Social media: how important is it really?
We all know (or at least we keep being told, numerous times a day from all sorts of channels), that we need our businesses to be visible (everywhere) and active (constantly) on social media in order to be a success today.
This message of being active and engaged or be there or be square is shouted loud and clear. We are told to “Grow your reach, engage with your community, identify your influencers, join the conversation…….” and other such helpful admonitions.
But despite this noise and enthusiasm, it is not always easy to understand why social media is so very important (especially if you are a B2B), or how best to make social media work effectively for your own business goals. Let’s face it; it can be a bit of a minefield out there, and social media can be very, very confusing especially if you are in a business that has traditionally not “engaged with the community”.
I shall give you an example.
This past weekend I was on a club bike ride and as I peddled along I struck up a conversation with the owner of a large local dental practice. As often happens, he asked me what I did for a living and so I told him (in a nutshell I help businesses communicate how and why they fulfil the needs of their customers through PR, social and content).
My new friend was intrigued but quickly stated that social media wasn’t important to his business but asked me to enlighten him a little bit. So I explained that one of the reasons that social media needs to be a key element of any marketing and communications strategy (no matter if you sell dentures, microchips or dancing lessons), is that increasingly the first place (and sometimes the only place) that a potential customer will get information about a company and its services is through social media.
Maybe it will be through a Facebook comment, maybe a Twitter chat or maybe a LinkedIn share….or all three. Social media will have played a significant role in the journey from a customer identifying that they have a need, and them finding out thatyour business can fulfil that need. Maybe this information won’t have come directly from your own social media channels, perhaps it will have been bounced around a few times. They may have found you through a Facebook review from another customer or maybe a retweet from a partner of yours that they are following. Perhaps they came across your product on the blog of one of the elusive ‘influencers’… The point is, in today’s digital age, (mostly) all information is disseminated with the help of social media.
I then went on to explain to my new dentist friend that social media is also increasingly becoming the location that potential customers, media, partners, suppliers and competitors will go to find out information about you and your business. Profiles have become microsites in their own right and receptacles of the real time information of your business. Quite frankly if you don’t tweet, post and share – you don’t exist.
Once you are convinced (I am pretty sure I convinced the dentist…), that social needs to be an integral part of a marketing communication strategy – what next?
Asking searching questions can help you develop a simple but effective social media strategy. How does social align with your bigger picture goals? Where does PR fit in? How about audiences? What do you need social to achieve to be a success? How will you measure success? What are your underlining messages and where does content fit in?
Get a little old fashioned and grab a pen and paper and brainstorm. It is far more efficient and effective to have an idea of where you want to be and how you can get there, rather than just tweeting ‘blind’. Having a plan for social media, even just a loose one is vital and can save a lot of wasted effort and will ensure that you are using your time and resources wisely – always essential for any marketing effort.