a $6 stuffed animal. People went crazy for collecting these things.

As an employee, I could buy one of the new releases before we’d open the doors, and I did and I turned around and sold them in our local classifieds to these crazed collectors. I sold Iggy the Iguana for $75. They helped pay for my textbooks. Thank you, crazy Beanie Baby collectors for helping pay for my education. Fast-forward 15 years. The Beanie Babies are practically worthless. I bought all of the Beanie Babies pictured here for $5 at a garage sale. They had the tag protectors on. They had been in some case somewhere, were practically brand new. My kids were thrilled, and they play with them and we don’t worry about the tags.

What does this have to do with social media? Buying the Beanie Babies is like buying fans. What do the fan counts really mean to your bottom line? Who are these fans that you’re buying? Sure, you can go to Fbskip.com and buy 1,000 Likes for $25. But who are these people? Do they even care about your business? Will they ever use your products? Fan growth is important. But over the long haul, 100 legitimate fans who care about your business are going to be worth a lot more than 1,000 strangers. But even those 100 legitimate fans will be as worthless as Beanie Babies in 15 years if you don’t engage with them. I use this as an example of a bad goal, because too many businesses focus too much attention on fan growth and not how those fans are engaging with their brand.

Seventy-two percent of consumers expect a brand response within an hour on Twitter when complaining. Twenty-four percent of consumers expect a reply within 30 minutes for either positive or negative inquiries. As time goes on, this window will only get smaller. If you’re a company with a very active consumer base on social media, what’s a better goal than collecting fans like Beanie Babies? A goal that’s smart. This is a customer service-related goal. Consistently respond to questions and feedback within one hour. You can measure it, you can track it, and increased customer service will have a positive impact on your business’s bottom line.

Now, as we’re creating our social media strategy, we want to outline the tactics in the strategy that are going to help us achieve the goals that we have set out, keeping in mind the amount of time and resources that we have available. The opportunities are limitless on social media, and it’s easy to lay out grand plans for all of the things that you could do. But keep it realistic.

With the example goal of consistently responding to questions and feedback on social media within one hour, here are a few tactics we could use. Now, these tactics that you set out are going to depend a lot on where your customers you outline with their buyer personas are active on social media. So this is just an example. Tactic one, set up and monitor Twitter keyword searches to find brand product mentions. If your consumer base is active on Pinterest, implement Pin alerts to receive notifications when someone has pinned an item from your website, and you can go on with tactics that are relative to your business and to your ideal customers.

We know our audience. We’ve decided on SMART goals and outlined tactics to achieve them. So what next? We need to outline how we are going to measure success so that we don’t go into analysis paralysis and can effectively show the C-Suite the impact and results of our marketing efforts. We need to tie goals to metrics to measure success. These are examples of general metrics that can be tracked and tied to goals. The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to measure success. When you get to this stage, you may want to go back to your goals and see how you can make them more specific.

If your goal is to increase website traffic from Pinterest, what increase are you looking for? Is it 5%, 10%, or 15%? If it’s leads, is it five leads or 100? I worked with a lawyer specializing in turnaround management. If he got five leads in a year from social media and one converted, it more than paid for all of his marketing efforts for the entire year, both online and offline. Your metrics need to be applicable and realistic for your business and industry. Five leads may not pay off for your business. A 10% growth from Pinterest may be child’s play for your business. But maybe 5% growth from Pinterest would be huge to your business. It all depends on your business, your goals, and your industries.

How are we going to track these metrics? Here are examples of metrics and the tools you can use to collect them. So engagement, this is your comments, your Likes, your shares. Each of the networks has analytics. Some have more in-depth analytics than others. YouTube, great in-depth analytics. Facebook has really good in-depth analytics. Twitter is getting there. So it’s going to really depend on the channel you’re using. I personally like to use the tool True Social Metrics that pulls in my metrics from all the different channels into one spot. The other great thing about True Social Metrics is that I can track my competitors’ engagement metrics, and they have a relative metric score. So I know, relative to the number of followers both the client has and the competitor has, how they compare apples to apples.

Another source of engagement metrics is scheduling tools. Buffer, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, they all offer some level of analytics. When you’re looking at your brand metrics like mentions and reviews, here are just a few different services you can use. There’s Mention, Social Mention, Google Alerts, and the networks themselves.

Let’s look at your website. We want to see social referral traffic and organic search traffic. If you’re doing paid ads, you’re also going to look in your campaign traffic and metrics, and these would all be through Google Analytics which is free. Purchasing decision, so these are leads, sales, and repeat business and these can be tracked through conversion tracking in Google Analytics. Many e-commerce platforms also offer conversion tracking. Or in-store, people will come into your store from social media. It may not be direct all the time. But there are ways to track, especially through things like coupons and special offers.

When we think social media, we often think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and only inside of those networks. The danger with social media activity only on those networks is that you don’t own your space. You’re essentially renting space on them. How are you going to connect your activity on this rented space to your owned real estate on the web?

Blogging is a great way to engage your audience on rented space with your own space. I’m talking a blog on your website. Tumblr, Medium, and other blogging platforms outside your website have their place. But with a blog on your website, you totally own and control the space and interaction. They can serve as a great way to attract social traffic to your website and into your sales funnel. You own the interaction when it happens on your website’s blog.

Email marketing has a higher conversion rate than social media. It takes less buy-in on the part of the consumer to Like or follow you on social media than it does to give you their email address. It’s like moving from a first date or second date to calling someone your girlfriend or boyfriend. Once they take the relationship to the next step and give you their email address, they’re getting even closer to the final step of marriage, or really, in this case, conversion. So we bring them in at the top of the funnel with social media. We send them to a landing page that has a lead generation form, and we collect their email address, and then you start up your email marketing which will eventually lead to their sale.

Marketing doesn’t begin and end with social media. It doesn’t begin and end online. Building a strong brand throughout all of your marketing channels, both online and offline, will ensure that your followers will follow you when networks fade away and others come into favor. Remember Myspace? I was there, but I followed the brands I had a strong relationship with when they moved to Facebook, when they moved to Twitter, now when they’re moving to Pinterest or Tumblr, or the other new networks that are coming up. So make sure that you are building your brand on all possible networks, channels, print, online, offline. A strong brand will help you weather every single storm.

Have questions or thoughts? Give me a shout. You can find me on Twitter @KAGray, or email me.