by Diane Thieke
“We want to develop a page on Facebook,” my client says. “It’s really critical that we have a presence there.”
But is it?
Every day, businesses are looking to the web and they see a gold rush of opportunity. The challenge is in getting that harness onto the horse and making sure it gallops for you. But following conventional wisdom may not be the best approach for marketing your business, especially when it comes to social media.
There are hundreds of social networks around the world, from the ubiquitous Facebook to QZone in China to smaller, individual Nings. New, influential networks seem to emerge at a staggering pace and change the rules of the game: Tumblr (2007), Instagram (2010), and Pinterest (2010) have become rapidly popular since Facebook was founded – way back in 2004.
Marketing resources – both people and money – aren’t unlimited. If you’re going to invest in social media, it’s fair to ask what’s the best way to invest. You simply can’t be everywhere at once.
Facebook has one billion users, thus, it’s often at the top of the list. But is that enough reason to invest time and money into a business page?
Here are 3 questions you need to ask yourself before jumping into social media:
Question #1: What do I hope to achieve?
Do you want more sales? To provide better customer service? How about higher customer retention? Put your goal front and center and refer back to it often in the planning process. Some social networks are more conducive to driving sales (Pinterest), while others are stronger at driving brand awareness or loyalty (Twitter). Keeping your goal in mind can help you narrow your choices.
Question #2: Who is my target audience?
We all know instinctively that teenagers are very different from business professionals. But let’s break it down a bit.
- Teenagers: Like to text with friends, hate homework, buy lots of video games, strongly influence household purchases, use Facebook chat a lot.
- Business professionals: Like to actually talk to colleagues, seek out professional development, buy business services, strongly influence organizational purchases, use LinkedIn to network for business.
If your company makes video games targeted at 15-year-old boys? You’ll likely invest in a content strategy for Facebook. Targeting business people? LinkedIn.
Yet, it’s not always so cut-and-dry. That’s why it’s imperative to conduct target audience research. You should understand which channels your buyers are using and how they’re using them.
Question #3: What resources do I have to manage my social media presence?
If you have very limited budget and manpower, don’t feel obligated to engage in all channels. In fact, focusing on one channel and doing it very, very well may help you achieve your goals. Remember: it may cost you little – or nothing – to set up a social media account, but it is very time-consuming to manage it. I usually recommend a strategy of two to three channels that can be integrated and complementary. For example, a blog, Twitter account, and YouTube channel can work very effectively together to raise brand awareness and attract sales leads.
Also, identify your community managers. Do you have expertise in-house? Can the responsibilities be shared among several employees – each taking a part? Or, do you need to hire a part-time or freelance community manager?
I recommend choosing someone who is very comfortable with and enthusiastic about social media. Remember that strategy is just as important as execution, so either take that role yourself or engage an expert to focus on it.
The answers to these three questions will quickly clarify your social media strategy – and instantly make it less overwhelming.
Diane S. Thieke is the president and founder of Simply Talk Media, a digital media marketing consultancy. With more than 25 years in digital media and technology, she helps clients build stronger relationships with their customers and communities, using both social and traditional channels. Follow her on Twitter at @thiekeds or visit her blog at www.simplytalkmedia.com/blog.
Social media image courtesy of Shutterstock.