Is it worth getting on the social media bandwagon? Besides Angry Birds and Farmville, what’s the point? You’ve probably heard this before: social media can help your business reach new, untapped customers. It’s true. I won’t get into the details of why in this article, but according to Nielsen, at this time last year, 75% of the world’s online population was already visiting social networks or blog sites – that means social media is more popular than Google.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a step back in time and talk about the telephone. Telephone marketing started to become successful in the early 1950s. This was the time when DialAmerica Marketing Inc. completely dedicated their products and services to inbound and outbound telephone sales. In the ‘70s and 80’s, telemarketing took hold of the industry and cold calling became a major arsenal for the sales force. Since then, it has progressed down a slippery slope of unsolicited high-pressure sales techniques.
Unsolicited marketing calls at dinner time are now the bane of my existence. Email has a similar rep, but I’ll still put my name on the odd email newsletter signup that promises to send valuable content – now try convincing me to put my phone number on that same mailing list.
Unlike telemarketing, the Internet is regulated by companies that are constantly at battle with unsolicited marketing techniques, aka SPAM. Google gets paid for giving you good search results. Twitter, Facebook, and a myriad of content networks only have value for as long as they can keep users interested with relevant information. The same is required for a good social media marketing campaign. By offering relevant content, it is relatively painless to engage your target market. Being a convenient source of quality content with minimal disruptive behavior is the polar opposite of unsolicited telemarketing.
The bottom line to social media marketing is that although the odd Canucks hockey fan can quickly fill a timeline with #gocanucksgo (my bad), potential customers are finding valuable information about their friends, the buzz in their city, and the low-down on products, support, and service for your company – whether it’s from you or not.
As an example, I was recently talking with Dan Schubert Jr. – the owner of a plumbing company that was founded in 1978. Having used Yellow Page ads as their primary marketing tool up until now, the company has recently started investing in an online presence. Initially, Dan didn’t think he would see any serious impact from their online efforts for at least five years; however, the company’s website traffic is already climbing surprisingly fast.
Despite already having a company website, Dan decided to start a Twitter account: @sph_ltd. It seemed to be the quickest and least time-consuming way to publish information about the company. Instead of flooding the account with promos and coupons, Dan talks with customers about how their service call is going, thanks sub-contractors for the great job, posts a picture or two of job-sites, and talks about his family. I still see the odd ad here and there, but the majority is information that tells more about the person than the product. With that method, when promotions show up in their timeline, it is more of a treat than an advertisement. Here are a few examples:
sph_ltd Dan Schubert Jr.
The heavy equipment has moved onsite today, not sure how experienced the operator is though. http://yfrog.com/h4qrakahj
Like any marketing tool, social media can take a lot of time and effort. This is a challenge for any company – particularly small business owners who never seem to have enough time or resources. With minimal effort, however, many business owners are starting to network online, on top of their regular offline networking like the Chamber of Commerce.
Let me end with a few tips to help you get started and/or moving forward more quickly:
- Take some time to look at what other people are saying in your area: what their interests are, how they talk to each other, what they use for their photo and how you can fit in but also stand out.
- Make sure you read up on the communication standards and understand the lingo of the social medium you are using. What are hashtags, likes, fans, followers, and tiny urls?
- If you don’t have a lot of time, pick one medium so that you can quickly start networking with your current and potential customers.
- Plan to be active on your social media accounts, indefinitely.
- Make sure you engage people: ask them questions about their posts, “like” their content, follow them back, and answer their questions.
- Advertise your account on your website, business cards, invoices, front door, and vehicles, and make sure staff and loyal customers are ready to spread the word.
- Experiment: each company has its niche and will have a unique combination of tools and techniques.
Finally, remember that it is less important how many followers or friends you start off with. A positive and friendly personality will steadily build your customer list. Tweet about your goldfish. I probably won’t think it’s interesting that they like flakes over pellets, but someone out there does.
For more information:
Twitter has put together a simple guide to help you understand what Twitter can do for business and Facebook also has some info in their help section. My Twitter account is @tim_steeves if you would like to follow and chat.