Like Me? Follow Me.
The only problem is - social media is not designed for marketing, it's designed for socialising. What's more, when you start trying to use it for marketing, you run the risk of alienating potential customers and clients who resent the fact that marketers are intruding into what they see as a private space.
Over the past few months, I-COM has made forays into the murky world of social media marketing; here's what we've learnt:
- Social Media should be PART OF the plan, not THE plan: It's tempting to think of social media as the great white hope, the answer to all our problems. Just get on social media, and everything will be fine. This is not the case - as with every other aspect of online marketing, social media is just one facet of an overall plan. It should not be THE plan.
- Free Stuff Works: Who doesn't love free stuff? It's free after all. Using Twitter and Facebook to give away free stuff in return for 'Likes' and 'Follows' is a great way of building brand awareness. Lets get one thing straight though, giving away free stuff does not necessarily equal increased sales or enquiries. What it does do is generate a great image for your brand online, and help you build a following to market to at a later date.
- Your Social Media campaign NEEDS a goal: There are an awful lot of social media sites out there, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit etc. etc. Without first considering what you want to achieve from a social media campaign, you may find yourself adopting a blanket approach. This is a mistake. It's fine to reserve branded usernames, but spread your social media presence too thinly and you'll come a cropper - you'll waste time on sites that are completely wrong for your brand and you'll never have enough time to spend on any one site to properly engage with the community. You need to consider your goal, identify which sites will best help you achieve this goal and focus on them.
- Integration is key: Integration of social media into your website is essential. By integration, I mean 'Like this on Facebook' buttons and links to 'Follow us on Twitter'. You also need to make sure the traffic is two way - try to think of promotions that will drive traffic from your social media accounts to your website.
- Use of social media does not guarantee increased sales: As much as we'd like it to be, social media is not a sales platform. Yes you can grow a following, use voucher codes to drive traffic to your site, run competitions and giveaways to improve your reputation, design a game or app that goes viral - none of this guarantees that more people will buy your product or complete an enquiry form. But then, nothing can guarantee that. If you'll forgive the hackneyed metaphor, marketing is about getting the horse to water and then trying really hard to make it to drink - unfortunately, horses can be very stubborn.
Don't get me wrong, social media marketing has huge potential. Special offers can drive huge amounts of traffic to your site, and social media is a great way of telling people about them. It's also a fantastic method for increasing brand loyalty and growing the reputation of small, previously unheard of brands.
But, like any other form of marketing, social media campaigns require objectives, careful planning and management of client expectations - it is not the answer to all our prayers, nor is it an EASY way to massively increase your website's goal conversions.
What it is, is an essential part of any current online marketing campaign which, with the right planning and budget, can be very rewarding.