Social media is the latest buzzword around the net. Every weekend I come across a new social media tool, website, or service. I spent this past weekend sorting out my social media campaigns, and to be honest it took hours. Some of the tools I picked weren’t working they way they were promoted. Some worked too well, filling my social media channels with meaningless clutter. I turned off these latter offenders.
I had to ask, “If I’m getting bogged down in the social media universe, and I’m a professional, what does this new communication system look like to a business owner? Why should a business owner spend the time, or hire someone like me, to build an online presence if they perceive social media as a time-ravenous maze? Too many “next big things” come across my desk every day, and if I jumped into every one, I would never get to the business of running my business. I believe many business owners have similar reservations.
So this series of blog posts are for the business owner who is beginning to believe that social media can benefit his bottom line, but is hesitant to jump in because he or she want to know How and Why this new medium works.
Why Social Media?
The short answer is – the world has changed. Today 40 consumers start their product purchasing process by searching on the Internet, and over 80% of them use Google. We don’t go to a store and wander around, limiting our buying decision to the products on the shelves. The day of the mega-store that handles average products that meet the needs of the majority of people is over. Today people can get exactly what they want, and they start the process online.
The longer answer is that because it cost’s nothing (but time) to create information and feed the Google-monster, businesses can and must push their information out into the social universe so that their existing customers can connect with them, and their future customers can find them.
Accurately describing a social network on paper is at best difficult. The image of a neural network comes to mind, so does nailing Jell-O to a wall. Many different sites, reports and tools work together with the online consumer ecosystem to create a flow of information from your business out into the social universe. Once the message is consistently present, listeners find it and tune in.
The best metaphor I can use is that of a radio station broadcast. The online content and tools create the information broadcast. Those looking for quality information find you in the social stream through search engines, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Because your content and presence is consistent and valuable, they “tune in” to your social media channels.
The How of Social Media
If you are a business, stepping into this new medium is confusing; so let’s break it down and understood in bite-sized chunks. There are five bites, five key steps required if you are planning your social media marketing strategy.
- Publishing: A business must create new content to push into the social media information stream.
- Broadcasting: Once the information is created, like a radio station, you must “broadcast” across the social universe with digital, web-based tools.
- Listening: Citizens in the social universe expects to be heard when they talk back. Listening gives a business the opportunity to adjust and respond.
- Marketing: prospects are turned into customers the old-fashioned way. Give them an incentive to buy now so that the value they receive is larger than the money they are putting on the table.
- Connecting: The four steps above bring people to your digital door. Now a business can engage them, earn their trust, and convert them into customers.
Step 1: Publishing
Everything starts with content. Written and hosted on your blogs, website or video repositories, new content is the key element for your company websites. When the web first stepped into a business’ promotional strategy, it was an inexpensive way to create an online brochure, or sell products. Social media has changed what your website can and must do. Now the key to a website is new content.
New content also attracts search engines, visitors’ attention, and those who want to know more about your area of expertise.
- Publishing happens exclusively on sites you control, or those for whom you provide content as a guest.
- Publishing includes getting guest blog posts and leaving comments on other companies’ sites as a way of guiding traffic back to your sites.
- Posting content from other professionals in your industry is an excellent way to build your credibility
- Video blogs grab even more attention than a well-written post.
Publishing includes your own blog posts, video blogs, guest bloggers on your sites, and our guest blog posts on other sites. Blogging is the heart of content creation, and is only the first step. If your company doesn’t have a savvy wordsmith, contact web copy experts at Start Ranking Now. (www.startrankingnow.com) Below is a simple info-graphic that illustrates sources of information you can pull into our website, and your company blog.