Social Media continues to be the buzzword on online marketing and many businesses are looking to establish some form of activity in this area. There are, of course, good ways and bad way of going about it though.
Gareth Edwards, Associate e-Marketing Specialist at the National B2B Centre looks at some of the key issues and what you can do to resolve them.
It is pretty difficult to escape from the relentless growth of Social Media and its impact on world: from its role in democratisation in the Middle East to the unveiling of footballers’ foibles closer to home.
From a business perspective it is pushing more and more small and medium sized businesses into looking at the adoption of social media. Clearly they can see the opportunity that exists to connect with a new audience, although the fear of being left behind is a spur too.
At the B2B Centre we are delighted that people’s attitude to this new set of technologies is quite different to what existed 7 or 8 years ago. When we helped to introduce websites and online marketing to an SME audience back then there was a lot of resistance to change, and many companies missed opportunities as a result.
In a way we are the ones trying to slow things down now. It’s great to see so much enthusiasm but the hype around social media is leading to poorly planned implementation of marketing activity, which ends up not working.
Why is this happening? Well amongst the culprits we would highlight these factors.
There is a widespread view that Social Media is free, because you don’t have to pay to set up a Facebook or a Twitter account.
Social Media is just about writing a view blog posts about what the business is up to, isn’t it? It can’t be that hard so we’ll just get somebody in the office to take charge. You just get on with it.
Because it’s so easy it won’t take long. So if you just spend 10 minutes a day that’ll do won’t it?
They say time is money and Social Media marketing is pretty time intensive. Therefore it isn’t free at all.
Fortunately it is straightforward enough to calculate the cost of employees or suppliers activity. Owner/managers (who frequently pretend that all of those Tweets they do at midnight constitute “free” marketing) might want to assign a value to an hour of their time. Even at a nominal £10 per hour it could work out at as a lot of money.
Thinking about the costs allows you to do some important things such as:
- Make a more informed comparison of Social Media marketing against existing marketing.
- Understand whether your Social Media activity is profitable.
- Create a budget that provides some boundaries for Social Media marketing.
If you think about it a pretty diverse set of skills are required to use Social Media effectively. Having somebody who can write well is a prerequisite, but
- Who is going to do the research?
- Who decides what the best “stories” are in the first place?
- Who is going to take pictures or videos?
- Who knows how to do the technical stuff like set up WordPress on your host server?
- Who is going to check the stats and make sense of what they mean?
This probably means that you need a team of people to be involved and if you don’t have those skills internally then you’ll also need to identify external suppliers who can help.
We’d also call for strong management support and a senior “champion” who can keep everybody motivated. Their role would also be to ensure that the right level of co-operation is available from, say, the sales team – who may have access to the killer stories that will make your campaign fly.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how much output you should have. A blog or two per week, several tweets a day and a smattering of LinkedIn updates might be what you need. Fortunately you can use various apps and widgets to distribute stories from one platform to another, which can save some effort.
However even a modest level of activity requires a fair amount of thinking, planning and implementation time, especially if you are looking out for really good content. We are talking about hours not minutes per week here.
You should already have thought of a budget and now we suggest that you start thinking about a schedule. A timing plan that sets out when different activities need to take place and who needs to be involved – from a Monday morning brainstorm to Friday’s Facebook post.
This approach also allows you to think ahead. If there is a product launch coming up then you can start to populate your Social Media schedule now. This gives the team time to work out what the stories are, when to say them and where to put them out.
We are putting together a Social Media strategy workbook that provides tools and exercises to help people work through the issues highlighted in this article. Attendees on our Social Media training courses are likely to get first shot at testing out the workbook but we will introduce some of the ideas in more articles on Social Media over the coming months.
Associate e-marketing specialist – The National B2B Centre