I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz, Social Media is a hyped thing; but what is it really all about, and why do you need it?
When I first started using social media a few years ago I wasn’t sure how and where it would fit in as part of my overall marketing strategy. There were so many different sites to choose from and creating pages on all of them seemed time consuming and really kind of intimidating. What should I do? I knew that our lack of presence in the online world made a statement; one that I didn’t want to make – forgotten. If we were not proactive in setting up pages on these sites opportunities would pass us by, and pass us by quickly. So, I started off slow. I started to integrate the various social media efforts within each of our traditional marketing mediums to increase our client base. By focusing on one task at a time my new initiatives that once seemed unmanageable became manageable and our marketing effectiveness increased dramatically. The payoff? People knew who our company was and remembered us.
Where should you begin?
First, let’s take a look at what social media is. I came across an interesting fact today, 90% of online users know at least one social network. Blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages, YouTube multimedia accounts; the list can go on and on, but what all these sites have in common is that they bring together groups of people who share common interests. These people are the best and most effective marketing agents you will ever find.
Why does this matter so much? Because these online individuals are the ones who are actively creating the content that others will be reading. If you are a contractor, these online users are the people who will post a review about your services on Angie’s List. If you have a retail destination, these online users will announce they are at your store on Foursquare, blog about it afterwards and post reviews and photos online.
Social media has created an environment where communication, collaboration and coordination exist without barriers. It allows companies to create a sense of community around their product and business and share information that customers want. This may be specials and price promotions, coupons, or the launch of a new product. Managers who get their businesses to use social media are able to have real people; their future, current, or past customers, play an active role in providing feedback and promotion inexpensively.
Bottom line: Building a social network takes time, and you won’t see results overnight. But don’t get discouraged. Social media is not a trend. It is the way we all will be communicating. By following a few simple steps your franchisee can have a successful social media presence and be in the know with your customers.
- Begin with the end in mind. What do you want to gain? Start by building a Social Media Road-map that includes your target audience, objectives, tactics, tools, strategy, and tracking metrics. Throw some goals out there and build your strategy around how you plan to achieve them.
- Diversify your messages. Give coupons, announce sales and specials, but also give your followers something more. Talk about what is going on in your franchise, combine messages like National Ice Cream Month with tips on how to make the best sundae. Make sure your content has real value for the reader.
- Keep true to your brand. Social media may be less formal but you must maintain your brand identity. Re purpose content that is developed by corporate and make sure you are following all social media policies associated with company headquarters. You need to be good stewards of your brand and your message needs to be consistent and efficient.
- Respond to as many comments as possible – both positive and negative. Listen. Keep your ears out for any issues that arise, whether it’s someone posting about sending their food back to the kitchen to someone tweeting about their favorite menu item being removed. Be sincere by apologizing to the commenter that they had a negative experience and assure them that you are taking pains to look into these areas that need improvement. When or if, you do make a change, post online to let customers know that you hear and value their opinions.
- Track your metrics and learn as you go. There are many ways of tracking social media return on investment (ROI). For leads and opportunities, however, the simplest way to find out is to simply ask your customers. When engaging with a customer, ask them how they found out about you and your promotion. To learn more about the social media metric tools to use, check out Jason Schubring’s post here.
Whether you are a well-known, established company or a small business with loyal customers, social media offers new ways to create and communicate with people who care.
What social media platforms do you currently use? Leave me a comment and let’s chat about what you see working in your industry.
Kimberly Kelsey, Marketing Manager, Red Book Solutions