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If you’re panicking about not being onboard the social media marketing train, the bad news is that it’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon. There are good reasons why social media is so popular as a business tool. When executed correctly, it can affect your business hugely, whether that means improved online brand sentiment, website visits or product sales.
The best part is that compared to big above-the-line ad spend, social media can be very affordable and budget-friendly. It is also a level playing field –- in other words, your business doesn’t have to be of a certain size or type for it to be effective.
Then why do some social media campaigns work and some fall flat? It seems there’s a lot more to it than whipping up a quick Facebook fan page and Twitter account. And therein lies a simple truth. Although the concept of using social media in a business seems simple enough, it really requires some strategic thought for it to have any real impact. So how can you go about doing this?
The best place to start is probably knowing how not to think about social media. Here are six common “attitude dealbreakers” to a successful social-media campaign:
1. You’re not willing to give up control
Unlike traditional push marketing such as a press release or company website, social media is a two-way conversation between you and your target audience. This means you won’t be able to control everything being said about you online – and that’s ok. While you should be protecting your brand’s reputation, do this by focusing on a good business offering and good customer service rather than trying to control the conversation.
2. You think people will engage with you because you exist
It’s indulgent to think that people will engage with you online just because you think your brand is cool. Usually this isn’t enough to get people to your Facebook fan page or Twitter page. Instead, think of an extra incentive to draw them there – whether it is funny or interesting viral content they can submit or spread, a competition they can enter, or a way that engaging with you will give them “street cred” with their friends.
3. You think it’s a quick fix
Running a social media campaign isn’t just about establishing a presence on cool new media websites – it’s also about continuously engaging with your audience once you’re there. Unfortunately though, there’s no short cut for this; building up a loyal following through social media happens organically, which takes time and perseverance.
4. You consider social media to be separate from the rest of your marketing
Many people think that social media is to marketing what Swaziland is to South Africa. You know, somehow related but still kind of separate. This isn’t the case. Though the tools may be fancier and the crowd may be cooler, social media is still just another part of your marketing mix. This means it should be in line with your overall marketing strategy and it should communicate the same message. After all, people don’t interact with your brand using just one channel: your Facebook fan may have seen your TV ad last night, and may see your in-store signage tomorrow. Having a coherent message makes the overall effect much more powerful.
5. You think all social media tools will work for your business
If your target market is a 50-year-old high-net-worth individual with no access to Facebook at work, chances are he’s probably not going to be active on your Facebook group anytime soon. He may, however, be on LinkedIn and Plaxo, and he may also read more “serious” consumer reviews about your product. Know your target market and where they’re likely to be online, and be brave enough to forget about engaging in places where they aren’t.
6. You bury your head in the sand
Realistically, there’s always a chance someone somewhere won’t be happy with your business, no matter how successful you are (try Googling “is Google evil?”). And, if there’s negative conversation happening about your brand online, it will happen whether you’re there or not. Rather than bury your head in the sand, be part of the conversation as a way of trying to limit the damage.
If you’ve messed up, admit it and learn from your mistakes. If you truly believe you’re in the right, state your side of the story, but do so humbly without being defensive. Social media’s viral nature means that if you act like a jerk to an unhappy customer, your jerky reputation will quickly spread, which will do even more damage to your brand.
With these deal-breakers in mind, think about how a social-media campaign would work within the context of your business. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but at a strategic level, you should have a big idea that justifies you using social media, and that cuts through the noise of your competitors. Then, be smart about executing your idea. Know where your target market is, and how they’re already engaging online.
Finally, be humble. A reputation of smugness or arrogance can quickly undo any brand-building work you’ve been doing. By having the right attitude, you’re likely to get a much higher return on the time and effort you’re investing in your social media campaign.