Lately, more than any other question I get asked about Social Media. If you’re like most businesses I’ve talked to you’re probably wondering:
- What do you think about social media; is it right for your business?
- How do you implement social services and which ones are best?
- How much does it cost, I’ve heard it can be expensive?
All good questions. And, I’ll be addressing all three here.
First, let’s talk about your website because that’s absolutely mandatory BEFORE you decide to jump into social media. I don’t care who or how you got your website, but you MUST have one. And, without getting too technical, it should be setup in such a way so that it compliments any possible social media marketing you’ll be doing. If you are curious as to whether your website is properly setup, drop me a line (zach – at – atilus dot com) and I’d be happy to take a look. Your website is the glue to your internet marketing efforts. You have a number of different ways to market yourself online, SEO, article marketing, enewsletters, blogging, blah blah blah… but they all come back to your website. They direct traffic back to your website, where your authority in your industry is confirmed, trust in your product(s) is underscored and this is where contacts and sales ACTUALLY happen. It’s just like a conventional brick-and-mortar business, sub in a website for the building, and Internet marketing for any other kind of conventional marketing. You wouldn’t be advertising your product or service without a building or at least a phone number to call for more information would you? Same goes for social media… YOU NEED A WEBSITE.
What is Social Media?
No use talking about all of this, without defining it. For the sake of this essay/article, I’m defining social media as a “social network.” Although other types of technology could possible fall under this category (blogging for example) this doesn’t seem to be what most people are interested in or talking about when they mention “social media…” more often they are referring to Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, etc.
Social Media is it Right For Your Business?
I’m going to go against the grain here and say, social media, is not right for a majority of the businesses we work with. But, notice how I said “we.” A majority of Atilus’ clients have been in the B2B sector, they are businesses that service OTHER businesses. So is social media right for your business? The answer of course is a question: That depends. What kind of business are you? Here’s the breakdown of whether or not it’s right for your business:
- IF YOU ARE A B2B BUSINESS – SOCIAL MEDIA IS TYPICALLY NOT FOR YOU
- IF YOU ARE A B2C BUSINESS – SOCIAL MEDIA IS DEFINITELY FOR YOU
It all comes down to relationships. The problem of “if you should implement social media, or “why should you implement social media marketing” is easily and quickly addressed if you simply analyze your customer relationships. If you’ve spent some time on twitter or facebook you probably understand, in part how people communicate on these services and what they are looking for. They are intensely personal environments, where people connect to each other as well as to brands/products they love. Do you have a product or service that falls into this category? Would adding this help solidify those relationships? Does it enable faster communication, dissemination of information to your customer or clients? If so, then… implement social media now.
How do you implement social services and which ones are best?
Implementing the service(s) is fairly easy. There’s very little technological knowledge or hurdles to over come. However, if you have a proper website, one setup with particular types of technology you may be able to kill a couple of birds with one stone. For example, if you have a blog on your site you can link popular services like Facebook/Twitter to automatically update WHEN you post a NEW article. So you write an article and immediately all of your fans and followers are intantly notified.
What services are best? Well, that depends on you again. What isi your audience, clients, or customers using? And how do YOU plan on using these services. Twitter is very straight forward. A mini-blog, while facebook allows for some other fancier ehancements.
Regardless of WHICH service you use, your priority needs to be dedicating some time to managing your account and relationships across that service. It’s completely useless and a little ugly to have a stale account. Just like a stale website or blog. So you or someone else should dedicate some time to the technology.
How Much Does it Cost?
Free (sort of)!
More than ANY other thing on the web, I think social media is for YOU! AND ONLY YOU! (I’m talking about setup and maintenance here.)
This is a relationship we’re talking about, I don’t think you should be delegating this task or relationship to an outside company, marketing, or *GASP* PR Firm. Are they really going to be able to speak in your voice and handle any situations the exact way you would? Chances are no. Plus, they don’t know your personal friends on Facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. so how are they going to contact them in a personal, meaningful way?
When it comes to implementing social media for your small business – for those most part I recommend doing it yourself, or atleast hiring a company to coach you through setup, and maintenance, which will only take a few hours at most. But, that’s the easy part, the hard part is managing it – and rest assured… that DOES COST. It costs either in YOUR TIME, or in the money you pay an employee to do it.
And keep an eye on it.
In our business, we implemented social media for awhile, it was fairly automated, and allowed us to connect – yet another way – with a group of contacts, particularly through facebook. For the amount of time it took, it WASN’T WORTH IT FOR US TO ACTIVELY MAINTAIN. Your business may be very different. Again, it’s about your clients and what kind of relationships work best with them. If you sell custom furniture keeping an active portfolio and notes about your company up on Facebook is probably a fantastic idea (and solicit your users to take pictures of your products – for a FREE give away).
That last idea is the final thing I’d recommend. Using the tools in a creative way, centered around your business and clients’ wants in order to provide a better experience for your existing customers and recruit new ones. One to many communication, where you speak and your customers read/listen, is no longer the ONLY thing possible. Now you can solicit and get help from your clients – no matter where they are. Use this to your advantage and think about what will prove to your potential customers – watching your service from a distance (in social media-ville) – that they need to act.