5 Truths You Need to Know About Social Media for 2012
By Mary Ellen Merrigan, The Merrigan Group, LLC | October 14, 2011
Is Your Social Media Marketing Strategy Like a Whac-A-Mole Game?
In the classic county fair game Whac-a-Mole, moles pop up at random while the player gets points for hitting a mole square on the head and forcing it back into its hole. While little skill is involved, the game becomes more challenging to manage as time elapses.
Many small business owners approach social media like the Whac-a-Mole player who swings the mallet wildly in the hopes of boasting a high “score.”
The entrepreneur concentrating on product /service sales feels steamrolled by social options just as the Whack-a-Mole player is all-consumed with a mindless game. The parallels are inescapable. It’s as if customers decided for you and now you must participate in social media or be left behind.
Whether you’re a raving fan, a gentle naysayer or a begrudging participant, social media impacts your world. Like the player who whacks with force at the mole, you’re poised to jump on the social bandwagon.
Before you launch your assault, consider five practical truths about social media. Rate your confidence level with each truth and resolve to act in your best business interests in order to increase your score. Ready?
Truth #1: Explosive growth leads to channel fatigue.
New social media channels emerge weekly, eliciting complaints such as, “Who has time to learn one more thing about Facebook…or YouTube… or Twitter?”
Experts report the average person receives 2,000 branded messages a day. Naturally, this contributes to channel fatigue.
Like the Whac-a-Mole player, small business owners are so busy chasing the “last mole” they don’t have time to strategically prepare for the next mole waiting to pop up.
Before embarking on a social media campaign, look and listen. Define your message with your ideal customer in mind. Ask questions about where your customers spend their time.
In order to converse with customers, you must find them, even if it means investigating channels of which you were previously unaware.
Without preparation, your social media efforts can quickly fizzle. Some who jumped onto the social bandwagon early on are now abandoning mindless Whac-a-Mole, tactics and are learning to create authentic conversations with customers.
Truth #2: Content continues to gain importance.
Customers want relevant information, prefer information they deem important, and increasingly demand information on their terms.
Consumers, faced with more distractions than ever, look to information sources with discerning eyes: “What source should I believe?” or, “Who will I trust?”
A company’s personality makes an even stronger connection. Even if you have a boring product, you can “wow” customers by offering information in a way that captures your audience.
Your content is more than text: photos, podcasts, video, cartoons, charts, graphics or other illustrations communicate your message to the consumer.
One of the most overlooked options involves asking your ideal customer what’s important to them and then offering it to them. Whatever you choose, keep the conversation genuine.
Truth #3: Tools to manage social media proliferate.
Think of the social world as a video arcade, complete with sounds, lights, dozens of games and 24/7 access. Imagine attempting to play every game. You’d feel overwhelmed because instead of building skill level, you’d face a new learning curve each time you moved to a different machine.
A streamlined approach to social media is necessary. Smart phones or tablet computers feature small software programs called “apps” designed for convenience. Many apps and online tools are effective and free.
RSS (really simple syndication) feeds let you review large amounts of content in a short time. You can have these feeds delivered to your inbox or to other places.
Google offers a number of free tools to help you handle your social world. Google Reader, for example, allows users to access, organize and sift through huge volumes of information in a timely, concise fashion.
For brick and mortar operators, Google Places make your business local, bringing it close to customers, even delivering on their mobile phones.
Google Alerts help you “listen” for mentions on the web. Simply enter your query; Google Alerts checks for new results and sends you an email when your request is found.
The right tool streamlines processes, saving the user time and money and simplifying the social experience in the process.
Truth #4: Boost website traffic through interactivity.
As consumers become more accustomed to real-time responses through social media, the brochure website loses its effectiveness.
At a minimum, your website needs to include social share icons. People love to click thumbs up and quickly share an opinion.
If you don’t have a blog, an events page lets your company add new content to the web.
In addition, your site can link to any social channels profiling your company, thus making it easy for users to find you.
When your business is mentioned in social media it contributes to your search results. Experts tell us 95% of clicks are from page one search results.
Customer interactions – feedback, reviews, testimonials and comments – across the web build your company’s reputation via social media.
Truth #5: Plan tactics to increase success
No matter where you are in the business cycle, social media can help. Begin with focus. The channels used by your ideal customer will guide you to tools.
Take the time to think through your strategy, prioritize your goals and pick the top three ways to move forward.
Once you initiate the social process, stay with one channel long enough to see real results. You’ll soon find that what was previously noise and clutter can work for you. Like any other tool, social media works best when you use it purposefully to achieve a specific goal.
Are these truths new ideas? Certainly not. Social media is an essential part of marketing today. A hard-hitting assault may work with Whac-a-Mole, but a winning strategy with social media requires a more thoughtful approach.
Mary Ellen Merrigan, a marketing and publicity consultant, is author of “The Six Week Marketing Master Plan.” To contact her or learn more visit the Merrigan Group website.
About the Author
Mary Ellen Merrigan, The Merrigan Group, LLC