Social Media Marketing For Digital Novices – What Not To Do.

Is your small business looking to take the plunge and dip a toe in the waters of digital marketing?

Are you enticed by the prospect of reaching a wider audience and targeting new markets? Then, social media marketing may be for you. However, there needs to be a word of warning here. Setting up a presence on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ is not an option for the faint hearted or the weak-willed. If you really want to take full advantage of all the benefits that can be reaped through social media marketing, then you’ll need to be confident that the medium is the right fit for your business, and if it is, then you’ll need to be fully committed to the process and quickly learn to master the medium.

So how difficult is it to master the mysterious art of digital marketing?

Well, it’s not that much different from traditional marketing really. Social media marketing relies on the same basic principles as traditional marketing – segmentation, targeting and positioning. Where it differs is in the mechanics. Digital marketing gives business access to a whole new range of tools: the onus is then on each individual business to decide which tools to use for maximum effect.

One major concern for business new to the digital platform, however, is planning. Many newcomers express concern over the difficulties they envisage in planning targeted campaigns in what is perceived to be a rapidly shifting market. Well, according to Dr Leo Flynn, digital marketing lecturer at Dublin City University, these fears are unfounded. Speaking to the Irish Times recently he said that businesses shouldn’t doubt their abilities to adapt to change, after all they’ve successfully managed to cope with the shifting demands of email marketing over the last decade. This sort of flexibility has resulted in astounded rates of return on advertising investment too: according to research by the Direct Marketing Association in February, 2014, the ROI on email marketing in 2013 was 2,500 per cent.

So which platforms will be suited to your business?

Well, Dr Flynn wouldn’t recommend Twitter for starters. Although he may be a big fan of the platform he believes it’s best suited to experienced digital marketers. In the right hands Twitter marketing can be spectacularly successful: in the wrong hands, however, it can be disastrous:

“Social media is very sexy but not necessarily right for every organisation or the best investment of time and effort. There are too many problems with the data,” he said.

He added that whilst tools may be available to help business newcomers analyse the sentiment behind retweets and “likes” on Facebook, he believes these tools are so complex that they may bamboozle the uninitiated. His recommendation is to focus most of effort on the company website, after all this is a business’ portal to the online world: a portal where companies can show their wares to the digital world. What digital novices should be doing is directing all their efforts on what he calls “supercharging traffic.” Businesses can do this either through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter or by blogging and using links to drive traffic to the website from which they can conduct meaningful transactions. What businesses shouldn’t be doing, he argues, is driving traffic away from the website to social media accounts:

“I’m always amazed that one of the first things companies do when you land on their website is send you off to their Facebook page or Twitter account. Content should be the focus of your activity with social media and email as the distribution platform for that content. Drive them to a page with a call to action that leads to a conversation. That becomes your metric for measurement.”

Dr Lynn also warns businesses not to spread themselves too thinly in the digital world.

Too many novices try to gather all the information that’s out there in the ether, but he recommends not getting too hung up on tools, but focusing on a more tradition marketing strategy; that is, targeting their market segment, planning their positioning, and being clear about the business outcomes they are looking for. Once this strategy is clearly defined, then it’s up to the business to make maximum use of all the facets of the social media to achieve their goals.

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