11 August 2015

The Social Media Mantra That's All Wrong

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Lucy Hogarth
Written by Lucy Hogarth

Lucy Hogarth is the Co-Founder of The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. She has over 25 years’ experience working in clients and marketing agencies focussing on retail, telecoms, construction and financial services.

The pressure to have something to say in today’s mobile-driven world is huge, particularly within business. Click on Facebook and it asks you: ‘What’s on your mind?’, switch to Twitter and it demands: ‘What’s happening?’ and if you click instead to LinkedIn it insists that you ‘Share an update’ and ‘Reconnect with your colleagues.’ Like, comment, share.. it’s relentless.

Social media doesn’t respect the usual working hours either. It’s potentially a 24/7 window to your business and given that a recent study – by marketing agency Tecmark – suggested that the average smartphone user picks up their device more than 1,500 times a week and checks Facebook even before they get out of bed, you can’t afford to keep silent.

Social generation

If you’re reluctant to explore social media you may take some small comfort from thinking that no one else in your industry is using these networks. If that’s the case it’s not because it doesn’t work, it’s because they haven’t used it properly. You may hope that social media is a flash-in-the-pan fad that you can ignore until it passes by, but analysts say it’s here to stay.

According to social media agency Our Social Times, Instagram grew by 50% between March and December 2014 and exceeded the 300 million user mark. Tumblr’s active userbase grew 120% and Snapchat by 56% in the same year. It points out that Generation Y – those people born during the 1980s and early 1990s – who spend on average two hours a day on their smartphone will form 50% of the workforce by 2020. It’s clear to see that making the most of these channels of communication is vital.

Smartphone

Play smart: More people in the UK now access the internet from smartphones than any other platform, and social media is one of the reasons

This, you might think, is all very well if you have something to say. Certainly many of our clients initially don’t want to engage on social media at all, fearing that their messages aren’t strong enough and won’t be heard in a highly populated, increasingly noisy space.

Let’s be clear – it’s a mantra that’s wrong one hundred per cent of the time. There are two issues at play here. The first is underestimating the interest of your business, and the second is a misunderstanding of how social media works and the benefits of being active online.

No boring industries

Whatever your misgivings, there really is no such thing as a boring industry. When we’re as close to something, as we naturally are to our own businesses, we sometimes don’t see the wood for the trees and forget just how compelling and fresh our knowledge will seem to others. Okay, so your friends and family might switch off a little and look less than enthused when you’re reflecting on your working day, but remember, they are not your target audience. At least in business anyway. Those who are will most likely be enthralled by an industry that’s certainly far more technical, interesting and involving than casual observers would believe.

If your product or service is a considered purchase it’s likely that potential customers will try to find out as much as possible about your business as they can before signing on the dotted line and parting with their hard-earned cash. These days social media is one of the first places they’ll look for an insight into how you operate. Having an active, engaging profile can make the difference between whether or not you secure a sale. No wonder, then, that more than half of marketers who’ve used social media for at least three years have seen an improvement in sales and 80% say it’s increased traffic to their business, according to online magazine Social Media Examiner.

Bored to tears? You might think you have nothing interesting to say, but you shouldn’t be the judge of that, your audience should

When you first start posting to social media it can admittedly seem like a fruitless task – post after post, with little or no response. Like most other areas of life, it takes time to build up a rapport. But think about your USP. If you talk about the things you find interesting in your business, others will doubtless find them interesting too. If you talk about what you know and communicate it with passion, in short, sharp, well-written messages, you’re more likely to engage your target audience and the conversation will inevitably flow.

Don’t shout, talk

No social channel should solely be a mouthpiece for your business; it should be a networking tool and a means of generating dialogue. If you went to a social event and just talked loudly about yourself without finding out about anyone else, the chances are you would generate little business.

The beauty of social media and the interaction it offers is that it can cement existing relationships and help to build new ones. It’s essential, though, to target the right people on social media and open a conversation with them. If there’s a specific client you’d love to get on board, find them on a channel such as Twitter or Facebook and see what are they talking about. Strike up a conversation and immediately you’re building bridges with them without even having to step away from your desk.

Show your knowledge, keep it fun

Carefully consider on which social media channels or news sites you might find potential clients and like-minded businesses. If there’s an industry you work particularly well with you can seek out an existing group from that field on LinkedIn, enabling you to become a part of the conversation. Don’t be afraid to impart some wisdom, adding value to your contribution. Your relevant guidance, offered from a position of authority, will impress far more than a hard sell.

Always remember to make it personal, showing the personality behind the business, your character and that of your team. You want to ensure that people talk about you for the right reasons, so keep your postings unpredictable and thought-provoking, using creative ways to highlight your products and services in a positive manner, focusing always on the benefits rather than the features.

Let’s talk: Social media is all about conversation. Get it right and it can be the best networking tool you use

Essentially, social media should be fun and interactive and, if done right, should feel more like a pleasure than a chore for those on both sides of the conversation. On its own it isn’t going to work magic for you overnight, but as part of a wider marketing push it’s invaluable, and could make a compelling difference.

Confidence is key so stay true to what you know, your area of expertise, and deliver your message with as much passion as you would in the boardroom or a client meeting. By talking with authority about the things you find most interesting in your business, you are likely to draw others into your world and inspire them, hopefully generating fresh business for the long term

Photo credit:

Can You Etch It by Alan Reeves via Flickr under CC license 2.0

A Conversation by Khaled Albahl via Flick under CC license 2.0

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