Here’s an interesting graph:
What this shows is the astonishing surge in interest in ‘social media marketing’ and ‘facebook marketing’ in the last few years, as measured by the worldwide number of Google searches.
I spend a lot of time talking to business owners about their online marketing. One of the most common statements I hear is “Of course I know I should be doing more on Facebook”. It’s usually said with an apologetic tone – as if they feel the need to apologise to me for not marketing their own business.
The thing is, Facebook marketing isn’t right for every business. Neither is Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin and all the other social media networks you’ve heard of. Just as importantly, it’s not right for every business owner.
In this two-part article, I’m going to show you how best to think about your online marketing, and how big a part social media marketing should play.
The first thing I’d like you to do is think about the kind of social media user you are:
Principle One: Know Thyself
Are you going to be the person in your business who manages the social media presence? For owners of very small businesses, this is almost certainly the case. OK, now be honest – are you the sort of person who loves to constantly post details of your life on Facebook, tweets original thoughts several times a day, is always taking quick photos and sharing them on Instagram? If you aren’t, don’t kid yourself that you’re going to suddenly find the time. After all, you have a business to run or a job to do. There are probably other things you should be doing.
If your business is a little bigger, there are social media and PR consultants out there who will manage your online presence for you. (If you’re interested, let me know – I can recommend a very good one.) Obviously, you’ll have to pay them to do this, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that is worth it, which brings me on to…
Principle Two: Know the Value of Your Time
You might think that social media marketing is great because most of it is free. It doesn’t cost you anything to post an update on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. Well, you’re wrong.
It costs you time. It costs you the benefits of whatever you could have been doing instead. Economists call this ‘opportunity cost’ and I blogged about it a while ago on this very site. As business people, you probably have a pretty good instinct for the value of your time, even if you’ve never thought about it that way. So if you don’t feel you “have time” for social media marketing, don’t beat yourself up about it. Either pay someone to do it for you for less than the real opportunity cost of doing it yourself, or find some other way of marketing your business.
Principle Three: Know Your Customers
Now here is the big reason why particular forms of social media marketing might not work for your business. Who do you sell your products to? If you run a B2B business, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you sell to businesses – you sell to people who work for those businesses. Do you know what those people are like? Do you know what they are interested in? Do you know which social media networks they use?
Social Media Today’s most recent report on UK social media use has some interesting statistics and trends. About half the UK population has a Facebook account, but perhaps because it is so mainstream, teenagers are using it less. (The largest Facebook demographic is 25-34 year olds. If you’re selling to people in this age group who are interested in what you have to sell, Facebook can be a good fit.)
So given how popular Facebook is, if I told you that 64% of visits to corporate websites from social media networks come from one particular network, you’d assume that I was referring to Facebook wouldn’t you?
Nope. Twitter then maybe?
Wrong again. Actually 64% of referrals to corporate websites from social media come from Linkedin. Linkedin might only have 10million UK users (Facebook has three times as many), but they’re mostly between 30 and 64, mostly professionals and mostly high earners. Even more importantly, Linkedin is where they come to talk about business, not play Farmville or watch videos of skateboarding kittens.
Principle Four: Know How Your Customers Feel About Your Business
Is the product that you sell one that your customers really identify with on a personal level? Do people ‘buy into’ your brand? Or do the people who buy your product do so without feeling the need to talk about it online?
If your product is the sort of thing that people get excited about and want to talk about and show off to their online friends, then social media marketing – especially networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest may well be a great fit. But if your product is something that people just buy without discussing, then social media marketing just won’t work.
So it’s easier to use social media marketing to sell fancy shoes than it is to sell ordinary shoes. Jimmy Choo has ten times as many Facebook likes as Clarks. Many more people wear Clarks shoes, but they’re just not as invested in the brand as Jimmy Choo’s customers are.
And if your product isn’t a consumer product, it’ll be even harder for you to use social media as a marketing tool. Let’s say that your company sells various mastic asphalt products. Out of Facebook’s 1.23billion users, precisely one lists ‘mastic asphalt’ as an interest. There are undoubtedly lots of people out there who buy mastic asphalt products – they’re just not interested in them enough to tell Facebook.
In part two of this article, I’ll look in more detail at the strengths and weaknesses of the different social network sites and at alternatives to social media marketing. Then I’ll show you how you should decide which is most appropriate for your business.