If you think that social media is just for teenagers, think again. More than half of those logging on to social media sites are in their mid-thirties or older.
Traditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio and television have long served the purpose of delivering one-way messages, like your company's advertising. Social media, by contrast, uses Web-based platforms to not only deliver your message, but to allow the recipient to participate.
You'll find a number of technologies under the umbrella of social media, including email, instant messaging, blogs and social networking websites. In fact, sites like Facebook and Twitter have now surpassed traditional search engines when it comes to reaching some segments of the buying public.
The end result? Social media is not only changing the way your customers access news and information, but how they do business. If your company has not yet embraced the power of social media, it might be time to take another look.
Social Networking Websites
Separate from our professional lives, many of us have a profile on at least one social networking website. That's why many businesses, large and small, are employing this innovative new marketing tool.
Adopting these technologies, however, involves more than creating a profile or fan page for your family business. To really be effective, it requires a shift to a culture of transparency. And, it is this window into your business that makes it more important than ever for your message to be consistent at every point of contact with current and prospective customers.
How Social Media Puts You Out Front
Establishing a presence on social networking sites can give your business a competitive edge in several ways, including:
1. Brand Enhancement. Profiles, fan pages and participation in groups all serve to build awareness about your company's brand. They also provide an opportunity to interact with current customers as well as begin the relationship-building process with prospects.
2. Open Communication. Social media, including social networking, is based on the principle of two-way communication. Your company can benefit from both the positive experiences and negative feedback that customers voluntarily share. Not only can you address these customer concerns publicly, but you then have the chance to make any necessary improvements. You have the unique opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.
3. Target Marketing. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can help you identify, and subsequently target, potential customers. While the need for advertising through traditional media outlets may not be eliminated, the ability to target marketing communications reduces overall costs and provides a greater return on your marketing investment.
Tapping into social networking analysis tools may also assist with targeted marketing efforts. What if, for example, you knew that online discussions about one of your key products waned during the prior 12-month period, while conversations about a similar product that you have not promoted as strongly, showed an increase? Now there is some market intelligence to take under advisement when developing your marketing message. It is important, however, to remember that overt advertising on social networking sites can be received negatively, so your message should be developed with that in mind.
Social Networking Best Practices
Whether you are new to social networking, or a seasoned veteran, it's important to:
Make a Commitment. Social networking, like most marketing tools, requires a commitment to time and possibly finances -- perhaps even cultural change within your business -- in exchange for successful results.
Be Visible. Make sure that your brand remains consistent between the various social networking sites. Develop a communications plan that keeps your business visible, but does not overwhelm your online following.
Listen First, Respond Second. Once your program is established, monitor the social buzz daily to keep a pulse on both current and potential customers. Much like a dinner party, you must listen before you respond. Then, once you have a clear picture of what is being said online, you can determine a course of action.
Keep it Local. Customers and prospective customers alike want to do business with companies that are within driving distance. Keep this in mind as you develop and refine your social networking plan.
Make it Easy. Remember to make it simple for people to find you. Add social networking information to business cards as well as your company's website.
If your family business hasn't yet gotten its feet wet in the world of social networking, it may be time to rethink your marketing strategy. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can be particularly effective when it comes to heightened brand awareness for your company and for identification and targeting of potential customers. In addition, finding ways to tie social networking initiatives into community efforts can create a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The Benefits of Using Social Media Are Many
If branding, communication and targeted marketing efforts are not compelling enough, consider the following social networking success story.
One Texas business decided to tie its social networking to a fundraiser for Haiti relief. For every fan added during a specified time frame the company donated a dollar to the Haiti relief effort. Employees spread the word about the fundraiser through posts on their own social networking sites. In just over a week, the business added hundreds of fans.
Between the money donated by the business and the amounts contributed directly by fans to Haiti relief as a result of this promotion, thousands of dollars were raised. As an added bonus, the business itself garnered significant publicity and a healthy online following.
If your family business plans to engage in a charitable fundraiser, follow the wisdom offered by social media advisers. They report that many business owners miss a great opportunity by not contacting the charity they want to help before starting a donation drive.
It's very common for a business to generate contributions for a not-for-profit that receives the money, but is unaware of the business's effort. Chances are, the charity has its own online audience. If you contact the charity first, they can generally get their followers involved to help spread the word and multiply the results. The charity gets more donations and the business gets well-deserved attention that drives business to its website, and through its doors. The net result ... everyone wins.