If you run a business and are looking to either consolidate your current market share, or tap into new, uncharted territory, then you’ll have considered online marketing at some stage or other.
Its effectiveness is proven: the success stories are all around us. If you want to get the most from internet marketing though, you have to explore every online option, and this includes social media marketing. Now some companies may blanch at the prospect of maintaining an up to date, 24/7 online presence: that’s understandable really, because it does require time and effort, and you also need to tread carefully as you don’t want to say or quote something that you may later live to regret. But the payback is worth it. If you ignore the social media you do run the risk of being left behind, and that can’t be good for business, can it?
So if you do decide to take the plunge, then you need to think carefully about your strategy and how you’re going to market your product or brand. You want to show this in its best light. So, here are a few tips that will hopefully make taking that initial step just a little bit easier.
Before you commit to launching a Facebook or Twitter campaign, you really need to know what to say and the message you want to get across. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s surprising just how many companies launch straight without having any concrete strategy. What works in magazines or television doesn’t necessarily translate to the internet. Your business needs to be clear about its purpose before it can begin to promote it. What does the brand stand for, what makes it different or unique and what’s the best and most appropriate language to use to re-enforce this message? If your business is clear in its mission and can answer these questions satisfactorily, you’re definitely on the right path.
Be inclusive and interact.
The beauty of the internet is that everyone who uses it can have a voice. For some companies this seen as a curse, but it needn’t be. If you interact with your customers and talk to them, then your business is far more likely to get feedback that will in turn drive you on further. Endorsements from customers hold far more sway with other potential punters than anything you or your marketing material might say. Of course there’s always the risk that the feedback may be negative or critical. There isn’t an option to avoid this unfortunately, you just have to deal with it head on and respond. If your business is open and honest about any mistake it’s made, then people will generally accept that in good faith and move on. Those that refuse to accept any apology were probably never likely to have done so anyway: some people are like that, so say your piece and carry on regardless.
Any social media campaign demands cohesion and relevance: your business is there to sell a product or a lifestyle, so, by and large you should stick to this message and make your position clear. Customers like the familiar and like to know what they’re getting. That doesn’t mean of course that your business can’t occasionally go off on a tangent and include some topical news in your daily blog or tweet. The Red Cross used a topical reference to Charlie Sheen’s rantings and tiger blood in a recent advertisement, and it worked successfully because it stayed on topic: its readers understood why and what it was being used for. Of course, you can go too far sometimes and say things off the cuff that are simply unpalatable – you need look no further than Kenneth Cole and his comments on Egypt for an example.
Know your demographic.
That may also sound too obvious a point to make, but it is important that your business knows its target audience. Social media can certainly help with this because it’s capable of providing you with an untold wealth of information about what your target demographic is interested in. This is the type of information that can be used to drive your content strategy. Of course this may mean to that you have to amend your strategy every now and then depending on what information you receive, but it’s worth the effort as it keeps you and your brand thoroughly up to date. It worked for Starbucks: it changed its strategy when growth stalled and based its new policy on suggestions from the very customers it was serving. It’s now prospering.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules about running an online social media marketing campaign. What works for some, probably won’t work for others. The best anyone can ever do is offer a few a general suggestions and look to the example of those who successfully made the transition. It those companies could make it work, then there’s no reason why yours can’t.