I recently took a trip to Atlanta to meet with a couple of clients who have an interest in social media. While there, I had an epiphany that I don’t think many other entrepreneurs realize: social media and content marketing isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a very strategic and methodical process to attract and serve customers. I’ll explain.
Social media is much more than Tweets and Facebook updates. Not to get all Deepak Chopra on you, but it is a mindset (or at least an attitude) that the business owner needs to deeply adopt.
With the rise of social media usage among small businesses, and even social media marketing software made available to thousands of business owners, it’s evident there’s a lot of interest and value in social media. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s easy or necessarily produces the results that we all love to talk about. In a recent study, USA Today stated that 61 percent of small businesses haven’t seen a return on their social media efforts. Despite this, approximately 50 percent are investing even more time into a marketing tactic that isn’t yielding a return.
Yikes, that’s shocking! So, what went wrong?
It’s not hard to Tweet. It’s not difficult to create a Facebook Page. It’s a no-brainer to use YouTube. But why and how you use social media differs greatly for every business. What you publish is the million-dollar question I think everyone is trying to solve. The content marketing industry has grown because of the success of growing an audience and the need to serve them fresh content on a regular basis.
Social media is a long-term investment with questionable outcomes.
I wouldn’t recommend that a business jumps into social media head first without having a history of success in business. Why? Social media amplifies the reality as it pertains to a brand. If your foundation as a business is unstable, then your experiences in social media will be similar.
Some of the best brands across social media aren’t great because of social media, but great because they are great businesses. Social media is just the gateway for an online audience to discover them and interact.
Another complaint I have with using social media as a platform to grow a business is the array of metrics that get in the way of doing good work. There are so many vanity metrics: Likes, Followers, Impressions, Views, etc. These metrics don’t do squat to move the needle in your business. When you get started and focus on these, you are diverting resources away from the parts of the business that matters.
Despite what others say, marketing is hard work. You can’t just spew your website and product in front of people. You have to have it connect with your audience.
Instead of social media, small businesses should focus on their product, customer service and messaging.
Getting your business active in social media should not be the first priority. Should you completely abandon it? No. But you should be focused on your product ensuring that it is top-notch, innovative and delivers on its benefits to customers. Customer service is also a high priority that you need to figure out first. How will you address questions or complaints? A third priority should be to figure out is messaging which entails knowing exactly who your product is designed for, how to summarize it to prospective customers, employees and investors.
These are all much more important than going all-in with a social media strategy. In fact, a successful social media strategy takes into account all the priorities into the business and supports them. The great thing about nailing your product, service and messaging is that using social media will be a natural progression for the business in order to attract interest and deliver even more value to your online audience.
Not all businesses are built to be social.
Some businesses are inherently designed not to be social. Don’t believe me? Think about financial advisers, debt collectors, DUI attorneys and adult product distributors. Your audience may not want to have any association, public or private, with these types of businesses. Are they bad businesses? No. However, they are inherently businesses that people do not want to share.
It’s not just the niches that hold back a business from being social. It can be their industry. For instance, food, and nutritional supplements are regulated by the FDA for their marketing claims. Financial advice is heavily regulated by FDIC, FTC and FINRA regulatory agencies for insider knowledge and deceptive statements. Why does this matter? They regulate all marketing and sales activities to protect consumers and this will severely limit what you can publish across social media.
Basically, some industries are more regulated than others and will limit your ability to market to consumers. Social media could pose more of a liability than function as an asset.
Social media talent isn’t cheap.
Social media is an expensive resource because it means that you need to hire one or more people who will scour the web for any mentions about your business, drive conversation about your business, create content on the fly and educate employees on using social media.
Social media professionals, their salary requirements and capabilities can vary greatly. Salaries can range between $32K and $60K for a professional who will guide and support your business across social media. (Indeed.com has a great tool to measure estimate salaries if you need it.)
Not to self-deprecate myself, but we need guidance, too. So if you hire a social media professional, prepare to spend time with them sharing all aspects of the business. After all, they will be representing your business fully and need to have the license to make appropriate decisions on behalf of you.
Invest wisely in social media.
Social media can quickly consume a lot of time if you’re not careful. As they say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” so you want to understand your key objectives. Is it to generate leads, become noticed by the market or to scale your customer service? Knowing the right business objectives will guide you into the right investments across social media.
No matter what you do, you want to track the performance of your efforts. That could be as simple as measuring the traffic in your web analytics all the way up to tracking lead sources and conversions in your CRM software. Again, if you know what defines success in your business, you can quickly adapt and shift your social media tactics to complement them.
Ready for the next step?
Social media is easier if you have an established business. And by established, I mean you know who your customers are, where they come from and aren’t struggling for marketing resources. If you’ve figured out a great product and you’re ready to take it to the masses and lead some great conversations, then social media is a prudent and wise step.
If your business isn’t quite there yet, I would advise to slowly invest in social media. Diving in head first will only cause you to spin your tires and not actually gain the traction that you need.
If you enjoyed this piece about social media for small businesses, you’ll get a lot of value from our latest social media e-book titled How to Convert Customers from Fans and Followers. It goes in-depth into the right social media strategy that gets results for small business owners.
This post The Fallacy of ‘Easy’ Social Media for Small Businesses was first published on the Big Ideas Blog.