Here’s a newsflash for all you business owners out there:
There will always be more advertising and marketing strategies than you have time or money.
Success is about prioritization. I see more and more business owners setting up fan pages for their companies on Facebook, activating Twitter accounts, uploading photos from the staff Halloween party on Flickr and trying to make new friends on LinkedIn. On the one hand, it’s exciting to see business owners embrace new technology. On the other hand, it’s painful knowing that many are only doing so because a friend or fellow business owner told them that they’re missing out.
Before you jump in the social media mix or send us a tweet about what type of coffee you’re about to have (hint: we don’t care!!), it’s important that you A) have clear, measurable goals and objectives for your social media activities and B) you understand the difference between social media marketing and social media networking.
Why are you investing your time (which should have a cost associated with it) in social media vs. other online marketing strategies like: online article submissions, PPC ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing, SEO, re-targeted display ads, email marketing, etc.?
If you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to achieve with your social media activities (in measurable terms), you need to take three steps back before you move forward.
When I see a business owner with a fan page on Facebook, 20 followers on Twitter (when they’ve been on Twitter for several months) and a half-completed LinkedIn profile and I don’t see their business in the first few pages of Google and I don’t see them writing online articles or keeping a blog, I know that their making a colossal mistake. They’re taking a “me too” approach to their online marketing and following the masses. They are also probably engaged in more social media networking than social media marketing.
Each online marketing strategy has pros and cons – depending on the business you’re in – and can be used to achieve a particular result. If you own a service business, you should never invest in social media before maximizing your visibility on the search engines – using a basic SEO and paid search strategy. Search engine marketing will net you far more new customers (that is your goal, right?) than getting a few of your friends and family members to become your “fans” on Facebook.
Before you get started with social media, make sure that it’s the best place to spend your (limited) time – based on your big picture marketing goals. After a quick review, you might determine that setting up a blog and an email newsletter are a far better way to achieve the result you’re seeking than constant status updates on Facebook and Twitter. Alternatively you might find that the audience you’re targeting is only found within the LinkedIn community.
If, through your goal setting process, you determine that social media marketing is a priority for your business, make sure that you’re actually marketing and not just wasting time social media networking! Social media marketing is using social media websites to find prospective customers, raise awareness with them and motivate them to take an action deemed desirable by you. Social media networking is interacting with people via social media channels and unless it’s the result of a targeted social media marketing effort – it’s likely a waste of time.
A fantastic social media marketing strategy (IMHO) is as simple as:
1) Creating compelling content.
Give your prospects information that is truly valuable to them – information that they can use to make a better buying decisions. Don’t worry about those that will take your “free” advice and do things themselves – they’re not your target customer. Create content and share your expertise.
2) Sharing your new content via social media websites.
Think of the social media websites as an extension of your website. Your website is like a large fishing vessel out in the ocean. While you may have schools of fish swimming around your boat, there are other schools of fish miles from your boat and many will never find you if you stick to your current course (marketing strategy). “Seeding” content on social media websites is like launching smaller boats from your main boat so that they can lure new fish back to the mother ship. Compelling content is like well-baited hooks thrown from the smaller fishing boats!
Of course, the difficult part of this simple social media strategy is creating compelling content.
The reality is that for most people, creating great content is very difficult and often time consuming. Doing it well requires the rare combination of subject matter expertise, the ability (and desire) to write, knowledge of your audience and a touch of creativity. If you have these attributes, get busy writing (or recording – podcasts and online videos are great ways to create content). If you lack some of the skills required to create great content, enlist the help of an expert. All sorts of companies offer copywriting or online video production.
Killer content is necessary if you want to maximize your social media marketing return – there’s no way around it.
This leads us back to one of the openers of this post – there will always be more marketing strategies than you have time or money to implement. For most small business owners, time is the most precious resource. Remember this as you sit down to write your third draft of a blog post!
Today, marketing success often depends on ignoring the masses and focusing your finite resources on leverage points within a targeted niche strategies. This might mean social media marketing, but it might also mean a geo-targeted ppc campaign or a vertical social media network on Ning.
Having trouble prioritizing your online marketing? Enlist the help of a good business coach, consultant or an analytics and tracking service like Blue Corona. The question of whether your time/money is best spent on pay per click ads, SEO, email marketing or social media can (and must) be answered.
Think about this next time you tweet to us about what type of coffee you’re about to drink this morning (reminder – we don’t care!!!)!
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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