Knowing these basics will save you money and get real results.
I want to start this podcast by saying the topic of social media is very complex. This episode is not meant to answer all of your social media questions. It’s intending to put things in perspective and increase your odds of succeeding with a realistic baseline of understanding.
In the interest of full transparency, you should know that I may have a reputation for being anti-social media. I am not. In fact, in a recent, very successful project, the primary driver of the whole success story was social media. The reason I have that reputation, I think, is because most people passing themselves off as experts and selling the service or idea of social media are putting businesses in a bad position with their embarrassingly naïve understanding of social media and marketing in general. So, I try to help protect the business and make them aware of the realities. That means I am often talking them out of or right-sizing their social media perception because it is the most oversold, over-hyped marketing tactic out there.
The first part of this article will reinforce the notion that I am anti-social media. The second part of this article will balance that out.
So here we go.
You can spot an amateur marketer immediately because they focus too much on social media. The first words out of their mouth are – “We gotta get you on social media!” or “So what are you doing on social media?”
Not every business should use social media. For starters, the value social media offers B2C businesses is completely different from the value it brings B2B businesses. As funny as it sounds, people, including marketers and small business operators, are so enamored with social media that they completely forget to consider whether there is a viable audience there or not. The conventional wisdom is something like, “Everyone’s on social media, so my audience must be there.” They might be there in some capacity, but being there and the likelihood of conversion are two different things. One must always consider which mediums or channels provide the best result and return on investment.
For argument’s sake, let’s say your audience is there; standing out in social media can be like a needle trying to stand out in a stack of needles. Furthermore, the amount of time your post will have a chance to be in front of anyone is a matter of minutes, maybe hours, if you’re lucky. That means in order to find the needle you want people to find, they have to be there to look through the stack of needles during those minutes, AND you have to be the most noticeable needle in the stack.
If that’s not enough, here’s another challenge. If you have the resources to post frequently enough and hit home runs with your messaging much of the time, you also need to be there to respond to comments. You must be there to respond to good and bad comments. By the way, responding or acknowledging is not enough. Responding well, especially to negative comments, is crucial. Poorly handled communication has nearly wiped out some of the world’s largest brands. Do you really have what it takes?
Some of the “experts” will also tell you – you need to build an audience. That is ideal, of course. However, it’s not as easy as it seems. Getting people to follow you is easy-ish but getting the right people to follow you is quite a bit more challenging. It takes time and a lot of credibility, authenticity, and integrity to prove that you are worth the clutter in their feeds and notifications they’re signing up for by following you.
Sure, there are plenty of automated ways to build an audience on social media platforms. Maybe you’ll get a bunch of followers, but they won’t notice when you post, and they won’t impact your business.
Of course, if I could forego the female anatomy and the marriage to Kanye West, I’d love to have Kim Kardashian’s audience. But I bet if you asked her, she’d tell you it is a lot harder than I looks, and it took a lot of time and care to build that audience and build their trust.
I know what you’re thinking – Man, Cale really does hate social media. Nope. I hate the way it is over-sold and oversimplified. I hate that everyone thinks they’re an expert. Finally, I hate that businesses get misdirected and lose focus of their real mission – all based on the notion that they are gonna kick ass on social media.
That’s what I hate about social media. Here’s what I like and like about social media.
One of the great things about social media is that once you find the best fitting platforms and understand how to get posts to cut through, you can get straight to the audience most appreciative of your content. Nothing works as fast or as directly as social media. When done well, the ripple effect of a good post can be life-altering, or at least make your day.
We’ve all heard the stories of over-night social media sensations. Whether by accident or through a well-conceived plan, the reason it worked for them is that the stars aligned. These are the stars, that when aligned, will crush social media
- Star 1: Content complemented by the platform, like media (videos, audio or images) on Instagram, quick-hitting information, and links on Twitter, compelling B2B headlines and content on LinkedIn. It needs to match. If it doesn’t, you’ll be doing a lot of work for no good what so ever.
- Star 2: Finding the right audience on the right platform. Retail plays well on Instagram, Etsy, and Facebook for example. B2B connections are more likely on LinkedIn. Consider seeking out and joining groups that align with your product or service
- Star 3: Your product, service or information is easy to consume from social media platform. It must be consumable on the platform itself or just a click or two away from a sale or a demo. That’s it. Once those stars align and you get those things all in a row for yourself, you’re going to be in business.
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but if your posts are well crafted, social media can be an excellent medium for staying top of mind. In other words, being a regular fixture on social media can be an immense tool in the awareness game. However, and it’s a big however, if you are not careful or do not have a good plan, you will get lost in or become part of the noise that no one pays attention to. When you need to say something, you may have already been lost in the noise or have lost credibility. Top of mind awareness is a noble and proper marketing goal, but your audience may become numb to your posts if you’re not careful.
Small businesses with little to no budget can use social media to promote their business. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but you must have a good game plan to avoid the pitfalls. Assuming there’s a solid plan in place, social media can provide a platform that costs nothing but someone’s time. If following a sound plan, a DIYer can perform as well as anyone or any other channel or medium.
The final word on what I like about social media (by the way, there are more things I like and dislike, but this is enough to make the point) – the thing I love about social media is the ability to measure results. Each platform its own analytics package, and if used correctly, you can measure any conversion coming from social media. For the record, there are two types of small and medium-sized businesses. SMBs that analyze everything they can and those that won’t be around much longer.
Who should use social media and who shouldn’t?
If you are open-minded and have the time (day to day time and time to get results), you can learn a lot from which posts work and which don’t. Over time you can become adept at driving awareness and conversions through social media and learn a lot about your consumers at the same time.
If you have resources and access to expertise that can devise and work a well-crafted plan, social media can be a good option. What I mean is, if you have the time and money to determine which platforms are right for your situation, craft impactful posts, and respond to the good and bad replies, you have a good shot of driving business through social media.
You should stay away from social media or consult an expert if any of the following are true:
- You’re not 100% positive you know what it takes to create an impactful post
- You’re not 100% positive you know what drives your customer
- You do not have the time or resources to manage social media efforts
- You’re not 100% sure where your audience is most likely to be on social media or which platforms to use
In those cases, stay aware or consult an expert. It doesn’t mean social media is bad for you or you should stay away all together, it just means you need more information.
In summary, if you have a solid handle on what moves your audience, where your audience will be, and you have a plan to communicate effectively, social media can be an excellent platform to promote your small business.
If you’re not sure, you can do more harm than good. Wait until you can spend some time or money to do the job well.