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The social media opportunity - Strategy

“Likes” and “Followers” become valuable when they connect to your brand via a coherent sales strategy. We build Client revenues through online networking and sales channel development, web promotions, and geo-targeting.

  • Tap in to online discussions that your customers are accessing to inform their buying decisions
  • Use online display ads, together with re-marketing and key-word advertising to build impressions
  • Micro-target your advertising spend by IP-address to attract customers in specific geographic markets

Strategy | Messaging | Online Advertising | Sales Tools

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you build a trustworthy brand “personality” over social media channels?

It is no accident that the term social media begins with the word “social”. As a socialsphere participant, you’ve entered a realm of real-time, person-to-person interaction – where the barriers to customer communication are almost nonexistent. And as is the case in all social situations, people form lasting impressions of one another, ones that define relationships!

Think about what you value most when meeting others. First, you want to talk to people who share your interests, ones who provide valuable information or perspectives. You gravitate to good listeners, people whose feedback helps you solve your own problems. And you appreciate openness, where a person is as honest about their weaknesses as they are about their strengths.

Inforgraphic small business social media paradox It is easy to trust individuals who interact with you in this way. And it is easy to trust and buy
from companies whose voice and actions across social media channels reflect these values. The goal, then, is to focus on serving the needs and interests of your customers. The better you are able do this, the more positive brand equity you’ll realize throughout your growing marketplace.

As you develop and expand your participation across numerous social channels, you can emerge as a “thought leader” within your marketplace. This coveted title reflects that you are both immediately recognizable as a credible industry voice, but also a worthwhile “go to” person for answers, assistance, as well as products and services!

We all hope to earn this level of recognition, but you don’t need to be a global thought leader to enjoy the benefits that this trusted position imparts. There’s always a limit to how much new business any of us can handle, so don’t let your ego cause you to lose track of how much can be gained by being a thought leader – even if it’s just in one single online forum.

2. How do you select the right social media platforms for your business?

Being “liked” or even “followed” is not sufficient reason to invest in a social media program. When you’re spending your company’s time and resources, you’ll need to demonstrate a tangible return on investment – results such as significant sales gains, expanded market share, new business alliances, and better marketing intelligence. Fortunately all this is possible!

The key is to plan your social media strategy so that it will answer your most pressing business problems. Define your goals narrowly at first, and as you gain experience and momentum, your socially-enabled ROI can be as broad and far-reaching as you are willing to push it. But you’ll need to focus and be disciplined to succeed, and have the right resources. So plan accordingly!

Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and other feeds are the building blocks of your program. The mix of channels that will serve you best depends on the buyers you want to reach. Product and service suppliers will use a different mix of channels from one another, as will business-to-business versus business-to-consumer companies.

If you’re a service provider, join the discussion groups where suppliers and customers involved in your field share their questions and answers. Google+ and LinkedIn will likely be important channels where you can expand your influence. Locate the bloggers who write on the subjects that affect your customers, and check the “how to” videos your competitors post on YouTube.

If you sell physical goods, you’ll need to exploit the visual appeal of your products, and their practical value as well. YouTube, Pinterest, and Tumblr are great places to make these sorts of impressions. Offering to provide you products to bloggers so that they can write about them is also great for business. And be particularly vigilant to monitor any user reviews or questions.

Once you’ve chosen your platforms and joined the appropriate online communities, begin your social media involvement by monitoring your customers’ posts, together with the responses they generate. You’ll quickly see how your competitors provide the value that keeps your customers engaged. When you’re ready, roll up your sleeves and join in!

3. How do people communicate over social media feeds?

Once you begin using social media, much of how it works will explain itself. However, if you need a quick orientation, Google a question such as, “What are the best features of LinkedIn for business?” If you do this for all the social platforms you’re planning to use, you’ll soon know enough to get started. Begin by setting up a personal account at each site you intend to use.

It is fairly easy to learn your way around and to use these sites once you join. They all share similar conventions, and all have excellent “Help” pages to answer specific questions. Finding your online communities is as simple as doing a Site Search from the local search engine. Start by searching on your competitors’ names, or search for the products or services you provide. 

You’ll immediately begin to understand why so many people recommend that companies participate in these online communities. In general here’s what you’ll find.

Twitter will certainly be an important and very flexible social feed for you to master. Tweets are short bursts of information, limited to just 140 characters each! Companies use them to share ideas, opinions, photos and notifications. They’re also used to share links to information – yours or other posters’. Tweets can be retweeted (RTs), and can be used to link or connect people.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ provide a broad range of posting options, allowing you to post a variety of content in many different formats, word lengths, and media-types. They also support cross-linking and communication between users. LinkedIn and Google+ are particularly useful in B2B markets, because they host groups that are dedicated to specific types of users.

Sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube and others primarily feature visual posts such as photos, animated gifs and slide show-like content. Some sites support posts of other content, such as audio and video feeds. The ease of producing rich media content, together with the simplicity of posting enables companies with tremendous creative flexibility.

4. How do you build sales by “providing value” over social media channels?

As marketers, we spend a lot of time considering the value proposition we offer our customers. In your role as your company’s social media ambassador, your job is to actively listen for the needs of your marketplace, and then draw on your skills and knowledge to provide answers that help your customers accomplish their goals. And you’ll find many opportunities to do so.

Social networks form all the time over social media. People gather in various forums to discuss products, applications, and practical problems – sharing information, links to various kinds of resources, advice, opinions, and lending assistance. In fact, these online discussions have largely replaced face-to-face meetings and phone calls. And they are open for everyone to join in!

When you find a question that fits your knowledge-set, answer it as thoroughly as you can, holding nothing back! Don’t address the poster as a “prospect” you’re trying to “sell”, think of them as a “customer” needing service, and give them everything you can until they’re thoroughly satisfied! This act of giving is visible to hundreds, if not thousands of prospects.

If you sell products, respond to your online reviews and those of competitors. When you’re being complemented, thank the writer, and tell them how their feedback will help you to better serve your market. If you’re being criticized, explain the steps you’ll take to improve what you deliver. You also can respectfully share your views in discussions of your competitors’ products!

It’s possible to adapt this approach, by producing and sharing short slide presentations or videos – suitable to post over a wide variety of social platforms from Facebook to Google+; and from YouTube to Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Flickr. So long as your message is useful and well presented, online audiences will be satisfied with self-authored, low-tech production values.

You also can adapt your company’s brochure materials – or write new content – and then offer this content as downloads to answer any questions or concerns that are routinely raised across online forums. Offer PDFs of these materials at your website, Tweet on their availability, and adapt segments of this work to produce a series of blogs that you publish online


 

These are ideal ways to create a unique identity while gaining online exposure. By being selective about which questions and online discussions you answer and join, you’ll be able to showcase your full range of talents and expertise. Your investment of time is well worthwhile, as it will help build awareness and acceptance of your brand across your entire marketplace.

5. How do you do an online promotion that also “contributes value”?

Social media is a powerful communications engine, but it’s important not lose track of the opportunity to integrate it with the rest of your marketing and sales program. There are numerous forms of online advertising that can naturally complement social media to extend your reach and significantly build the awareness and participation of your online audience.

The first thing to consider is the use pay-per-click keyword advertising. If you’re not using this cost-effective form of advertising, you should be! Some companies operate self-administered keyword programs, while others use subscription services that apply advanced logarithms to automate buying. They also offer detail tracking and reporting of web events and conversions.

Pay-per-click is useful for promoting everything from your company’s website, to new products and services, and even your latest social media feeds.

Online display ads are another powerful way to gain consumer awareness online. Many broker sell these ad placements, making it simple to cost-effectively target customers through hundreds of ad-friendly websites. Most providers also offer remarketing, an innovation that lets you to follow interested prospects online to present them with multiple viewings of your ad.

Despite being global in reach, the internet can support highly targeted advertising within your existing markets. Geo-targeting lets you draw circles as small as three kilometers in diameter around customer clusters, to focus your advertising spend to only IP addresses that fall within your specific geographic target markets. And there are other ways to focus your efforts as well.

Many marketers adapt and use coupon offers and customer contests as online promotions. Others build cross-promotions by forming market alliances with complementary product and service suppliers. These vendors work together, sharing budgets, and leveraging their contact and customer lists to build sales using webinars to online info-summits and seminar webcasts.

The best programs merge online promotions with traditional advertising media to strengthen and broaden campaign appeal. Powerful hybrid programs blend social media and online advertising together with radio, television and exterior display ads such as billboards and transit ads. Some campaigns also utilize direct mail and outbound call centers.

Well-designed campaigns can tackle a multitude of goals, from selling to new buyers to driving repeat business with existing accounts, expanding your brand awareness and equity, as well as increasing traffic to your website. But even more is possible. Because of social media’s interactivity, you can do all this while gathering vital marketing data and customer feedback.

6. How do you connect your marketing strategy to your social media strategy?

When you consider that nearly every customer in your marketplace researches every purchase online before buying, and then doesn’t pull the trigger before checking what other buyers are saying on social media – it’s obvious you need an effective online strategy! Less obvious is how this new online landscape affects the core discipline of brand building and marketing.

In the past companies built their brands though a series of carefully orchestrated public statements. Advertising, public relations, and sales promotions worked together to create a compelling experience of a company’s value proposition. As marketers, we controlled the entire experience, managing the content, frequency, and pacing of our brands’ messaging.

Online search and social media have turned this paradigm on its end. From the moment we enter the marketplace the most powerful statements about our products and services aren’t being made by us – instead they’re being made by consumers themselves, people who might not have ever made a single purchase from us at all!  So how do we adapt?

Fortunately, even in this drastically altered landscape, much of what we’ve always done still applies, particularly as we link our marketing goals to our online strategy. Start with the basics: create a profile of your target customer, their interests and needs; research of your competitors, particularly their online activities; and find the social platforms where your market gathers.

By the time you’ve put this together, much will already have become clear. You’ll know who your customers are, what they want, where they gather online, and what your competitors are saying to them. You’ll know what content to prepare and what “voice” to adopt.  You’ll also have a sense of how closely you’ll need to monitor social feeds and how to post.

Although a new activity for the majority of marketing departments, social media represents a serious concentration of spending for most companies. 30% of those polled have separate budgets for social media, and these budgets are growing fast. You’ll need to advocate for sufficient resources and training to build a team to maintain your competitive advantage.

7. How do I establish a budget for social media?

There are a number of factors that determine the percentage of revenues you should spend on marketing, and from that, your split between traditional marketing costs and online advertising and promotions. The three most important factors to consider are the age and stage of your business, its brand acceptance, and the overall importance of internet to your success.

Online retailers, for example, will spend nearly every marketing dollar available on online marketing; spending on SEO, pay-per-click, email campaigns, social media, banner and display ads, blogs and more. The overall size of this spend will be scaled to the company’s profitability, and will grow year-over-year, keeping pace with the business’ ongoing revenue growth.

Storefront retailers spend more on window signage and displays, and also drive-to-destination advertising via media such as radio, print and TV ads. But even these businesses are spending a growing percentage of their marketing budgets on online advertising. B2B vendors employ a similar approach, but also spend on sales training and tools such as brochures and direct mail.

Inforgraphic small business social media spending In general, most start-ups spend up to 20% of anticipated revenues on marketing and sales support, reducing to between 10-14% as they attain brand and market
recognition. Spending on social media is a relatively new category, but its importance is reflected in the surprisingly high percentage of overall spending in this area – quickly becoming a key costs in most budgets. 

Inforgraphic large business social media spending Surveys indicate that in 2013 the majority of larger businesses allocated as much as 35% of available dollars to digital
marketing. Forecasts predict that this amount will grow substantially, to as much as 50% of all marketing spending by the end of 2015. How much you’ll spend will likely be a factor of norms and competitive pressures within your industry and market niche.

Inforgraphic small business social media spending Here’s a quick snapshot of how most experienced players organize their digital spending. Social media and search engine optimization
(SEO) each claim 25% of the digital marketing budget. Out-bound email campaigns account for approximately 10% of these costs, and a walloping 40% is spent on new content creation. Costs here include writing, as well as video and image costs.

Inforgraphic small business social media spending The social media portion of that spend breaks down as follows. 57% of the cost is dedicated to your key messaging platforms – for most product based
companies, Facebook and/or Google+; and for B2B and service suppliers, Google+ and/or LinkedIn. 13% each is spent on Twitter and YouTube, and another 17% is divided between other platforms such as Pinterest and blog sites.

Inforgraphic small business social media spending Your return on investment depends on the strength of your content strategy, so carefully research how your best competitors conduct themselves in this respect.
Equally important is your SEO and pay-per-click strategy. However, the most effective digital marketers report as much as 42-57% increases in lead generation – making digital your best investment by far!

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