As we all know, social media is an emerging trend and companies large and small are harnessing the new powers of the world wide web. The web used to be “read only” content and now it is a “read and write” interactive experience where consumers can engage in conversations and share information. Companies seeking to improve their online marketing strategy want to know more about how to get involved in social media marketing and how to measure the success.
First, you must know why social media is important and why it can be an effective tool. Now that users can interact with one another, they no longer just go to Google to research products and services. There is a sea of user-generated content out there that has the real information…not just the marketing pitch from the company trying to sell you. Through rating and review sites, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, video sites like YouTube.com, and all kinds of blogs and forums, people can get the real scoop. So now that we know that people are out there online talking about issues relevant to your industry, you have to go find them. Once you find them, you should be prepared to get involved in the conversations.
How does your company get involved in the conversation?
Carefully. You want to make sure you are adding value and building trust among your current and potential customers. You can’t simply use Facebook or Twitter to spam the network and expect to get anything but rejection. You need to add value to the community and build a trusted brand. If you already have a trusted brand, you could be at an advantage but still need to follow the rules of engagement.
Once you are involved in the conversations, what is the strategy?
Many businesses fear the transparency of social media. You have to be prepared for the good and the bad. Your biggest critics could be your most useful source of feedback. Now of course you want to avoid any potential PR dissasters, but what doesn’t kill us might just make us stronger. If there is a negative message floating around about your products or services, do not fear. Don’t just draft a defensive response. Do your research, find the truth in what is being said and fix it. Once you do that you should stay involved in the conversation and regularly update the consumers and what went wrong and all the steps you are taking to fix it. You could end up in a better position than when you started if you handle the issues appropriately.
Now of course using social media as a reputation management and PR tool is only one aspect to the strategy. From an Internet marketing perspective, it can be incredibly valuable. But you should not get into a habit of referring to any marketing strategy as a “branding” tactic…usually when people refer to something as a “branding” spend that means it had no measurable ROI. Granted, even the biggest social media enthusiasts are trying to determine the best way to measure impact of the various social media elements. However, like anything else in marketing it is about how you approach it.
Let’s say for example your business wants to launch a viral video campaign but you are not sure how well it will do or how you will measure the effectiveness. BlendTec is a great example of how powerful this can be. The CEO created a video of himself blending iPhones with one of his company’s powerful blenders. The video was done very well and was outrageously funny (mostly because it was so random). Naturally, these things can be hit or miss but when they are a hit it is because all of the elements work well together.
If you are using a viral video campaign on YouTube.com to drive traffic to your site and expect to increase sales, make sure your site is set up to convert that traffic into sales/transactions. If it is not, you might have just spent a lot of time and money creating videos – but with no real return on the investment.
Social media must be approached with a specific goal in mind and executed correctly for it to be measurable…again, just like all areas of Internet marketing. So define goals and develop a plan before running of into the world of viral marketing.