Like Me? Follow Me.
Social media is full of potential faux pas - it has its own complex etiquette, much of which makes little sense to a newcomer; it can be easy to get bogged down in this insular world and forget that what you're doing actually has a real-world purpose.
Objectives are important - in fact I'd say they are the most important thing about any given campaign.
Setting an objective focuses the campaign. Without an objective, it can be easy to feel as if your efforts are aimless, futile even. You, as the business social media user, need to know what it is you're promoting - at the very least it will give you something to talk about.
Typically, social media objectives fall into one of the following categories:
- Reputation management
- Building a brand profile online
- Promoting a specific product, competition or special offer
Of the three, number 2 is the most difficult.
Whilst both reputation management and product promotion have a very definite focus, 'I want to promote X to Y' or 'We have a poor reputation online, therefore we need to engage in a more positive way with our customers and respond to negative comments where possible', as an objective, building a brand profile from scratch lacks focus.
Building a Brand Online
If you're going to attempt to build a profile from the ground up without any existing internet presence (or with just a basic website), you'll need to a) prepare yourself for a long haul; and b) set milestones, or mini objectives.
- Step 1: Research and identify most appropriate social media platforms for your business.
- Step 2: Choose a uniform username (where possible) and reserve this profile on your chosen sites.
- Step 3: Start talking to people.
Social media was not created for businesses, nor was it created for advertising; it was created for people. As a business on a site like Twitter and Facebook, you can't just tell people about your products and hope for the best. You need to have conversations, and you may also need to dream up an interesting online promotion that will get people talking about your business online.
How quickly you start to see results really depends on what it is that you're promoting and how much time you have to spend updating your social media accounts. The amount of time required to quickly and successfully build a brand using social media is huge - ideally you need a dedicated member of staff to monitor your accounts all day, every day - it's a full time job.
It may still be possible to build a brand using less company time, but you need to be aware that this will take a lot longer - to the point where you start to wonder if what you're doing is really worth it.
Is it Worth It?
I believe that yes, it is worthwhile for businesses to spend time using social media sites and talking to their customers.
- Firstly, social media isn't going away; worldwide, Facebook's user numbers surpass 500 million.
- Secondly, the opportunity to talk directly to your entire customer base, or to narrow it down and speak to one specific customer instantly about a given issue, is too good to pass up. It encourages brand loyalty and improves your business's reputation.
- Thirdly, as new tracking tools like Meltwater Buzz are improved and released into the marketplace, it's getting easier to quantify the value your social media activity has for your business. It's still difficult to interpret how much monetary value time spent on Twitter actually has for your business, but at the end of the day social media is more useful as a tool to chat with customers and improve your brand's image than it is for direct sales. In fact, a direct sales approach to Twitter can do more harm than good, as you risk alienating, rather than attracting, potential customers.
It's a new and frightening world and sites like Twitter and Facebook are struggling, just as much as the businesses that use them, to generate revenue from what were, to begin with, purely social tools.
Ignore the rhetoric; at the end of the day social media is, at its most basic level, an opportunity to interact with your clients and customers instantly, and on both a mass and personal level. It gives a face to huge corporations and can give new and smaller businesses exposure on a level they couldn't hope to achieve using traditional marketing methods. If you ask me, that makes it more than worth it.