13/02/2014

BLOG: Getting Your Social In Line

How weird is it to think that in 2001 direct email was only just becoming recognised as an effective marketing tool? 12 years later it’s out of date. What’s replaced it is the phenomena called – well if you’re over 25 – social media, but if you’re under 25, there’s no name, really, it’s just everyday life.

Despite the domination of the medium – there’s still a lot of uncertainty about it and lots of people use it really badly. Ten years ago businesses didn’t send out 500,000 direct mail shots explaining what their CEO had for breakfast, so why do they suddenly think that’s an interesting topic of conversation for their corporate Twitter account? Nevertheless, it’s still a very powerful marketing tool, as long as you use it well.

If you can strike up a conversation between your brand and your users it ceases to be just the products or services that sell a company, it’s peer recommendations on digital communities. Thanks to social media even the smallest companies can now become highly regarded within a large community. Some companies are still playing catch up but there’s no excuse for a new company. Social media should be part of your marketing strategy from day one.

That doesn’t mean jumping on Twitter the moment your company is founded and chatting to anyone who’ll listen. Social is a two-way medium and provides a great chance to research your clients, customers and competitors. Use social as part of a listening period, to find out how your potential audience interacts, how they discuss companies and even what your competitors are doing to ‘befriend’ them. It’s never been quicker and cheaper to undertake detailed research before a product is even built, let alone launched.

One fundamental mistake companies make is to view Twitter as the ‘fun side’ of their business, as a separate entity to their marketing strategy. While it’s fine to vary the nature of your messages across platforms, all communications – even tweets – should be part of that strategy. Your social media account shouldn’t be opened until you’ve planned what you want to get from having it.

Some pitfalls seem to be made repeatedly and overkill is a major issue. If you start with all guns blazing, you might build up a quick following, but how are you going to keep that audience engaged? Do you have the resources to keep up that pace of social media in month two, year two? If not then you’re in danger of having a large following but no real connection, and of people leaving you. As they say in Texas: ‘Big hat, no cattle!’

Companies often rush to start advertising on new platforms. While Facebook ads and promoted tweets can work, there is also the risk of alienating potential audiences. This form of marketing should only really be undertaken if there is a very specific, honed reason for it; for example a competition that is region specific and can be advertised just to that region. From a cost perspective I personally don’t see the value, especially not to a small business as it is very difficult to gain a meaningful audience, let alone customers, from social media advertising.

The real skill in social marketing is to measure the right statistics. A lot of companies get het-up with their number of followers but, really, engagement and cut-through with your network is far more important than size. What percentage of your network clicks through from social media to your website? How many people are sharing or retweeting your communications? Are people you meet on networks even becoming customers? These are the meaningful stats that can be measured easily with services such as Clout and Peer Index, and are definitely worth implementing into a wider strategy.

New social media platforms seem to launch every week, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to sign up. Be wary about jumping on to the next big thing; you risk spreading yourself too thin. The move should only be made if your followers are already there, as your company’s social profile needs to be led by your followers, not by trends.

The good news is that social media provides a way for small companies to compete with big business for audience attention. All the opportunities are there for a new company to reach the same amount of eyes as a multi-national, but only if you have rich, relevant content that is rolled out as part of a larger, thought-out strategy.



FUEL COMMUNICATIONS

Fuel’s marketing know-how helps other businesses promote themselves effectively. Over the last few years they have worked with clients as diverse as Plymouth Argyle FC and Tamar Science Park.

Illustrated by Pixillion

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