1) What is social media and why should we use it?
Social Media is fundamental change in the way we as humans now communicate with each other and connect personally and professionally via the web through venues including but not limited to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.
In the past, companies told consumers what to buy. Some companies were not completely honest with their customers, who often had no way of publicly complaining or protesting company actions that they disagreed with.
Today, we live in a world where consumers talk to each other to find out information about a product or service. Just look at Amazon, eBay or Yelp reviews. There are even sites out there where you can rate your professor or boss. The internet has been democratized and when a company or product has a negative incident, it can go viral very quickly. Therefore, social media must be embraced as a marketing tactic. And an attitude of engaging and listening to your customers is truly a requirement for your company’s long-term success.
2) Are companies at a disadvantage without a social media plan? How does Social Media provide a formidable advantage against competitors without?
Companies that are not taking advantage of this growing phenomenon are throwing their money away (opportunity cost). By not keeping up with your customers, you might be allowing your public image and brand to be harmed without the ability for intervention (damage control). Corporations are thus showing large groups of customers and potential customers that either they do not have their act together or that customer needs are not important. As an individual, I have more engaged Twitter followers than most big companies. The Web has been democratized and business needs to stay current.
If you are not participating in social media, you count on your competitors or consumers to be doing that for you. It is a lot easier to be the first on the block, then trying to play catch up.
3) How can a company use Social Media to grow their business and ROI?
Companies first need to understand that social media is not a technique used to make a hard sell on initial contact. If implemented correctly, with an attitude of engagement and listening, the following will occur and your business and ROI will grow:
- Increased Brand Awareness
- Reputation Management
- Improved Search Engine Rankings
- Increased Relevant Visitor Traffic
- Improve Sales for a Product or Service
4) What companies have been successful with social media?
Some of the companies I have seen successful with social media are
- Sun Microsystems
Having worked at Comcast for a number of years, a major area of improvement was customer service. At Comcast, Frank Eliason runs a Digital Care Team to assist customers on Twitter as an alternative to telephone support. This is an excellent example by the world’s largest cable company of using social media to listen and engage with customers.
5) What do you think of companies resistant to social media? Are there certain industries that are not up to date with Social Media?
I am not going to hold back. I look down upon companies resistant to social media, especially those in the insurance, banking, financial services and health care industries. It tells me that their viewpoint is narrow-minded like that of an accountant. They have traditionally been profitable and tend to have a “know it all attitude”. If you ever walk in their buildings, they are a cubicle factory where being a drone is more important than being a contributing, creative and empowered Linchpin. If a company does not know how to implement a social media plan, then ask for help. No one is out there to hurt your ego. Social media involves helping others.
The industries that are criticized the most are confirming to their consumer base that they are out for themselves. How many times have you heard stories of executives of “conservative” industries believing that Twitter and FaceBook are a waste of time? They do not allow the usage at work, but many employees still use social media on their own mobile devices.
What amazes me is that most insurance, banking, financial services and health care companies do not even have their own blog nonetheless a decent looking Twitter background. And I do not want to blame the marketers – their hands are tied.
6) Now really, isn’t it just a fad?
Social media is more of a revolution and a fundamental change in the way we communicate. Blogger, Erik Qualman, brings up some important points that cannot be ignored:
• Generation Y outnumbers Baby Boomers and 96% of them have joined a social network.
• Social media has overtaken adult content as the number one activity on the Web.
• Eighty percent of companies use LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees.
• Only 14% of consumers actually trust advertisements.
• Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI and 90% of TiVo users skip ads.
7) What has social media done for you personally and professionally?
Social media has done wonders for me. I have met some of the World’s brightest minds and connected with people I would have never met 10 years ago. In addition, the amount of information sharing and learning from others without having to travel boggles my mind. The walls of isolation have crumbled with social media!
It has been a great way to build long-term relationships, find clients and connect with people I meet face to face on LinkedIn and Twitter. I see their tweets or LinkedIn updates often which makes it easier for me to stay in touch on a regular basis.
8 ) What should I say to someone claiming to be an expert? What do you think of your competitors? What makes you different? Please explain further.
Everyone is entitled to making a living; however, when someone claims they can get your business on the first page of Google and you can make TONS OF CASH $$$ and the fonts are gigantic with blinking letters – they are full of it. To show up high on Google based on certain keywords/phrases is not a simple step. First, look at your industry/competition. You will have to compete harder than hell to be on the top for terms like real estate or insurance. But, this should not discourage you. I have seen plenty of companies make it to the first page and when you click and go the site or blog, there is nothing of substance.
What makes me different is that I am realistic with my clients and explain that social media takes work and I think like a marketer – not a programmer. Using a systematic approach through engagement, targeting your social media venues accordingly will yield higher results in the long-term.
Assuming your company already has a brand and a main web site. The first thing you should do is to “be found” through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Find the keywords or phrases that customers would search and try to be high on the search engine “results page” while offering relevant and compelling content. After all, you want customers to click on all of your social media sites and explore further – not bounce to another unrelated website.
In addition to the concept of being found, Social Media involves using blogs, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr, Google AdWords, Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Squidoo, Whrrl and many other networks/sites to increase your online visibility and participation. Unbelievably, these additional outlets will help you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Moreover, you must participate consistently by listening and conversing with your customers.
9) How can you put a positive spin on a bad situation? Reputation Management – BP Oil Spill?
As far BP America and their oil spill, they have the following account on Twitter – http://twitter.com/bp_america. All their tweets appear to be in a defensive stage providing links to research and or press releases they have prepared. If you look at their account – http://twitter.com/bp_america as BP America, they are barely following anyone and expect you to follow their tweets because of their brand. You will see very few @replies, which indicates a lack of engagement with their customers. Besides all the technical jargon, all social media comes down to is a form of two-way communication.
Yes, BP has been making strides in becoming an energy company providing alternate forms to fossil fuels, but this oil spill is setting them back and there are better ways to handle this crisis.
By not handling this crisis more appropriately, an interesting grass roots Twitter account has started; it is called Boycott BP – http://twitter.com/BoycottBP. Even though fuel is an inelastic item or necessity, people will see BP and prefer to pump across the street at a competitor. Being in a highly critical industry, BP has given plenty of ammo for true green energy companies to gain attention of the masses.
If I were BP, I would use every marketing tactic I have to take care of this spill, accept responsibility and reach out to consumers. It will pay off in the end for BP as being the responsible oil company turning towards alternative energy.
10) If I use Social Media, can I stop using other forms of advertising?
Definitely not! You should combine social media with all forms of advertising providing you with positive ROI. Unbelievably, there are consumers who may be touched by offline marketing tactics that will drive them to go online and vice versa. Depending on your company/industry and marketing budget, one should be doing the following coupled with social media:
- TV /Radio Ads
- Email campaigns
- Word of Mouth
- Mobile Marketing
11) What is it going to cost me?
Social media has minimal costs – maybe some server hosting fees and automation tools and training, but it is mostly labor intensive.
12) How do you measure the results of your Social Media efforts?
The answer is in many ways. The best tool for measuring your inbound traffic is Google Analytics, which will track the overall volume to your various outlets, the referral source (search, referral or direct traffic) and trends. Some other great tools include ones from HubSpot that measure the quality of your blog and Twitter page. There are cases of where Social Media was the only marketing tactic until a PR Campaign was executed that boosted traffic 7 times over the mean.
The benefits of using Social Media include:
- Increasing traffic
- Finding more qualified leads
- Increasing sales
- Lowering your cost per sale
13) What types of companies can profit the most from using social media?
Dynamic, high-energy and ambitious clients looking to complement their current marketing platform with digital media communication channels can profit the most from using social media. Having the attitude of embracing technology and wanting to engage and listen to your customers rather than treating them as adversarial will create lifelong relationships.
14) Any final thoughts?
If you aren’t employing Social Media consider its value. If you are using it for its business value, implement a Social Media Policy that places protective and compliance measures in place.
Consider that its downside is abuse. Proliferation brings exploitation of social media and workplace controversy.
As a public relations tool, social media can serve to reduce the fallout and regain control. As in the case of BP, it can serve as a source of information to increase awareness and clarify issues.
Twitter’s emergency management, safety and security value is limitless.
If your company or organization is looking to:
- Increase Brand Awareness
- Manage your Reputation
- Improve Search Engine Rankings
- Increase Relevant Visitor Traffic
- Improve Sales for a Product or Service
- Increase Return on Engagement (ROE)
Contact us for a complementary Social Media Evaluation!