In teaching a recent seminar on social media to a group of Utah CEOs, I was bombarded with questions like:
“Is LinkedIn the best social network for businesses?”
“How can creating a Facebook page for my company impact my business?”
“Should I be on Twitter?”
“How can YouTube help drive traffic to my website?”
These are all very valid questions. We are all hearing more and more about social media, and more and more people are joining these networks. These mediums are now being used in new and unique ways by businesses to get in front of their target audiences.
One tool in the toolbox
We all know there is no “silver bullet” in public relations or marketing. There is no single medium that will magically bring the masses pounding on our doors demanding to use our product or service. However, I firmly believe social media is a tool that should be in every marketing and public relations professional’s toolbox; in that way, it can be utilized strategically to complement and augment other marketing and public relations efforts.
What is social media?
At the core of social media marketing is the principle that by listening to consumers and requesting their feedback, organizations will better understand what their customers need, want, and value. Then, as the organization responds to these needs and wants with value propositions that align with what is being requested, trust and brand loyalty is engendered.
Let’s face it—no one likes to be sold to. We want to interact and be heard. Social media allows for this two-way communication.
Sometimes referred to as “buzz mar¬keting,” social media marketing allows organizations to be seen as experts in their field and can help spread their services, products, ideas, and innovations.
Why use social media?
There are some very compelling reasons to use social media. Consider the following:
For the most part social media is FREE to use (the exception is the user’s time utilized to send out Tweets, update Facebook pages, etc.) and can be created and deployed quickly and efficiently. As a business, you can find this to be cost-effective marketing that can grow your client base and bolster your revenue.
Utilizing the information members of social media networks willingly give in their personal profiles, social media has the ability to directly reach target audiences based on their interests, occupation, and experience. This ensures you can “drill down” to make sure your message is seen by the people you want to notice you. You have an online community of literally hundreds of millions of people worldwide that will potentially share your enthusiasm and inter¬est in your message.
Philadelphia department store pioneer John Wanamaker once uttered a marketing truism: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Utilizing the analytics available via social media and interactive outlets, you can now discover what is working. Using these tools, you no longer have to scratch your head or take your best guess where to invest your marketing budget. Tools now exist that allow you to create, distribute and track web, video, e-mail, and other social media marketing efforts immediately. You can see what is working in real-time and immediately refine your messaging to improve results. You can quantify your initiatives and measure your efforts.
Using social media tools, you can (and should) review the success rate often. As you see what is and is not working, you can then refine your online marketing mix and messaging to achieve maximum results.
The bottom line is that marketing and public relations efforts often deal with getting the word out, engaging in meaningful conversations, taking suggestions, solving problems, educating audiences, and promoting organizations, products, and services.
So, what is the best way to begin?
Get out and meet some revolutionaries. Talk to people actively engaged in social media. Ask them for pointers—what has and has not worked. Get inspired. And realize you probably cannot do this alone, but you still should do it. After all, the masses are out there just waiting to hear from you.