This is a guest post by Tim at HostPapa.
One would have to be blind not to see that social media networks have been some of the most successful performers on the Internet in the last few years. Say the word “Facebook” in nearly any part of the world and it will be recognized. In the past, the most commonly known words were Coca-Cola and “OK.” This is changing. With the combined technologies of high-speed Internet, cheaper laptops, and now the advent of smartphones, it is much easier for the average person to become involved with social media sites.
Naturally, companies both large and small see these as avenues for a new target audience that was previously unheard of. What may come as a surprise, however, is that while 66% of all companies have a Facebook page and 51% have a twitter account, a mere 16% say that their marketing efforts have been fully utilized and integrated into their existing campaign strategies! Take a look below to get a better idea of just where companies are with this process via this study from InSites Consulting and Marketing Profs:
Most companies are still in the very early stages of taking this next step. Just as the “dot com” revolution is still being talked about, many believe that the social network revolution may provide companies with an opportunity to grow as never before. By taking full advantage of all the benefits social media has to offer, a company can expect to achieve three things.
Better Marketing Communications
Any marketing campaign is only as good as its effectiveness in reaching the client. As the saying goes, you can have the best product in the world but if the buyers are not located, it will remain a dream as opposed to a reality. One advantage that social media networks such as Twitter, Blogspot, MySpace and Facebook possess is that of cross-communication. In other words, much of the information is shared across different social sites. Why is this so important?
In the past, marketing strategies would target a certain audience based on the resources available. These days, however, if a company has a profile page on Facebook, for example, cross talk alone can generate interest, because of the fluidity of social media websites. Social media sites have helped do away with many geographical and communicative borders; companies who have listings with these sites can place themselves in a position where such communication can be just as effective as a targeted marketing campaign. In the same way, if one person subscribes to a certain company’s web page, it is likely his or her friends will see it and they, too may become interested. Qualified potential clients can come to the company rather than the other way around!
Higher Customer Satisfaction
When a company is seen as being active on social media sites, it has just established itself as having its proverbial “finger on the pulse” of modern society. In a very real way, people take notice and assume that the company has something to say, that it is part of the community rather than simply a static web page. By posting regular updates that subscribers can see, business can appeal to their tastes and, more importantly, that business also has the ability to follow trends and change strategies based on what the business – that means you – observe.
You will then be able to more accurately cater to your audience’s needs. In the past, a happy customer was a customer who could become a regular customer. Today, a happy customer or client has the ability to recommend your company to others in a similar target audience. The bottom line is simple: social networks can accomplish much of the work that in the past was allocated to the more traditional e-mail campaigns.
Stronger Financial Returns
This final factor should be the most obvious and, at the same time, the most motivating. It only stands to reason that with a larger target base, sales and publicity will naturally increase. One important thing to remember is that there are few if any costs when dealing with social sites. In the past, domain names came with a price tag. Even more relevant was the financial burden which often accompanied building a very good website (web design, maintenance, updates, etc). When a company takes advantage of social media, on the other hand, not only does exposure increase if done in the right manner, but also the financial obligation is little, if any. Add this along to user-friendly site designs and the ability to update within a few seconds, and we see the beginnings of a recipe for success, especially for the small business that may not have the funds available to invest in a major website refurbishment.
Why, then, are more businesses not taking full advantage of the tools in front of them? One of the issues is that many out there still consider the social media market a “niche” sector and haven’t fully implemented their campaigns to include social networking as a part of the overall strategy. Other companies state that not all of their employees are open to newer technologies. Still others just don’t have correct media policies in place; i.e. what can be said, how it can be said, the chain of command to approve updates…the list can go on and on. The main issue tends to revolve around the adaptation to changing technologies and sources of revenue.
According to the results of a survey, only 26% of companies believe that their employees should have sufficient social media training. Of those companies, only 29% had the training in place . Many corporations both large and small are still looking to physical client leads (e-mail generated, mail-shot, etc) as the main source of their revenue, though this figure is slowly changing. The main idea here is simple: because many larger businesses and corporations do not yet have plans or strategies fully worked into their social media audiences, the small and medium-sized business has the opportunity to take advantage of what can be termed a market vacuum.
Tips for Success in a Changing World
If you have something to say, people will listen. It should be more than a sales pitch; the Internet is already full of those! Instead, your posts should focus on your target audience while also demonstrating how much knowledge and experience both you and your company have.
Don’t forget, by posting on social sites you are adding a much-needed human aspect to how your company defines itself. If you present your ideas and approaches in catchy and unique ways, it is more likely that readers will continue to follow your page.
Take an active role! The key word in social networking sites is networking! If you or your company take no more than a phantom’s presence in your marketing approach, don’t expect to make many friends or retain any followers. The more active you are, the more comments you give, and the more feedback you provide, the stronger the relationships you will build with potential and existing clients.
Give regular updates. This is important: the more informed a client is, the more he or she will feel as if they are being directly catered to. This was mentioned in customer satisfaction but should be stated again. To give an update by copying and pasting a link to one of your new products takes no more than a few minutes. It does not require changing e-mail templates or calling that costly web designer to have him revamp part of your website. Don’t let the ease at which posts and updates can be performed detract from how important they are to communicate with clients and followers!
Use tag words as much as possible. Many social sites allow the poster to use these words on blogs and have these tags link directly back to your website. Once again, this shows how easy it is to increase web traffic at no cost whatsoever. With tighter SEO regulations from Google’s introduction of Penguin, it is now more important than ever to take advantage of keywords whenever possible.
Ultimately, what has been witnessed in the last few years may very well be the tip of a large technological and marketing iceberg. By eliminating costs and increasing exposure, social networking sites have opened the floodgates to both novice and professionals to use the tools they have to offer. The audience for these sites tends to be the younger to middle-aged generation, and if they can be exposed to your products or services, each one has the potential to be a costumer for years to come. Not only has marketing gotten much easier, it has never been cheaper or more efficient to reach out to as many people with as little effort.
By opening yourself up now to what advantages may lay ahead, you can get in on the ground floor of a project that looks set to become one of the most lucrative sectors in business in the 21st century.