“Social Media Marketing” is a Misnomer

After reading the zillionth blog post about ROI on Social Media Marketing, and listening to one more smart marketer try to explain it to Management I’ve decided that’s IT.

I’m completely ditching the term Social Media Marketing. Not that I think any marketing is truly measurable: only SALES are measurable. But Social Media is not about marketing.

IT’S ABOUT ENGAGEMENT.Social Media Engagement

And if you think engaging with customers & prospects is not important, your just plain WRONG.

Engagement is what you NEED to retain the momentum your marketing strategy has created. Engagement is what you need to make sure you understand your customer’s needs, wants & opinions of your service. Egagement is what you need to convert a prospect into a paying customer.

Yes, you need discipline and focus in your Social Media Strategy. You need a purpose, a direction, a company ‘voice,’ management tools, listening tools, a Social Media calendar, a policy for employees, and a crisis management strategy. Yes, that means you might need professional help.

And any professional who tells you that there is NO value in Social Media because they can’t measure the results needs to be booted out of your office. Remember, there was a time those same professionals were telling business owners that the internet was a ‘fad.’

Social Media Marketers Take Heed: Facebook is a NO SPAM Zone.

Spam messages on Facebook are even WORSE than regular spam emails. We Facebook occupiers see this world as an escape from Spam. If someone wants to receive your eblasts they’ll sign up for them on your Join My List page…. if they don’t, work on your content, provide useful information, and get your Call to Action (Email Sign Up Request) Revved up. But DO NOT spam via our message box.

For one, it’s against the rules and Facebook may shut you down. Secondly, it goes against one of the tenets of Facebook: be friendly and beware of the NO SELLING zone.

The first Social Media marketers got it: Social Media grew out of society’s need to directly, honestly communicate. It blossomed when its users realized that they could create their own honest communities and exchange ideas and opinions without spin or layers of advertising fluff. Want an honest opinion on a product or service? No more need for the Better Business Bureau – just ask your community. The regular community participants still get this.

Who doesn’t?

As traditional advertising agencies realize that Social Media is not a fad and have scurried to jump on board, many of them fail to recognize that in here we speak another language. Small business owners who spent their lives marketing through Traditional means but have recently jumped into the Social Media world commit many of the same mistakes: using ‘old language’ and ‘old tactics’ to try to sell in ‘old ways.’ It doesn’t work. EVER.

So do this: Inform, Promote, and Give-away, but don’t SELL; what you should be trying to do in here is have a conversation, ENGAGE your customers. The sales will come, believe me. 67% of Facebook Followers convert to customers.

And don’t mess with our Message Boxes.

My Best Advice About Facebook

I’ve been doing the “Facebook Thing” in earnest for a few years now, and it dawned on me recently that it isn’t so overwhelming. The reason that was a remarkable thought is that it was once all TOO overwhelming. I had no idea how to jump in, where to jump in, or how to use Social Media to market my business.

I don’t claim to be a Know-it-all, Genius or Guru, but I do understand how Facebook can help your business. Here are the tips my years of listening, collaborating & screwing up has provided:

1. Don’t think you can hide AND be successful on Facebook: Anonymity goes out the window. If you opened a new store front you’d network with friends & family first; Facebook is no different.
2. Create a Business Page for your business: It is much easier to get someone to Like your page rather than accept your friendship, and you can’t run Ads for a Friend Account.
3. Don’t Hold Your Cards Close: If you want to create a following on Facebook you’d better be helpful and willing to give some of your knowledge away. Become the trusted source and it will pay off.
4. Be Active: You will lose followers quickly if you’re not providing something beneficial to them daily. There are debates about how often you should post on Facebook, but if your average ‘fan’ has hundreds of friends and you only post a few times a week, what are the chances that they’ll see your content? 3 times a day is my rule most days. I give people a break on Mondays and Saturdays when I know I may be annoying them.
5. Network as Your Business: Now that Facebook allows you to Use Facebook as Your Business, do it! Participate on the pages of companies or customers you want to interact with and, if you’re interesting, people will follow you back to your page.
6. Don’t Spam: For many of us Facebook is an ESCAPE from email. If you spam through the Facebook message system or on the walls of others you MAY very well get shut down.
7. Always have at least 2 Administrators: God forbid you are reported for Spam like behavior and your own account is closed, at least another Administrator will be able to keep your business page alive.
8. Do create a custom Welcome Page that lets visitors know what your companies about, and make sure there’s a “Give” involved, as in “Like this page and receive a free ebook.”
9. Make sure you let people know you are ON Facebook: Have a Follow us link on your email Signature, Website, and printed on your product literature with the ENTIRE URL. No one is going to spend a lot of time searching for you unless they are already a mad fan. Make it easy.
10. Clean Up Your URL: Once you hit 25 fans go to www.facebook.com/username and shorten your URL to something memorable. The internet world moves at lightening speed – make sure it’s possible for your fans to find you quickly.

Facbook Business Page Posting: How Much is Too Much?

I’ve been delving into Infusionsoft this past couple of weeks and I’m really impressed with its capabilities for lead follow ups and interacting with prospects. While taking their Social Media tutorial I am told by Mark Bast that on Facebook you don’t want to overwhelm your clients so beware of posting too often, and on Twitter you should only post once per day. We break these rules, with intent, everyday. That’s because I totally disagree with the frequency of posting they suggest.

Think about this: if your fans have 300 – 500 friends they’ll have a lot of activity on their wall. If you post at 8:30am you may get a quarter of them seeing your post on their feed if you’re lucky – their other ‘friends’ and pages will quickly push your post down and off of their wall; the only way they’ll see your post is if they actually seek it out on your page.

This is where understanding WHO your target prospect is becomes vitally important – when are they likely be be on Facebook? If they’re business people it is likely that they check it first thing in the morning – say 8 – 9am, surf a little at lunchtime, and then check it at the end of the day. If your target is a woman with children often they don’t get a chance to go on Facebook until after the kids are bathed and ready for bed, so evening hours are critical. Sunday afternoons are prime time for all demographics.

There is a fine line between being invisible and overwhelming your fans with posts but my general rule of thumb on Facebook is to post 3 times a day most days AS LONG AS YOU ARE POSTING WORTHY CONTENT. Mashable posts again and again but because I am very interested in what they do and they’re a reliable source of good information I don’t mind at all. In fact, I seek their page out everyday if I haven’t had time on Facebook. If you’re just posting for the sake of BEING THERE you’ll lose fans quickly, so provide good information/content and post when your fans or prospects are more likely to be online.

As for Twitter, I’m afraid I think Infusionsoft is Wrong Again. With approximately 27 millions tweets flying out each day (@BrianSolis)) how on earth is ONE TWEET going to be seen. Just look at the people who are ‘successful’ on Twitter that make their living on Social Media: @ChrisBrogan, @GuyKawasaki and @GaryVee and you’ll see constant communication. Why? Because even more so than on Facebook the Twitter Feed moves quickly. People follow hundreds or thousands of other Twitter profiles and your message will not be heard if you say it once a day.

Using Twitter successfully is often described as “grinding out tweets” because it takes lots of work to build followers and get noticed. My advice to most small business owners is to have a Twitter profile, but if you don’t have the time to dedicate to Tweeting and building your following by multiple tweets per day, focus on Facebook first. Like everything else in business, focus and consistency are THE key elements.

There are lots of people giving advice on Social Media, and I by no means claim to be the end all ‘correct’ voice. But I’ve spent the last few years watching and learning from those who have done it successfully and Social Media Marketing is our main source of new clients so I think we’ve figured some of it out. Our advice is to create and offer good content, post at least 3 times a day AT THE TIME YOUR TARGET CUSTOMERS ARE ON Facebook, and Tweet continually if you have the time and energy. If you can only do it once a day, save yourself that time and skip it all together.

This Social Media Thing Ain’t Easy

Because it doesn’t just ‘happen.’ Anyone can throw a FaceBook connect button up on their website and create a business page, but that doesn’t mean squat if you don’t do 2 things:

1. Understand how to go about building an online following.
2. Commit to posting good, interesting content on a DAILY basis, and not just once.

That’s right, a daily basis numerous times a day. Sure it seems like a second job, and yes, you can shrug it off as ‘too much work;’ the savvy ones out there are thrilled that you might because they know how much there is to be gained and how few understand the opportunity Social Media provides.

The painstaking process of ‘Suggesting’ your Facebook Page to friends is NOT the way to build a Facebook or Twitter following – the entire point of Social Media is to get outside your circle. You don’t know the people that you want to follow you – they’re strangers. So, in order to get them to follow you have to give them the chance to “meet you.” How does that happen?

You need to be out there participating in the conversation in a meaningful way on Twitter, Blogs, Facebook and anywhere else your target customer type is hanging out. You need to enter the conversation when you have something meaningful to say. For example, Entrepreneur’s Blog is a place I find a lot of interesting, educational and inspirational information. I go there a lot because their articles or posts draw me in. I have met numerous new “friends” on there that have followed me back to Facebook and Twitter because we connected through our comments on posts. They have sometimes suggested my page or blog to their associates and thus the snowball starts to roll.

Most importantly: you had better have something interesting for them to see when they do follow you back; a page that has been quiet for days will get very few new “Likes.” Good content begets others to “SHARE” your page or repost it on theirs, and thus new followers.

YES, it’s A LOT Of hard work – but no one said success in any venue would be easy. Just like old school advertising, effective Social Media marketing takes consistency, discipline and hard work. This is just a whole lot more targeted and inexpensive.

Do You Need A Social Media Consultant?

This question was getting kicked around on Linked In and of course there are those folks, usually old school traditional marketers, who like to scoff at the notion of hiring a Social Media Marketing Consultant, and perhaps they have a point: Like all things internet, their are fraudulent con men lurking in dark corners willing to take your hard earned dollars in exchange for thousands of new Facebook fans, 1st place in Google Ranking and a myriad of other schemes.

However, hiring a Marketing Consultant to help develop your marketing strategy & company policy on Social Media, as well as design and analyze the results of specific Social Media campaigns is about as dumb as hiring a CPA to do your company tax returns. The world of Social Media is ever changing – as in EVERYDAY there are new tools & platforms showing up. Most of these may be insignificant, but if you’re not plugged in and aware who will ensure that your company is utilizing the web properly? Is anyone at your company capable of developing out reach campaigns with specific landing pages? Who is getting the word out on every platform that fits your company? Is your website integrated with your Social Media platforms and are there landing pages on your website too? Who is measuring your Return on Investment? Who is developing the next campaign? Are your Blogs posts networked & distributed to the proper channels? Is your company using Press Releases on New Media?

Yes, this list goes on and on. And I’m not saying that every person out there holding themselves out as a “Social Media Guru” or “Expert” should be put on the payroll. But laughing at the prospect of Social Media as an important, strategic part of your marketing plan is as crazy as laughing at the internet as a vehicle for business. That’s what the old school guys did all those years ago…

“Social Media Marketing” is a Misnomer

Because really, if all you’re doing is marketing on Social Media, you won’t succeed. I can just about guarantee that if all your Facebook Page or Twitter account does is “sell” or “market” you’ll end up with few fans/followers and no one will hear your incessant cry for customers. What effective businesses do online is Social Media Relationship Building – they carry on conversations with people who have an interest in what they do. Ideally there is not one designated marketing employee broadcasting the message a company wants heard, but instead, many employees or customers talking about your company, what makes it unique, and why you’re good at what you do.

In creating a Social Media/Policy with a client recently they asked the oft repeated “well, WHO will be making these posts?” I answered: I hope all of you. Some will post about their enthusiasm for certain projects, some will post about the company’s involvement in the local community, and some will extoll the virtues of a co-worker. Of course I always advise companies to create a clear policy, especially regarding what, if anything, is not to be discussed, but in general I say “let them have at it.” You should not be afraid of what your employees think about what you do, and chances are that you will discover who the most enthusiastic, creative ones of the lot are if you foster an environment that encourages independent thinking…Social Media is the perfect platform for that.

The next question is: What do we do if a disgruntled client or angry competitor posts negative comments? My answer is always, you should be happy – because if they do they are allowing you the opportunity to gracefully address their anger, angst or disappointment. If done correctly, even if you cannot repair the particular individual’s view of your company, you can let the world see that you do care about your clients and that you are more than willing to discuss anything on their mind. You can also go a long way in developing a top level customer service culture when your employees see you listen to and deal with the negative.

Additionally, if you are using Social Media properly to build relationships, at some point you will actually have to step away from your computer and meet up with them in Real Life. Yep, I said it – the old fashioned practice of actually looking someone in the eye and having a conversation is still effective believe it or not. It may be that you are at a specific meet up or networking event, or speaking to a large audience… whatever the case may be, you have to put yourself out there in real life for your followers to actually see you in the flesh at some point. THAT is when the relationship is solidified – why do you think politicians spend years glad handing before the big race? We still need to know that you’re real, and that split second of personal attention is invaluable.

The lessons? Stop with the constant self promotion and provide your followers with great content, ‘free’ advice, and allow and encourage them to have a voice in the Social Media Conversation. Make your company as ‘human’ and open as possible. Then, create or attend real life events that allows your followers to get to know you and your company on an entirely different level and THEN you will be utilizing Social Media to its fullest potential by building relationships.

Yes, Give IT Away for Free…

That’s right, I’m telling you to give away FOR FREE, your professional advise, the expertise you worked years to earn – the thing that should make your living for you. Only by doing so will you ever get people to want to pay for more of it. I work with small to mid sized businesses on Social Media & Marketing Strategies, and I spend a lot of time at conferences, networking events and on Facebook giving non-customers free advice. Last week someone actually asked me why.

Why? Because in this ‘new media world’ the consumer expects a whole lot more from you before they pledge allegiance; you need to earn their trust before they buy. Become the educator, the trusted one, and THEN they will not only become your customer, but they’ll tell their friends & associates about you. I’m not saying you give the store away; if you’re a marketing consultant you don’t write a comprehensive marketing plan. But you might give out some insights as to how to communicate through Social Media – how to link Twitter to Facebook for example. If you’re a Realtor, perhaps you give out some advice on the best way to stage a home – what days are best for an open house. Of course you’re sharing what makes you great, but you’re also getting the word out that you’re the one in the “know” – the one to turn to when you need the products or services you offer.

The karma boomerang has never been more ‘real’ than it is in this new, social media world so many of us inhabit these days. The only way to make sure that it comes back your way is to throw it out there in the first place.

“My Customers Aren’t on Social Media”

That’s what one of my very smart customers has said to me, repeatedly. What she means by that is the customers coming in the door aren’t on Social Media. And of course, I want to scream from my marketing soul “That’s because YOU’RE not on Social Media!” But I don’t. I listen, sincerely, to every reason she has for not investing the large amount of time and not so large amount of money to get her Social Media campaign kicked off. Like I said, she’s smart, and successful; there’s no way I’m going to dismiss her thought process and proceed trying to bulldoze her ideas.

Can Your Customers Find You?

But I won’t give up either. To this day I still haven’t got her to commit to developing a Social Media Strategy and implementing it, but I will. Because she’s smart. Eventually she is going to realize that her FUTURE customers are using Social Media. In the end, I will convince her that somewhere in the 500 million Facebook users and millions & millions of Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Merchant Circle etc. users are customers with lots of money to spend on her services.

The moral of the story: if you’re not there, we can’t find you. People with money and interest in your product are spending more and more time each day on Facebook, Twitter and their own favorite Social Media platforms. If you don’t have a campaign targeting them with the information they WANT to find, someone else that may be just a wee bit smarter and a few miles ahead of you in the marketing race can easily swoop them up before they even know you exist.

Should You Hire a Social Media Marketer for Your Business?

I see it all the time: website proposals with Social Media Networking as an option on a checklist. Usually it reads something like “Jump Start” or “Set Up” your Social Media platforms. Prices range from $100 up to $1000’s, and when I ask the client what they are getting for that price most of them don’t know.

Is it worth paying someone to set up your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn accounts? Perhaps, if you’re so busy you can’t breath… If that’s the case, go a step further and have those accounts customized, linked together, and have all of the add ons and plugins you would need added as well. But hiring someone to do your Social Media Marketing? Only if you’re willing to invest the time and money to make it effective.

Do you speak Social Media?

No one can march into your company and immediately start effectively marketing you through Social Media; for one, they must understand your company, its culture, your products & services, and most importantly, they must understand your target customer and what segments of the Social Media world they inhabit. That takes time to understand both on your end AND on theirs.

There ARE companies that can help you with Social Media, but chances are they are not your run of the mill website design company, or even a traditional marketing company. Make sure they have a real presence on Social Media themselves – how many followers or connections do they have? Can they give you examples of Social Media campaigns they have created & managed? Are they providing you with statistics that show the results of their past campaigns? Most importantly, what percentage of their business comes from social media?

Marketing on Social Media is NOT the same as running an ad campaign; it’s like speaking an entirely different language than traditional advertising. The language you use should be developed in collaboration with your marketer – one size does not fit all. Now of course you do not have to hire an outside marketing company to handle your Social Media, but someone in your organization needs to dedicate some serious time learning about how to do it effectively – there are lots of great companies doing it well that you can watch – and also spend time consistently implementing your plan. If you don’t have the right creative employee to do so, hiring an outside company may be the right answer…. just make sure you do your homework on them, and more importantly that they do their homework on you.