For many businesses the idea of social media marketing is the next best thing to heaven.
Let’s face it, why wouldn’t they think that? It’s free, or so they mistakenly believe, it opens up a vast new audience, and it has the potential to increase sales exponentially. Who wouldn’t sign on the dotted line if it were couched in those terms? Unfortunately a considerable number of smaller businesses plough headlong into this social media gold rush, and emerge several months later frustrated, because the interest and engagement that was predicted never actually materialised.
So what went wrong?
Why do some small businesses take to social media marketing like a duck to water, whilst others sink like a stone? Well, the answer is actually quite simple: successful businesses plan. They know what they want to achieve and they have a strategy. In the first of this two part article we’ll have a look at some of the mistakes that small businesses make when they jump onto social media platforms too quickly: impatience, a lack of a defined strategy and misconceptions.
Act in haste: repent at leisure.
The problem with any new phenomenon, particularly online phenomena, is that it’s far too easy to get carried away by all the hyped publicity you see and read. We can guarantee we’ve all seen stories emerge where a business crept up under the radar having achieved very little, yet suddenly became a mover and shaker simply because the business signed up to Facebook or Twitter. Now that may well happen of course, but if it does it’s the exception not the rule. Any business that succeeds on social media platforms will have had a plan and a strategy (of which more later), and they’ll know what their ultimate goal is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s more sales or simply greater customer engagement: they’ll have a plan in place.
Signing up to Facebook and creating a home page is the easy bit. The harder part comes when you have to consider what you’ll do next. If all you do is create the page and leave it with simply a welcome message, then frankly it wasn’t worth the bother. If a business is serious about social media marketing, then they have to commit sufficient time and resources to the platform and to try to make a fist of it. The social media is underpinned by engagement, and to understand this engagement you’ll need to know what your customers want and what they’re talking about. You could ideally also do with finding out what your competitors are doing and seeing how they engage. The fundamental rule of social media marketing is not to act in hast, or there’s every likelihood that a business will live to regret it. It’s far better to sit back and watch what’s going on. You should only jump in when you have a complete understanding of the situation.
Know what you want and work out how to achieve it.
The statement is so obvious that it hardly merits a mention, yet canny business people seem to forget all the rules of marketing and jump into the social media without a plan. It’s almost as if they think well, we can always wing it and no-one will be any the wiser. Well, unfortunately they will. Any business that gets involved with social media marketing needs a clear plan and a strategy: having a Facebook page or a Twitter account is simply not enough. So, what sort of questions should they be asking themselves, and what should business plan for?
- Why is your business building a Facebook page?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- Does the business know who its target audience is?
- What sort of content marketing strategy does your business have in place?
- How are you planning to engage with your following, and do you plan to do this on a regular basis?
- What can you offer to followers that will encourage them to become engaged community members?
- What value will you offer them?
- What’s unique about what you offer?
- What results are you looking for and how will you measure them accurately?
The reason why so many businesses have jumped on the social media bandwagon is because it’s free. That’s often what you’ll hear, and strictly speaking that’s true. It doesn’t cost anything to join. Unfortunately there are all sorts of other costs that are not factored into the equation, and these need to be born in mind. Think of a business profile page as merely a blank canvas. What you put on that canvas determines how successful you’re likely to become. That’s where the work lies, and that’s the bit that isn’t free. If you want to build a community, then you’ll have to invest a great deal of time and you’ll have to commit to it fully.