How Should a Business Start Social Networking?
New clients looking for online marketing (ie, a website, traffic or customers) tend to ask me straight away about social media.
'Isn't this where I can control my business better? I can sell to customers this way. It's quick, yes?'
'Yes and no,' I helpfully explain. 'Usually not directly, but you do have infinite opportunities to improve awareness of your business.'
Although social media (SM) marketing is not necessarily an instant route to sales, after many hours of customer care investment it can certainly precipitate a tide to turn around business. This reply seems to be at odds with the instantaneous nature of say, Twitter. But the point is we're not only talking about selling, but repeat selling, and the right way for a business to approach social networking is by using the following strategy of research and objectivity to optimize its engagement.
Get Up, Get Involved and Get Into It
Business owners on various social media sites or 'platforms' can interact with customers and improve their products and services. The (inherent) dedication they show and the subsequent proving of expertise supports their reputation. The involvement of their audience means that 'followers' are important.
Making customers matter leads to virtual and physical visits and sales. And it's better at a local business level that owners or employees (once set-up, advised and guided) are themselves responding to comments and questions from customers.
With bigger business people are already more aware of general company policy (and standard of customer service), where social media agencies can almost be like another 'plug-in' department. Then perhaps it's appropriate they do the online legwork via an in-house team where the main drive of the marketing message will be dictated from a central office.
But whether or not a specialist and proven SM marketer is in the mix, small traders would be missing the opportunity to formulate their own bespoke and more intimate one-to-one system proving their expertise and customer service to better guarantee loyalty and sales. As James Brown once passionately grunted: "you need to get up, get involved and get into it".
Get to Grips with Social Networking
Social media is any kind of multiple-page online environment or providing (social networking) service that encourages interaction between people. A social network site like Facebook is primarily about hooking up with people, mostly friends and family.
Business networks like LinkedIn are usually B2B and are about contacts and colleagues. Purer social media sites cater for things like pictures, video and music files where the focus of the interaction is about the enthusiasm for the uploaded item. There are social news sites, of course, such as the ad-heavy Buzzfeed. Then there are community (interest specific) and industry forums plus information-only sites like Wikipedia.
Twitter is a law unto itself, mainly positioning its facilitation as a journalistic device. Its use to you on a daily basis though is incalculable and open-ended.
In the end, it doesn't really matter which social network you are using for your enterprise, just as long as you remember: When serving a fickle and frankly random public, you need to be 100% positive, always interacting and vying to understand your followers. This is why I always urge small business owners to have someone on their team who can blog, post, tweet and upload media with authenticity. They can pay someone like me to do it, but it's better to hire someone with long-term experience behind the scenes supporting that effort, offering guidance on copy, SEO, targets, trends, analysis and ideas.
Practice a Mindset for Metastructure
Instead of being blinded by new fads or buzzy networks it's best to relax and take an overview. When I meet with web-expert friends we always discuss new or any social media sites by thinking about its framework or metastructure, asking four question variants:
1. What is it for? (Who is it for?)
2. How/Does it work? (ie. Is it simple to use? Is the user experience good?)
3. How does it help us? (Our own services and clients)
4. What's their financial angle? (What are we being tied into?)
The question you need to answer is the first one, and this will inform your behaviour, specifically if your target audience uses it. Then you will have to learn at least the rudiments of how to use it to exemplify its usefulness.
For example, YouTube is a platform for entertaining, informative, engaging or funny short videos. Post videos of your business with these criteria modeled on the quality and success of others in your sector and you can link them to your network and to your followers of other social sites.
Just remember: Use only the social sites your target audience uses.
Which Sites Are Used by Your Current Customers?
Questions Before Committing to a Platform
So get an overview to tell you not only how it works but why. With another example, if we know Instagram and Pinterest are picture heavy sites that can be linked instantaneously to your phone and pictures uploaded, we can ask:
- Is that any good to us?
- Does it support business?
- Will we need to upload pictures?
- Do we have good, regular updating imagery?
- Can our followers upload and share?
We can see that Pinterest is better for creating mood boards while Instagram's focus is on the uploader and their ongoing 'life in pictures' profile, turning users into influential figures in their chosen fields. They also have short video clips and are freer to promote things they use.
Are either of these sites of use to directly or indirectly marketing your project? If we get the overview first before using them then we can save ourselves time long term by opening an account and closing it, (worse, having a dead one with your profile and no followers).
After you have confirmed your target audience are using the platform, and have understood what the network is for then make sure you research to see if competitors or similar to you are using the network. This will give you guidance about what works and how much you want to emulate or distance yourself from them.
Help People Overcome the Obstacles to Buying
In the End, Be of Help
Once you're posting and raising your profile, such attentiveness doesn't have to be too difficult: My local café's cook posts the day's specials and little time-related offers for free coffee on their Facebook and Instagram pages, direct from the kitchen, straight from her phone. They don't need any more platforms than this.
Don't forget, mobiles these days have higher res images than normal cameras a generation ago and widgets can link it round to Twitter and other platforms with a hashtag for trend jumping and reference. People love the honest, human perspective and you or your employee have the control to make that picture as colourful and enticing as you like. Plus the cook or whoever are more involved, more responsible and even more of an asset to the team.
Above all the way you will succeed in your business using social media is to let social media use you. Be of service. Your platform is another shop outlet, another reception area where you can show-off your expertise. Understanding the perspective of the users who walk in '24/7 from anywhere' is the key.
Once you have followers, fans and regular, repeat customers you can help them become advocates to help you by giving them extras. You can also retarget your loyal customers with offers on items of interest you know they will like and thank you for letting them know about.
© 2018 Jonny Wills