Before you dive into creating a social media marketing plan to grow your business, you should understand the benefits of social media marketing for your small business. You also need to know the downsides so that you can make an informed business decision about whether you want to add it to your over marketing plan.
Getting Started with Social Media
Social media has proven effective for certain types of businesses whose target market is consumers and, in some cases, other businesses.
Your first step in getting started with social media is to identify what you want from your efforts. Ask yourself:
- How much time can I allocate to social media each week?
- What growth goals make sense for my company (i.e., number of followers, clicks, other metrics)?
- What is my expected ROI in social media marketing (your return on investment)?
- Who in my company will do the work? Who will verify that it is accurate?
- What will my posting policies be?
- How often will my company post to social media?
- Which platforms will we post to?
- Which tools will we use for posting and tracking?
Answering these questions will help you set the stage to evaluate whether the benefits of social media marketing outweigh the cons.
Let’s take a closer look at the pros.
Benefits of Social Media Marketing
Wide Reach of Target Market
When it comes to finding an effective marketing channel, social media offers you the potential to reach hundreds of millions of people. Facebook alone touts over two billion users. Twitter has over 330 million active users each day. LinkedIn clocks in at about half a billion.
Of course not all of these users represent your target market. That’s why it is important to see if the kinds of people you need to reach are actually hanging out on these social platforms.
One way to do this is to see how many active followers your competitors have on various social platforms. If the numbers aren’t high or your competitors are not very active, it could indicate that you may be wasting your time with social media.
On the other hand, if you find that many of your competitors have a growing following, creating a social media strategy for your small business might be a necessary step.
Driving Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing refers to business that you generate by people finding you online, usually through your blog posts. This is a very effective way to grow your business and can be one of the biggest benefits of social media marketing.
Get content for your blogs from MoreBusiness.com. Download articles that you can edit and post under your name and brand.
When you promote your posts through social media and use hashtags related to your topic, people can find you as they scan for the same hashtags. If your post was compelling, they may click to read your blog post.
Social media sites allow you to create an account for free. Posting to those accounts is free. And free marketing is always a good thing.
But even though social media marketing may not cost you dollars out of your coffers, you still need to approach your marketing strategy as if you were paying for it.
When you think of the amount of time it may involve, the “free” becomes expensive.
Better SEO Ranking
Search engines have become one of the most popular ways for customers to find the products and services they need. With a few simple search words, your business can pop up on search results…and you have found an instant customer.
Major search engines like Google and Bing look at social signals when determining rankings. You can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) through the updates you post on your social media accounts. This is a major benefit of using social media in marketing.
Improve Customer Relations
Social media has proven to be a successful way for any size of business to build and maintain customers. It gives you an opportunity to engage with customers with your interactions. Why do you think it’s called “Social” media?
Through your social media channels you can spark discussions, obtain market research data by asking opinions and feedback, improve how you handle complaints and returns, and even form positive strategic relationships with other businesses.
Branding is an ongoing marketing effort. And while branding through regular marketing channels can be challenging, you can easily improve your business identity through social media. That means using your business name, logo, and slogan on every social media account. It also means getting your business name in front of the right people, or your target market, so your business is more recognized.
Downside of Social Media Marketing
By far the biggest disadvantage of using social media as a marketing channel is the amount of time required to make it successful. To gain the true benefits of social media marketing, you must maintain a regular schedule. This means writing posts and updates, responding to comments, and reviewing results of previous updates.
Another disadvantage is the fact that whoever does your social media management could get “sucked” into the time warp of these channels. It is amazingly easy to read all your followers’ & fans’ updates, follow links to outside websites, etc, and find that 3 or 4 hours have mysteriously disappeared.
When you’ve got 5 minutes to fill, Twitter is a great way to fill 35 minutes.
– Matt Cutts, former Google executive
You must maintain discipline in your time commitment in order to make social media work for your small business.
Lost in the Crowd
Another big complaint that small businesses have about social media is the noise. Due to the sheer numbers of people and businesses using social media, it’s hard to stand out. You can easily get lost within the millions of other commercial accounts. This makes it difficult to gain visibility to your target market.
Social media requires you to form a sound strategy and review results to improve your efforts. That is the only way you can avoid getting lost among the cyber world of social media marketing.
Social Media Marketing Movie
Here’s a 45 minute video (productivity hack: watch educational videos at 1.5x or 2x speed) from leading experts explaining how they generate tens – even hundreds – of thousands of followers: