Chris Summers of Services and People lifts the lid on practical ways that social media can drive traditional marketing.
With the floatation of Facebook last week it has once again brought the revolution of social media back into the limelight. But despite the often quoted statistical information pointing to the positive impact that this medium can have on businesses, many companies remain unconvinced as to its merits or the benefit that it can have on their organisation.
Part of the problem is, of course, that many of the statistics are published by social media marketing companies wishing to sell you their services, and very few lift the lid on how they use social media to market your business, products or services, instead making claims which may appear difficult to quantify.
Apparently 65% of followers will purchase from the brands they follow - this doesn’t necessarily mean that they wouldn’t have purchased from the business if they weren’t following them, or whether they were already a customer before they decided to follow the business, having previously purchased something.
Either way of course it does give you the opportunity to build a dialogue which you may not have previously had which in turn depending on the focus you place on interacting with your followers may give you scope in the future for business.
Many companies starting to use social media for the first time fall into the trap of over using the medium to directly push products and services onto their followers. This behaviour, rather than getting you new followers or customers will actually irritate most social media users and actually turn them away from you. Clearly there is nothing wrong in pushing your products, but you need to intermingle this with other newsworthy items from your company. If you have followers, it’s because they are probably interested in your brand as well as your products.
Also, remember to make sure that you are regularly posting updates as often as possible, it’s these updates which will gain your further followers, which as you will see in a bit can provide helpful marketing information. It’s therefore important to make sure that you have the processes set-up internally to allow potential content to filter its way to your social media posts, whether this be news coming from internal meetings, information relating to new opportunities and markets or upcoming events.
Posting information regularly will ultimately get direct sales opportunities from your followers, which we would all agree is a definite bonus, however try to think a bit more strategically and see the process as an opportunity to obtain useful market information and data from your followers. Assuming that you are not falling into the trap of using social media to constantly push your products and services and actually turning people off, how else can you use your followers to assist with your marketing efforts?
Driving traditional marketing
Hardly a month goes by without reading about internet and data privacy online and this is particularly true when using social media, but in terms of marketing it is not so much the personal information about individual followers that are of interest to businesses but the geographic, and biometric information that a substantial group of followers can bring. Customers are fairly savvy about what information they should and shouldn’t share on a regular basis bar the odd slip up, but few businesses realise the statistical trends that can be obtained across a collective group of people.
You may be able to collate useful market data from customers, but customers are not necessarily followers and followers are not necessarily customers and over time you are likely to obtain much more relevant information relating to your followers than you are about customers, that may have done business with you months earlier.
All the mainstream social media sites allow you to obtain follower information if you go looking for it, these categories include, but are not limited to:
- Geographic location, by country, county or city
- Average age
- Gender information
- Likes & dislikes
Thinking about the information above you can see how potentially useful this data can be particularly once you start to build up a meaningful number of followers, this information can be used to drive your traditional marketing techniques, for example:
- Are we hitting our demographic for our product range?
- Why are we not appealing to younger age groups?
- Should our advertising campaigns be based more around peoples likes, dislikes, or interests as a hook?
- Why don’t we have a strong following in this location? Should be direct market here?
- Why isn’t our service appealing to women?
- Why don’t we have any penetration in this county, do we need to make more effort there?
As you can see just from the categories and sample questions above this relatively simple information can help to focus your marketing campaigns in demographics where you feel they need to have most impact. Couple this with freely available information relating to spending power, social mobility and marketing strategies and you start to get a comprehensive view of your potential customers and where you should be placing your marketing effort.
Even a few years ago this information would not have been readily available, and many businesses don’t realise that they can obtain it now, so use this to your advantage and start lifting the lid on your social media offering.
As you have seen it turns out that social media can offer far more in terms of marketing rather than hoping for direct sales for your efforts. If you asked me the question, can social media be used to market your products or services? In my opinion, yes it can, but maybe not as well as traditional marketing techniques (at the moment) - although the return on investment could make it worthwhile depending on how much you are spending.
If however you asked me, can social media provide you with the information to improve the targeting of your campaigns? The yes, definitely, it allows you to be much more specific and plan your campaigns utilising demographic, and biometric information allowing your traditional marketing efforts to be much more effective.
Engaging in social media strategies is definitely worth doing, building relationships and dialogue with existing and potential customers can only be a good thing but don’t fall into the trap and use this medium as only a means to directly sell, put in the effort to engage with your customers and take a longer term view that will be beneficial to your business.
I hope this article has helped clarify some of the techniques that can be used to make social media work for you.
Chris Summers is the owner of Services and People, helping businesses grow through Customer Service, Employee Engagement and Information Technology Consultation.