Why Spend Money on Social Media? Yes Really.

January 18, 2013

Social_Media_Image_purchased

Over the last few days I’ve been interrogating the rationale behind social media. I’ve been suffering from an existential angst that all this social media stuff is at best a kind of ‘branding wallpaper’ and at worst a big waste of company profits. OK, maybe this is an oversimplification, but bear with me while we consider it further.

These thoughts have arisen from a number of conversations with people I respect in various marketing-related areas.

First, in conversation with a published leader in creative thinking and ex Creative Director of several major ad agencies, the prospect arose that “Social Media might just be a big South Sea bubble.” I assume that my co-debater’s rationale relates to the overwhelming hype surrounding social media and the proliferation of platforms, some of which have questionable influence. The same person also cited Apple’s strategy in not engaging in social media – no Facebook, no Twitter, just strong brand building using other channels.

Second, reading an article about new Facebook measurements which set more store by local popularity. The tenet of the article based on the work of a company called Social Bakers was one of “look at who’s now up the list and who has gone down” as if it was some sort of beauty contest.

Third, working with a client whose family business has been running since 1947, who expressed the wish not to be a ‘busy fool’ – he wasn’t specifically referring to social media but the way that various forms of promotion can involve expense, effort and, in the end, er, perhaps not the anticipated profits.

So why spend money on social media? Here are just a few answers to consider:

1. There isn’t another way  to reach your customers and other interested parties such as the press and investors with such reach and immediacy.

2. If you are not controlling the conversation about your brand, someone else will – and it might not be favourable.

3. Social media enables you to engage in a conversation with the market, to learn more about customers’ views of your products and services and to ensure that the market views your company as open and approachable.

That said, social media can act as an enormous money pit and it is important to consider the objectives behind every channel and campaign. As with any off-line marketing, think about audience carefully – as each channel has a different profile – then allocated resources accordingly. Ensure that communications within the channels you choose are fitting in terms of style and tone. Measure all activity using both online tools and offline tools such as client surveys and even just talking to customers to understand where they go for information.

Many of my clients are businesses who make money by selling to other businesses. For these companies, social media is equally important but the channels may vary. Facebook is relevant for some B2B businesses and LinkedIn and Twitter are probably relevant for all.

On reflection, social media should be an important element of a company’s marketing strategy but I’m glad that I considered the question This is because it is easy to become over-influenced by the social media industry. The social media industry is like any other business. It’s there to do a job but it’s also there to make money. Make sure that social media activity is strategic, regular in order to be effective, engaged and well managed. Above all, focus on measurement and the bottom line.

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LinkedIn as a B2B Marketing Tool

February 9, 2011

LinkedIn - the Business Development Powerhouse

LinkedIn is, as many readers will know, the grown-up corporate ‘cousin’ of Facebook, although they are of course run by different companies. If you’ve a few grey hairs and been in business for at least 15 years,  you will also be able to testify to the fact that LinkedIn was around before Facebook and has always been a useful tool for business to business marketing and networking.

This corporate social networking tool now has over 70 million users and at least 1 million company profiles. I say ‘at least’ as the newest figures I can find are from last June, and the last seven months have seen a steady increase in the number of people and organisations actively using its services. This partly due to LinkedIn’s shrewd marketing and also their focus on usability. LinkedIn is very clear and easy to use and this helps busy people make the most of its tools and features.

LinkedIn is an ideal tool in the B2B armoury as a high proportion of decision markers in the English-speaking business world use it. Its main advantage is that it is free to sign up, although some services come with a price tag. LinkedIn’s additional revenue comes from advertising which is carefully thought through and considerate. The French equivalent, Viadeo is moderately successful but there are challenges for growth due to its charging model. The German speaking countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland use a similar site called Xing, but those who speak English often have LinkedIn profiles as well.

Now that LinkedIn data is now accessible to the search engines, it is even more important to use this site to improve your internet presence.

So how can you use LinkedIn to raise your own and your company’s profile?

  • Ensure that you have a comprehensive personal profile listing a full career history and explaining your areas of expertise. Use a variety of terms to describe your areas of expertise so that your profile is seen by people regardless of the search terms they use to get there. For example, if you are the CEO of a bakery company, do not just use the term ‘bakery industry’ in your company description but also ‘food supplies’, ‘baked goods’, etc.
  • Regularly update your profile as this will appear in LinkedIn updates
  • Get recommendations from clients, colleagues and ex colleagues and suppliers
  • Ensure that you use a profile picture and that there is a company logo on your company profile
  • Include links to any social media accounts that you are using such as blog sites and Twitter accounts
  • Include a link to your company’s LinkedIn profile and your company website
  • Fill in all the various tabs on your company profile dealing with company services and follow the LinkedIn guides for this
  • Consider advertising to the right profile of individuals

After writing this blog, it occurs to me that it seems like a ‘LinkedIn rave’. Well I think it’s good and anyone who isn’t currently using it should do so. However, here are some ‘negatives’ if you want to be picky:

  • Loss of privacy – it’s the sacrifice you make for further commercial exposure
  • You need to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is a balanced representation of your business otherwise you could be pigeonholed into a particular area
  • As with any business information edited by its subjects, check that the information you are being provided with is correct

For further discussions about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, please feel free to post a comment.