You stand on the platform sweating in the sun.
The edge of the high dive feels like wet sandpaper under your tightly gripped toes.
Waves of chlorine-scented air and children’s shouts waft from the shimmering aqua below.
A voice rises above the rest.
“Just do it,” your brother yells at you. “It’s not that hard, you idiot. Jump!”
Feel pressured to leap into social media marketing?
These days it’s impossible to ignore: Everyone from Oprah to Ashton to the yoga teacher down the block seems to be blogging, updating and tweeting.
The message is loud and clear. “Just do it. It’s not that hard, you idiot. Jump!”
Why dive in over your head?
It’s all so strange and scary. The technology. The digital lingo. The social media cliques.
You don’t feel a part of it. Not even close.
Maybe you’re a copywriter or corporate trainer. A restaurateur. A wedding planner.
Your boldest online endeavor is a website. Or (I won’t tell) yours is one of the 44% of small businesses that don’t own a website.
Why should you tweet? Join Facebook? Make grainy videos for YouTube?
Or why not?
While not a definitive guide, what follows are some pros and cons that may answer a few questions. And help you inch toward a decision.
5 reasons to leap into social media marketing
Social media offers a slew of tangible benefits to small businesses. Online community marketing can…
- Bolster customer relationships. As a small business owner, you know relationships are at the heart of your business. That’s why social media is a natural fit for you. Once you feel comfortable using digital tools and social communities, you’ll see how easy they make it to find common ground, connect and build good will: Social media lets you listen and respond to customers. Its tools help you stay ahead of trends in your industry. Social communities can amplify the voices of your fans and friends—and let you diplomatically manage nay-sayers. Social platforms allow you to easily publish content that’s useful to customers. Content that positions you as an expert and builds authority, trust and credibility.
- Strengthen your brand. When you think of branding, what comes to mind? Walmart? Apple? The Nike swoosh? Likely you see little connection between big brands and your small business. You’re interested in basics: more traffic, better customers and bigger sales. That’s exactly where branding can help. Solid personal and company branding differentiates you in a flooded marketplace. It amplifies your size and authority. It conveys quality and stability. You build online brand when people can find you easily through search engines. When customers hear people—not marketing tools—sing your praises. When customers and prospects use the helpful content you publish. When they see the human being behind your business.
- Drive traffic, generate leads, and boost sales. Back in the day, it wasn’t so hard for businesses to get attention. Marketing was about aggressively—and relentlessly—pushing out company-centric messaging. Today loud, pushy advertising doesn’t get much traction. But social media lets you take a different tack. By building relationship and brand, you become familiar and trusted. Instead of pushing out organization-centric marketing, you pull people in with helpful, relevant content—top tips, links to other sites, social introductions. Now and then—without being sleazy or spammy—you remind folks of the value your products and services provide. You notify them of discounts, sales and special deals. Of course, you can’t force people to buy your stuff. But when they need and want the terrific products you—and only you—provide, whom do you think they’ll turn to? A stranger? Or a friendly, trustworthy community member?
- Low entry costs. Compared to the price of a newspaper ad, direct mail campaign or quality collateral, social media is a steal. You can put up a nice, professionally designed blog for a very reasonable price—or even for free. It costs nothing to join Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare and other social communities. And you don’t have to spend a dime for loads of sophisticated and useful online tools—Google Analytics, Google Places, YouTube, TweetDeck, HootSuite, EverNote, to name a few.
- Level the playing field. You opened your own business because you didn’t want to live and die in Cubicle Nation. You don’t aspire to corporate domination. But admit it: It feels righteous knowing you—the small business David—can compete head to head with Goliath corporations. Digital technology and social communities provide unprecedented opportunities for people who think independently, work hard and take action.
So, it’s that easy? Build a blog and they will come?
5 reasons to think twice before diving into social media marketing
Be wary—be very wary—of wolves in social media lambs’ wool that tell you social marketing is a breeze. While well worth your efforts, it’s work. Hard work. And if you’ve been marketing with traditional tools, social media may also require education—and maybe some attitude adjustment.
Because social tools and communities will not work for you if…
- You think social media is free. Yes, I know I just mentioned the great digital applications that don’t cost a cent. But that doesn’t mean they’re free. Because learning how to use tools—and executing regularly—takes time. It takes time to familiarize yourself with digital communities. It takes time to identify how—specifically—social communities can further your business goals. If you’re new to website technology, you’ll spend hours figuring out how to install a WordPress blog—or finding a trustworthy person to do it for you. After establishing a few hubs, you’ll need to commit hours to listening and parsing conversational context. More hours monitoring buzz with TweetDeck and Twitter Search. And what if you don’t have the extra hours? If you’re too busy managing, meeting, raising money or running operations? Can you hand off social media to someone on staff? Will they need training? Do you need to hire freelancers or consultants for key tasks? It’s true, you won’t spend a bundle if you invest thoughtfully. But don’t kid yourself: Social media marketing is NOT free.
- You expect instant results. Social media marketing is about building authority, credibility, trust and community. Just like in the offline world, it doesn’t happen over night. A lot of your initial work may yield no immediate response: You start by lurking and listening. Then you follow, friend and network. You write posts, articles and blog comments. At a certain point, you feel like it’s going nowhere: You’re throwing your carefully crafted content out into a digital black hole—convinced no one’s listening. But over time, if you’re generous and considerate, if you create useful content, if you respond to people who reach out to you, you find friends, fans and followers. You build community and business. Over time.
- You don’t have specific business goals. Why do you want to use social media marketing? Because people are yelling, “Jump”? Because everyone else seems to be onboard? Because your competitors are on Twitter? Not good enough. Before starting social media initiatives, set concrete business goals: To increase traffic to your website or brick-and-mortar store. To gain permission to market to customers with mail and email. To add people to your mailing list. Generate leads. Make it easier for people to find you—online, through search engines and offline, with maps and geolocation. Handle disgruntled customers. And ask yourself two questions about your social media marketing goals: Do my goals drive action—from me or my customers? Are results measurable?
- Management is hostile. Though social media awareness is spreading rapidly, some businesses—or silos within them—still resist entry. A number of industries—healthcare and pharmaceuticals come to mind—grapple with privacy and regulatory issues. For others, generational norms create resistance. And some companies give social media a grudging nod, but refuse to allocate the time, money or resources needed for success. For social media marketing to work for your business, you need vertical buy-in from everyone in your organization—from the receptionist all the way up to, well, you. Be honest. Do you really want to commit to this?
- You don’t publish content. Much of social media’s power comes from leveraging and linking your unique, useful content—blog posts, tip sheets, white papers, how-to articles, interviews, surveys, videos—across social communities. It’s tough, if not impossible, to reap benefits without good content—and lots of it. Where will you get this content? Will you create it yourself? If not, can you delegate the responsibility to someone else on staff? Will you hire a professional marketing copywriter?
Still not sure if social media marketing is right for you? Need help with content strategy and copywriting? Let’s talk: Contact me today.