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Social Media Marketing for Business

David A. George

By

May 14, 2013

Social Media Savvy: 7 Things Every Small Business Needs to Know

What if I told you…by the end of this article you WILL be a more savvy and effective solutions-provider, marketer, and communicator to your customers. How? …Because it’s all about empowering yourself to say exactly what you want to say to whomever you want to say it. And it’s more than just posting status updates and pictures of kittens.

It’s more than just increasing your business’s fan base and followers. Marketing studies show that customers are willing to pay a premium price, sometimes up to 20%, as long as the product or service you offer is coupled with the right things!

For those of you with busy schedules that are reading this on your smartphone (but like me, can barely see it because the screen is too dim or the font is too small), on the way to your next meeting, and just want an executive summary, here you go:

1) Content isn’t the key, relationships are.

2) Customer Service can make all the difference (and more money!).

3) Sometimes, avoiding a bad behavior can help increase your social media effectiveness.

4) Planning ahead by creating a content calendar can not only save you time and effort, but simultaneously make you more effective with your social media content.

5) Gain more control over your social media audience and presence when you bring all social media platforms/outlets under one roof.

6) Ever heard of friends-of-fans? You should, because they can be extremely powerful for your brand.

7) If you have ever doubted the effectiveness of advertising through Facebook, maybe this whole time you’ve been thinking and looking for the wrong thing.

Piqued your interest? I hope so. Read on to find out exactly how these 7 things can make you more Social Media Savvy.

All over the Internet you will find the words  “content”  and “content curation” uttered over and over in regards to social media.

It seems that recently, most of the emphasis on how to run “successful” social media campaigns is placed primarily on content, content, content. While it is extremely important for you to provide relevant, interesting, and valuable content to your customers, content isn’t the key.

So what is? I’m glad you asked!

1) Relationships.

Relationships are the key to any long-lasting, successful business strategy. In this day and age, with so many competitors and product variations, having a unique selling proposition is rare. And, with the increase in engagement through digital and social networks, communication with customers is becoming more and more impersonal. We have numerous communication tools like Skype, FaceTime, and ooVoo, but how have they affected the quality of our communication and relationships?

Relationships exist all over the place, in the physical world as well as the virtual one- e.g. relationships between the consumer and service provider, the consumer and a business, and even the consumer and their vast social network of friends.

Because of this interconnected web of people, relationship marketing is critical to your business’s success.

In his video, Socialnomics 3, Erik Qualman states, “The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years.”

Think of it like building piles of human capital through meaningful engagement and communication. This form of capital is your greatest resource. These are people like your return customers who will come back time and again, loyal customers who will defend your product/service against competition, and passionate customers who want to share your offering with everyone they can!

Where do these people come from? Everyone from your email and customer lists, to your blog community, to your Facebook Fans- every single one!

So when the new bike store opens down the street with flashy new frames, custom handle bars, and competitive prices, what keeps your current biking customers from leaving and new customers from passing you up? Everyone knows that your store is the place to go for information, for quality, and for service.

Now, I know what you’re asking…
You love all of your customers, you have a friendly, affable staff that smiles and asks every patron if they need help. So what could you be doing differently?

This brings us to the next important aspect of being Social Media Savvy…

2) Customer Service.

As you all know and have probably experienced, the world wide web has not only radically changed communication, but especially the world of commerce.

Think about it for a second…if online stores can provide more convenience, more options, and lower prices, why hasn’t every store owner just flipped their shop into an inventory warehouse and re-opened under an e-commerce storefront? That would cut out so much overhead!

The answer is simple – by it’s very nature, the web does not allow you to share information in the same way, nor reproduce the same quality interaction, as you can through face-to-face exposure.

But don’t throw in the towel on your online and social media budget, its just time to think a little bit differently about how you do it!

Looking at a recent study by Sitel, a UK-based outsourcing company, you can gain insight on some revealing statistics regarding consumer behaviors online. Here are some interesting facts:

 – 15% of people aged 16-25 use social media to resolve an issue over any alternative method
– 7% of 16-24 year-olds complain on social media, first thing, when they have a problem
– 71% of 16-24 year-olds search for an answer online as their first solution to a problem
– 64% of 44-65 year-olds seek solutions online
– 61% of men and 53% of women use the Internet to search for a solution first

Because the Internet and social media are used so extensively, imagine how devastating a bad customer experience could be for your business. How much damage control would have to be done if your customers turned to social media to voice their opinions about a bad experience they had with you? Conversely, what if you quickly responded to the problem and provided a solution in a friendly, timely manner?

This is where social media and customer service can combine to form a solid, mutually-beneficial bond.

Easy-to-use social platforms (e.g. Facebook groups and blogs) coupled with the ability to provide instantaneous, personal communication (e.g. comment streams) give you the ability to interact with customers’ comments, compliments, concerns, and criticisms in real time, anywhere you go!

Need more motivation to offer incredible customer service?

American Express World Service performed a study, which revealed three main things:

  1. Consumers are willing to pay over 20% more on brands that offer “great” customer service
  2. 80% of those polled engaged with a brand via social media regarding a problem, but due to a lack of service, never made a purchase
  3. 48% who used social media for customer service and had a great experience took the time to publicly post high praise for the brand

So, how can you effectively harness the power of customer service online?

Thanks for asking! Try some of these tips and methods and see how they work for you (and please leave comments!):

– Every single business, no matter big or small, must be logging customer complaints. This will allow you to see exactly where your smallest to biggest problems are by tracking everything from individual complaints to the most frequently asked questions.

– Respond quickly!  And respond directly. The customer with a problem does not need their time wasted and may become easily agitated with extraneous fluff. In addition, don’t wave off the question or concern by passing the customer off to an ambiguous support member that will contact them at an ambiguous time.

– You might consider setting up one or more separate social streams dedicated entirely to customer support.  This creates a clear path that you can easily direct traffic down. Creating a help forum can allow users to browse other customers’ previously asked questions and hopefully find answers on their own (without tying up your support staff’s phones and interrupting their Words With Friends games!).

– Display your customer support staff loudly and proudly!  Even though they are using online resources, customers still want to feel the human element associated with a face-to-face contact.

– And finally, a crowning achievement of great social customer service is integrating multiple support platforms into the customer support call. What does this mean? Pulling up things like the customer’s email account, customer account, and social streams will help give the customer a stonger sense of personal association to your business.

Just like what was mentioned in the previous section on the importance of relationships, treat your customers as your most valuable asset and they will reward you!

3) Plan Ahead.

There has always been a long-going debate on the role of Public Relations in regards to Marketing. Should they both be classified under the Marketing Dept? Or should a PR Dept be its own separate entity? IMO (In My Opinion, for all of you working on your blog-talk), if they’re not in the same department, they better at least be in the same room!

One of the biggest problems that a lot of small businesses face is having enough employees to even create one of these two groups! Many of you are a one-man or one-woman team and don’t have the time or resources to devote to hiring and watching over more people.

So what can you do?
Easy, create a content calendar! A content calendar is a literal calendar of the month ahead, that lays out significant dates and events for you to post about on social media.

 

Here are some quick tips for creating a content calendar:

Give each week a theme, and give relevant information out to your audience about it
– Play off of important dates and events happening during that time (i.e. the ‘official’ first day of Summer).
– Use lots of eye-candy! Pictures speak more than a thousand words, so use that to your advantage (especially since Twitter gives you a whopping 140 characters).
– Ask for involvement from your audience through polls and apps to get them talking! Anything to foster feedback and create comments.
– Offer exclusivity to your Fans. Events and pages that give your Fans exclusive access to anything of value will help create a sense of belonging among them.

4) Manage Your Following.

Following after the “Plan Ahead” phase, it is important to streamline all of your social media outlets. Bringing each of your social media outlets under one roof can really help you analyze what is being said about your business, who is saying it, wherethey are saying it, why they are saying it, and best of all, HOW they are saying it.

There are some great tools available on the internet that can help with this (and some are free)!

Tweetdeck is a free website and browser app that syncs up with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can organize your feeds into custom columns, filter content, and schedule Tweets to be posted from any of your Twitter accounts at any time. Scheduling Tweets is a very useful tool. If you plan out your content calendar at the beginning of each month and set up strategic times to Tweet, Tweetdeck will take care of executing it for you! Or, in case you will be away from work for a little while, you can rest assured that your social media audience will still get your precious announcement.

Hootsuite is a powerful resource that can pull in data from nearly every social platform that you probably use, includingFacebookTwitterLinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, and WordPress.

Not only does this platform have all the functionality of Tweetdeck, it also can give you an analytical analysis, displayed via a lovely report in a format of your choosing! We at Heyo think this powerful social media toolbox is well worth the price of$9.99/month.

 

5) Don’t Forget About Friends-of-Fans.

According to a white paper published by comScore, entitled The Power of Like: How Brands Reach and Influence Fans through Social Media Marketing, that compared to a brand’s Fans, friends-of-Fans made up a much bigger proportion of consumers – 81x bigger, to be exact! This market is reached when Fans engage with your social media, consequently sharing your message with their extended network of friends.

Known as the friends-of-fans effect, Marc Pritchard, CEO of Proctor & Gamble, has this to say about it. “Social Media is not just about the number of fans of friends [your brand has] – it’s the number of fans they have to create amplification.” With Fans enabling this amplification, a series of messages from your brand can increase the overall reach and frequency of these impressions to lighter buyers, and people who are not yet connected to your Fan-base.

Just to give you an idea, in comScore’s Power of Like white paper, it is pointed out that about a year ago, last May, Starbucks reached 10.6 M friends-of-fans, compared to their 6.3 M fans. Imagine how much amplification just one positive customer experience with a fan can create for them!

So what should you do?

The reason this multiplier-effect is so powerful isn’t due to the reach or impact of a brand’s message to friends-of-fans, instead, it is the fan’s influence on their friends. Compared to the average consumer, Fans are certainly more likely to have an affinity to a particular brand and purchase from it, but according to research, so are their friends!

In the Power of Like study, researchers discovered that friends and fans of Starbucks spent 8% more money and had a higher in-store purchase frequency of 11%, compared to Starbucks buyers that were not fans.

Developing a more comprehensive view of your social media audience, and recognizing how important message exposure and amplification are, will help you gain a better perspective on your overall social media effectiveness – pushing you way ahead of those people still wrapped up in clicks and engagement.

 

6) What NOT to Do.

In the realm of social media you can see countless examples of businesses that do bad social media and businesses that do it right. If you find yourself struggling to capture an audience, maybe you don’t need to start doing something, but stop doing something.

Here’s a list of some things you should definitely NOT do when it comes to social media:

1. Don’t be Lazy

Not paying attention to your customers is a sure-fire way to get nowhere, and so is not paying attention to your social media.
As you know, running a business can be awfully aggravating and super stressful. But you know what doesn’t have to be? Your social media content!

According to 2010 statistics, the average American works about 1,778 hours per year– and, unfortunately, I’m sure that number has risen since :( . Most often, this time is spent doing things that are boring and uninteresting, but are required to have a successful business. Want to know what else is required? Great social media content!

The best part about this requirement is, it doesn’t have to be boring and uninteresting (unlike that teacher from Charlie Brown). Creating, finding, and compiling relevant and interesting content can be tons of fun, help your business, and even provide an effective stress reliever!

Another added bonus: you’re still “working”! Just because you’re not talking to customers or correcting your balance sheets doesn’t mean it’s not work :)

2. Don’t be Selfish

Here’s the point of social media: you give to your audience. You give away information that is valuable and might be able to solve a significant problem. Maybe it’s entertaining and keeps people working through the mundane, or maybe you just want to make people laugh.

So you give and give. And give some more.

After a helluva lot of giving, you ask your audience for something in return, in the form of a fantastic offer. A portion of your audience will answer.

Why?
Because if what you are giving to your audience is valuable enough, you fill attract quite a following. How much harder is it to share quality content with a million online users, than just one?

Just remember… in order to make money or procure any other resource from your audience, you must first give them plenty of value to create mutual benefit.

3. Don’t be Impatient

Don’t get frustrated when things feel like they are moving slower than our economic recovery. Building an audience takes time.

Those with a strong reputation online have built it on authority and authenticity. But that didn’t happen overnight.

Why?
For starters, people don’t ascribe value to others immediately. Establishing a quality connection between your expertise and your audience’s needs takes time. Just as we are with our own personal relationships, we don’t automatically let a newcomer into our “circles” of friends.

Second, your audience needs proof. Prove that you deserve your audience’s trust by consistently performing at a certain level. This acceptance process is full of inertia, however. What does that mean? That while it may be a difficult process to gain the trust of your audience, once you’ve established yourself in their minds, it will be very difficult to get out! This is where you can really start to develop quality relationships that will get your audience talking amongst themselves and sharing your content with those around them, in their own “circles.”

There’s a 4th reason, but this comes in the form of its own category…

 

7) Facebook is a Platform.

Facebook is NOT a publisher, so don’t treat it as such.

Recently, a lot of big companies have been doubting their investments in social media, namely Facebook, saying things like ”…some advertisers with big spending accounts are wondering whether they’re getting their money’s worth” –according to the Wall Street Journal.

Why are these companies feeling this way?
Because they are thinking about ROI on advertising through Facebook in the same way we have traditionally thought of print and media in the past- that it’s all about impressions. Dear readers, this is entirely incorrect.

The problem is, the amount of impressions attainable through Facebook is endless! Created by nearly every type of engagement, Facebook impressions are indicative of pretty much any kind  of interaction or exchange of information.

While the publishing marketplace pushes “branding” through instantaneous reach and impact, Facebook fosters branding through frequent, organic engagement over extended periods of time.

The chief function of Facebook is to provide the best possible experience for its users. In the past, advertising mediums (i.e. publications) were used to buffer the friction between consumers and the businesses receiving their money. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of “cookie-cutter” ads (think real estate) and standardized ad units that ultimately became ignored. In today’s platform-driven world, however, advertisers and brands are being forced to develop marketing programs that are better representations of how consumers interact with their media. If they don’t, the brand risks irrelevance.

Placing the blame singularly on Facebook for a lack of advertising ROI, or enough metrics, is like blaming the dealership after you crashed your new car. Facebook places advertisers in the driver’s seat of the experience created both inside and out of Facebook. Yes, Facebook is adapting to the desires of advertisers by offering Facebook ads with rich, increasingly real-time data- but only because that is what advertisers buy. Nonetheless, Facebook truly ascribes its worth and the future of marketing to extracting the most value from relationships, and being the best tool to do it.

Meet 

David A. George I'm a UX + Growth Marketer passionate about people, music, intelligent UX, Android, and breathing underwater. I'd love to connect with you on LinkedIn, Twitter, and on my website.