Every time I attend a small-business conference, I make sure I get into the room for the session on using social media to market your business, and every time I find myself in the midst of a professional group-therapy session for the digital age.
When Three Dog Marketing partner Kristin Slice opened her presentation in the “Start Using Social Media to Your Advantage” session at the National Association of Women Business Owners Women’s Business Conference by saying “there are still skeptics in the room,” I knew this would be no exception.
Then I went through the emotional stages I experience every time: disbelief, outrage, acceptance and finally hope, because those skeptics in the room have opened their minds enough to show up and try to learn.
It’s important that they — and all other skeptics out there — take the steps to learn because, as Slice quickly pointed out, marketing is not the game it was just five years ago — the companies that do well are the ones that understand and make good use of social media. Don’t worry, though, it’s not as hard as you think.
At this point, you don’t need to guess or learn by trial-and-error, Slice explained. There are plenty of case studies and volumes of advice available — much of it free on websites such as Mashable, Social Media Explorer and right here at SmartBlog on Social Media. There are also plenty of experienced professionals whom you can hire as staff members or consultants to help you out.
Note I say “experienced professionals,” because Slice was careful to warn against following one oft-repeated nugget of social media advice: Just hire an intern or recent college graduate to handle your social media. “I have been hired several times to fix social media campaigns that interns started,” and then left taking the passwords with them, she explained.
Here are five more bits of wisdom from Slice that should help social media skeptics see the point and feel more comfortable taking advantage of this powerful and necessary marketing tool:
- It works as part of a strategy. You need to make and execute a plan. Doing so also eliminates the popular social media avoidance excuse: I don’t have time. If you have a strategy, it will take you less than half an hour a day.
- It’s about connecting people and building relationships over time. Just like offline relationships, online relationships take time to build up. “You would not run into a marketing event, throw out a bunch of fliers and yell ‘Do business with me!’ ” and you can’t do that with social media either. You have to talk to have conversations, get to know people and let them get to know you.
- Many of your customers and employees are using social media. Whether you’re paying attention or not, your customers are talking about your business on social media networks. They are also connecting with your Web-savvy employees. You need to be part of that conversation.
- Not every network is right for every business. Facebook may be the network you hear about most often, but it may not be right for an industrial manufacturer. That business might have better luck focusing on LinkedIn, while a company with beautiful physical products aimed at consumers may be best suited for Pinterest. You can — and often should — be on more than one network, but you don’t need to be on them all.
- It requires some personality. Customers don’t want to connect with a logo and a stiff, corporate voice; they want to connect with people, so “don’t be afraid to have fun and show your personality when you’re marketing via social media!”