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Issue: March/April 2014
The Key To Effective Marketing Through Social Media
By: Michael Bennett


Do you feel overwhelmed by social media?  If you answered yes, you're not alone.  Many companies, large and small struggle to crack the social media marketing code.  To those who aren't tech savvy, social media marketing seems daunting. 

Yet, engaging in social media is a business imperative that can no longer be avoided.  If your company continues to sit on the sidelines it risks becoming irrelevant.

The good news, once your business becomes vested in social media you'll quickly discover it's a cost effective way to generate new business and build brand awareness.  There are tools galore in the online universe to track social media performance using a variety of metrics.  This allows businesses to exploit the smallest of niche markets to maximum benefit.

Recently, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth conducted its 7th annual survey of 500 Inc. magazine companies.  Inc. is strictly focused on small businesses.  It's the Fortune magazine for the small business community.

The authors' of the study randomly selected 118 small business executives to participate.  Of those, 42 percent reported annual sales of between $3 and $10 million.  About two-thirds of those interviewed had less than 50 employees, and half were founded between 2008 and 2011.Eighty-percent of the companies surveyed had a social media strategy in place.  The survey then broke those numbers down by social media platforms.

  • 88% use Linkedin
  • 84% use Facebook
  • 74% use Twitter
  • 58% use Google+

But wait, these aren't the only social media platforms receiving attention from small businesses.  Blogs play a vital role in many companies.  Fifty-two percent of the Inc. 500 companies surveyed in 2013 have a blog as compared to just 34% of the Fortune 500 companies.  For the Inc. 500 firms, that's an increase of 19% since 2007.

The explosion in technology and mobility makes it easier than ever to reach businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C) through visual online platforms.

  • 50% of small businesses use YouTube
  • 33% of small businesses use Pinterest
  • 18% of small businesses use Instagram

For those who sell travel directly to consumers, it's no secret your task has become increasingly difficult over the past decade.  Why?  Seventy-percent of consumers do their research online before a business knows they are even in the market.

How many travel agents have talked to their clients after the client spent weeks researching their next vacation online?  How many of us check multiple travel search-engines or consult an online travel expert before purchasing airline tickets?

Media and event planners are incorporating social media at such a rapid pace, that it's quickly become the preferred method of communication with attendees.  I've attended numerous events of late offering promotions such as free trips, or mixer invitations simply by texting messages to some number or providing my email address.  The next thing you know, I'm on a mailing list, or I get a new Linkedin request.

Social media marketing is a value-add that deserves a special place in your overall marketing strategy.  Even today's major media companies; NBC, CBS the Los Angeles Times and others incorporate social media to create brand awareness, encourage consumer participation and gather data to better market their products and services.

Positive consumer interaction is a primary goal of social media marketing, but if your overall brand is not up to par, no amount of social media will help you get positive traction.

According to Heidi Cohen, marketing guru whose information can be found on her website Heidicohen.com, the need for social media guidelines is paramount.  Your employees are all involved in some form of social media and represent your firm whether you know it or not, or like it or not.  To protect the employees and your firm, you must establish guidelines.

Cohen says, social media guidelines fall into three main categories:  employees as company representatives; sites you host with employee, customer and public interaction; and non-work interactions.

Rather than creating these guidelines from scratch simply do a Google search on "social media guidelines."  I found hundreds of examples you can use as a template.  Here are a few from heidicohen.com to get you started.

  1. Transparency - Should employees acting as company agents identify themselves?  Should they use their own names and job titles?
  2. Confidentiality - What information should employees be allowed to disclose?
  3. Financials - How should employees discuss corporate results or financial information?
  4. Copyright - How are intellectual property issues handled?
  5. Competitors - Social media forums are typically open to the public.  How should employees treat competitors and their representatives?

Many of the social media marketing objectives below are also part of your overall marketing strategy and aren't necessarily social media specific.

What are your company's goals as it pertains to social media marketing?  Is it to increase sales or drive brand awareness?  Are you looking to acquire new customers, retain old customers or reactivate former customers?  Are you a B2B firm or a B2C company?

Consider whether you are strictly an online business or one that has a product for sale available in retail outlets.  Are you trying to drive your retail customers online, or does your social media strategy engage customers across all distribution outlets.

Identify your target market. Target marketing dictates how your firm integrates all of the various social media platforms available.  Within target marketing are demographic traits such as geographic location
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