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What is social media? Policy, plan and profitability

What is social media and is it a fad?

I have heard people say, ‘I have no time for social media’, to which I respond, ‘You have no time for marketing your business and building relationships with prospects and customers?’

 

Think about that for a moment.

Yes it takes effort, but so does every aspect of running a successful business, and there are tools available to help you pull it all together. When we put our plan together later on in the chapter, you will see how easy it will be.

 

You may also think that your customers and prospects are not on social media, and so social media can’t help your business. Did you know that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is females over 55, or that LinkedIn’s most popular sector is ‘service’, with personal profiles for everyone from cheese-makers to the President of the United States? There will be a group of people, however large or small, on these channels just waiting for you to put yourself or your brand on their radar.

How cool would it be to get your customers’ feedback in real time, as it is happening? You’ll get both good and not-so-good comments, but the not-so-good comments are as valuable to your business as the good. If the comments show you have an issue in your business that needs fixing, it’s better that you know about it, isn’t it? You can then apologies, react to the issue and make it good, for everyone to see.

Social media is way past the ‘it’s a fad’ stage, and is definitely at the ‘getting results’ stage.

Sharing your life and finding new friends online is the norm for the younger generation. But while I don’t want to share my private life with the masses, I am okay about sharing my business life with anyone who is willing to listen.

Your details are not safe online. Or are they?

The more nervous among us are concerned that all of our details are out there for anyone to steal. But your details can be secured on the vast majority of social media sites, and controlled by yourself (although you do need to double-check your settings occasionally as sites make updates). Remember, too, that your business detailsâ•›—â•›your mobile phone number, your landline and email addressâ•›—â•›are likely already available for all to see on your website, because you want it to be easy for a prospective client or customer to get in touch with you. Of course I wouldn’t suggest you post your address if you work from home, or other sensitive information, but my point is the choice is yours as to how much to share, and you want your business details out there, so it’s a bit of a non-issue.

How are you marketing at the moment?

What do you have in your current marketing toolkit? I suspect it contains things like newsletters, your website, news media articles, internal communications, surveys, TV and radio, events, referrals and the good old telephone business directory. Most if not all of these tools will have a price tag attached to them, with some being out of a lot of companies’ reach. It is not every company that can afford to advertise on TV, and certainly not enough to be effective with an advert over time. Not only can these tools be cost-prohibitive, they can also be a little out of date.

Now consider the social media and online sites that are becoming more and more commonplace. You might not even class some of them as social media, but they are online communication channels nonetheless .

The beauty of social media from a cost point of view is that there really doesn’t need to be any costs involved, apart from your time, so if you are still hanging on to your business directory ad as the most secure way of generating new enquiries, it could be time to think again and move on to something new.

 

Table 1.1: current and new marketing tools

Current marketing tools New marketing tools

Newsletters LinkedIn
News media Twitter
Website Facebook
TV and radio YouTube
Business directory Blog
Referrals Webinars
Surveys Forums
Intranet Podcasts
Other social sites

So what exactly is social media?

The term ‘social media’ can be broken down as ‘social’, because you are being social, and ‘media’, because it is published on the web. It is simply a platform for a conversation that is online rather than the more conventional ways in which we communicate, and so it gives us access to many people at once; the internet has given it scale. You can look at it in two ways: brand awareness, which can be a personal or a business brand; and networking, or building relationships online. The two do cross over, because as you are networking, your brand is becoming more visible at
the same time.

 

I separate the two because I think they can be two quite distinct activities, and through this book I will be sharing with you different stories about how people and companies have used social media in both ways to get their desired result.

 

From a branding point of view, social media platforms enable you to engage with your customers in real time and find out what they want, think or feel at any given time, which makes them a great tool for any company to utilise.

Benefits of using social media

 

There are many benefits to using social media:
■It’s free.
■You have a huge audience.
■It’s another communication tool to be utilised alongsidemore traditional methods.
■You can engage easily with your customers.
■ You will have a visible presence on the web.
■You receive real-time feedback.

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