Social Media Marketing: Necessary or Not? (Part 1)

Marketing trends tend to follow the trends in personal communications, and social media has been enjoying a place in the sun for several years now. I’m old enough to remember when friends and relatives often kept in touch via postal mail, and most business was conducted that way, too. As new telephone service pricing models came into being and long distance costs fell, people communicated more over the phone and telemarketing became popular – with the marketers, if not the potential customers. Then Internet connectivity approached ubiquity and email was all the rage – until the deluge of spam and “gray mail” (advertising from businesses with whom you have a relationship) made opening your Inbox in the morning something to dread.

Today a large proportion of the people I know communicate through social media – primarily Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ – and businesses are looking for ways to utilize those social sites to their advantage, as well. As an MSP, your company is in the technology industry and thus expected by many potential customers to have a social media presence. Simply having a web site isn’t good enough anymore. But many businesses aren’t sure how to go about it. In this series of articles, we’ll take a look at what social media can – and can’t – do for your business, and how to effectively make it a part of your overall marketing strategy.

Have a plan

Something I’ve tried to emphasize in all of my articles is that whether we’re talking about managing your money, becoming a thought leader, securing your data or architecting your infrastructure, the key to doing it successfully is having a well-thought-out plan before you start making changes. That goes for incorporating social media as a marketing tool, as well. Before you can develop an effective plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish. What do want social media to do? By first defining your desired results, you can then work backward to determine what specific activities will get you there and give you the best “bang for the buck.”

You can begin the social media planning process by asking some questions:

  1. Who do you want to reach through social media?
  2. What is your primary goal (examples: to reach out to existing customers in a new way, to attract new customers, to communicate within the industry to establish yourself as a thought leader)?
  3. What type of content do you want to communicate? Just information about the company, its events, promotions, etc., or more general educational material? Referrals to other associated businesses? Sharing of experiences? Letting customers or potential customers get to know you/your staff more personally? Do you want to share photos and video?
  4. Which social network(s) are most used by the demographic you want to target (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.)?
  5. Who will be responsible for social network posts? Will this be assigned to one or two specific employees? Will all employees be encouraged to represent the company on social networks?
  6. What rules and guidelines need to be in place regarding posts to social networks? (We’ll discuss how to develop a social media policy in a later installment of this series).
  7. What are your goals for frequency and number of posts? It makes sense to develop a schedule to keep your company’s presence active in the social networking community.

To use social media most effectively, you can’t just throw some content out there and hope for the best. You need to follow what the hot topics are among the people you’re targeting and make your content relevant to the trends, follow others in your industry and reshare their content or reply/join in the discussion when appropriate, and make your content compelling enough to motivate others to reshare it. Your plan should take these objectives into consideration.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll go a little deeper into the “how to” of creating relevant and effective social media content and some specific tips for getting your name and message out there in the social networking space and attracting the right social networking users to your sites in order to benefit your business.

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