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Social Media Marketing: It's More Than Friends and Followers

It's become very cool to launch a social media marketing campaign. The internet is changing the way we do business, but most of us are still figuring out how to use it effectively. Social media marketing companies (those who want to help you with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) and internet-marketing companies (which go beyond social media to include building websites, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, etc.) have become ubiquitous.

You can't go to a networking event without running into three or four people who want to help you build your website, improve your SEO, or get more followers for your business - for a price, of course.

The internet, used properly, can be an important part of your marketing mix. Used improperly, it can be a black hole, into which you dump tens of thousands of dollars without results. To maximize the return on your internet-marketing dollar, follow these four tips.

The Basics Still Matter - Launching into a social media or internet marketing campaign without working through the things you learned in Marketing 101, is like firing a shot gun into the darkness and hoping you hit a deer, rather than your neighbor. The chances of a happy outcome are very small. Yet, this often happens. Before you begin, we suggest answering three questions:

  1. Why would a prospective customer buy my product or service rather than a competitor's?

  2. Is there a segment of the market that would value the things that differentiate my product or service and is it large enough to support my business?

  3. What is the most cost effective way to reach this segment with the message that my product or service is different?

An internet marketing campaign or more specifically a social media marketing campaign may be a part of the answer to the third question, but maybe not. It may be more effective to reach your target market through print advertising, radio, television or direct mail. You should only launch an internet marketing campaign if it is the most cost effective way to reach your specific target segment. Assuming you decide that this is the case, you can begin to focus on which social media channel will be best for your business and what creative you should use.

Choose the Right Social Media - Not all social media is created equal. For example, Pinterest, which is image based, may be great for a residential realtor who can post pictures of the homes that he is marketing. It would probably be less useful for a criminal defense attorney. What pictures would she post? In fact, depending on the market segment a company is trying to reach, social media may not be appropriate at all. While we believe that essentially all businesses need a website, if the target market segment is septuagenarians, you may want to rethink launching a Twitter campaign. Unfortunately, we've seen too many social media marketing companies that don't differentiate. They have a set of things they do and they do these same thing for all of their clients regardless of the industry and the company's market focus. The marketing company has one set of tools. They are a solution in search of a problem. They resemble a repairperson who only owns a hammer, so to him everything is a nail. What are the results? Some clients (the lucky ones whose industry and target market segments happen to fit what these firms do) see fabulous results. Others are not as fortunate. These companies spend large amounts of money pursuing a social media strategy that has little hope of working.

Offer Content - In our experience, simply going out on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn with a message that says, "buy our product!" is ineffective at best and potentially value destroying. At some point, you will annoy people with your repeated solicitations. Similarly, we find that posts such as, "just cleaned the cat's litter box," or "sitting in Starbucks enjoying a cup of coffee," do little to increase people's desire to purchase your product or services. Instead, offer value to your prospective customers. Post an article, a link to a blog post, or a video that might be helpful for your target audience. It is completely acceptable to link to the work of others if you give proper attribution. However, if you author the material, you position yourself as an expert. This can be useful in selling your product or services. You have gotten the prospective customer to click through to your blog or website. You have given him or her something of value and made a favorable impression. Perhaps you have positioned yourself as an expert. Now, you are in a much better position to offer something for sale. You can use a banner ad on your blog or invite the prospect to click to the e-commerce portion of your website.

Focus on Sales Not Clicks - One huge problem with some internet marketers is misalignment of objectives. You want to sell your product or service. They measure success in clicks, friends, followers, or some other metric that does not necessarily equate to sales. Our advice: if your goals are not aligned with the firm you are paying for marketing! Otherwise, you are highly likely to find your marketing company charging big fees and declaring success because you have 2,000 more followers. However, if you haven't booked any incremental sales, you shouldn't be celebrating, and neither should the people you are paying. Don't misunderstand. Interim goals are fine. Gaining a certain number of followers and/or obtaining a target click-through rate are wonderful short-term objectives. It is similar to getting a first down in football. However, many a team has gained more first downs than their opponent has, and still lost the game. We all know the final objective is not to get first downs but to score more points than the other team. The final objective of internet marketing is sales, full stop. Don't lose sight of this and don't let those you are paying to help you lose sight of this. The internet in general and social media specifically can be wonderful tools for generating sales. There are fabulous companies that can help you on this journey. However, like all tools, you have to use them properly to produce the desired results. The four tips above will help you choose the right path.

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