Does Your Business Need To Be Social-ized?

by Mark Wisz, OtherWisz Creative

As Internet marketing launches into warp speed, can your business keep up? Do you need a Facebook page? How about a Twitter account? Should you be blogging?

These newer forms of online communication, known as web version 2.0, provide real-time interaction between you and your audience. This means that upon posting your commentary, article or musings live to the Internet, readers may immediately post their own responses in an open platform that allows all voices to contribute their opinions.

Should your business consider these new forms of marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy? Well, yes and no.

While social marketing can be an effective and complementary tool to your existing marketing plan, the primary cost to you is time and transparency.

  • Can you afford to dedicate the hours necessary for building online relationships with your customers?
  • Are you comfortable with the transparency required to make that connection?
  • Can you or your company representative be readily accessible to your customers, including time for open discussion of your company’s services?
  • Is your company prepared to handle complaints in a public format?

Connecting with your customers through social marketing is great for promoting your business, introducing new products and even extending your customer base, but it is not a part of the standard marketing plan.

Micro-blogging

Facebook and Twitter are often referred to as ‘micro-blogging’ due to the brief nature of the comments you can post. These networking tools allow you to connect with like-minded individuals, building an audience that is familiar with your product or services. Users opt to join your network, choosing to learn more about what you have to offer. Many business models can benefit from enhanced interaction with their current clients:

  • Restaurants can utilize Twitter accounts to announce daily specials, tantalizing their audience with the day’s fresh ingredients
  • Manufacturers can use Facebook feedback to gauge audience interest in a newly released product
  • Retailers can offer specials, coupons or pre-sale prices to repeat customers
  • Twitter accounts can also be valuable when notifying customers of last minute changes or event cancellations

A good example of using social media to generate a fan base is the Facebook page of K Sisters. This Buffalo pierogi and Polish specialty shop uses Facebook to announce their weekly specials and to answer customer inquiries. In a few short weeks, K Sisters has amassed a strong local following, and these customers stop by the shop to request items only publicized on the K Sisters Facebook fan page.

Blogging

Blogging requires more time and effort, along with competent writing skills, as it allows you to publish an online version of your company newsletter. If you currently compose articles about your business for trade publications, then a blog may be perfect for you. If you are not comfortable writing about your business on a regular basis, then selecting a company representative or hiring someone to maintain your company blog is acceptable, provided they do not pose as you or misrepresent themselves or their role in your business.

Blogging allows you or your company to demonstrate your expertise in the industry and to inform readers about the latest business trends, company updates and links to other articles about topics in your field. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, your blog posts aren’t limited to a captured audience, but are posted for anyone to read. A blog relies on search engines and links from your site, as well as links on other related websites, to bring readers to your focused topics. The most successful blogs are those that offer engaging, informative articles about topics that are of interest to their potential audience.

K9 Connections is a local dog training business. The owner, Tyler Muto, writes a blog with articles, videos, and external references about dog training methods and trends in his industry. The K9 Connections’ blog gives viewers an opportunity to ask questions and post comments about their own dogs, driving traffic to the K9 Connections website and resulting in new customer growth.

Even the simplest of social marketing tools helps you to engage with your audience. This dialogue is a great opportunity for developing a relationship with your clients, but it can be time consuming and it needs to be properly directed in order to hit your target audience.

As with most new technologies, social marketing strategies should be a component of and not a replacement for your overall marketing plan. A well-balanced marketing plan includes an aggregate of traditional and newer means of promotion.

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