Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the list goes on. Building a B2B social media campaign for your business can be a very time-consuming process.
And if you run a small business, you do not have time to manage all those social media platforms yourself. In fact, you’ve probably may only have time to manage one.
On average, it takes an SME nearly two hours a day to successfully run just one social networking site. So should you even try to do it yourself? Or should you outsource your social media? Given the investment of time that is needed to perfect your campaign it is often worth calling upon the experts.
So why should you be outsourcing? Let’s break it down.
Are your competitors bang on the social media trend? Are they forever uploading their company updates onto Facebook and tweeting about the latest industry news? Staying on top of the latest news as well as publishing it can be one hell of a task and that is why many businesses are now choosing to outsource their social media campaign.
Outsourcing means that you have the added advantage of knowing that a professional social media service has the potential to convey professionalism and thought leadership. A good social media service will take the time to research your market niche and explore the key developments within your industry so that relevant quality content is produced on your behalf.
Do you ever read your competitors' tweets and Facebook updates and think, “Why didn’t we do something like that? Why isn’t our content as engaging as theirs?”
Social networking is a form of advertising, and advertising takes a lot of time and consideration. You can share and tweet to increase your social presence, but your posts need to be engaging, witty and smart, so that they integrate business and consumer needs.
With any social media campaign, content is king. Although it may only seem like a quick 140-character tweet or a short Facebook update, it takes time to produce quality content. If you’re a small business or a start up, you don’t have the time to manage your social media activities, yet you want an active presence over all the major networks.
By outsourcing your social media, you’re making sure that your messages are going out, you’re gaining followers and answering questions. All without you needing to invest your time or knowledge into knowing how the networks operate.
How do you know you’re getting value for money when it comes to investing in social media marketing? This is the question that deters businesses from getting started, because obviously you want assurance that your spend won’t be wasted.
An effective social media service involves much more than just liking and tweeting — a good social media service will have the appropriate mechanisms to track the results of your social media activity, and it will be proactive about getting measurable results.
Although social media services come at a cost, your service provider will be keen to demonstrate the ROI, because they will want you to invest with them.
Consider this — if you’re going to do it properly in-house, then you’ll need to think about changing a current employee's job role so that they can invest their working day in social media. Then you will also need to consider who will take on their previous role. This could lead to an unnecessary recruitment drive within the business, which requires investment of both time and money, both of which could leave you with more overall outgoings than you had originally anticipated.
If outsourcing to a dedicated B2B social media service is the best option for your business, undergo full research into the potential company and their services to ensure you’re getting the right package for your business needs.
What do you think? Should small businesses do their own social media marketing? Let us know your views below.
As social media has become too big to ignore, most companies are dabbling with it in some way. There are also businesses that take social media extremely seriously.
Meanwhile, others are merely dipping their toe in the water. Of course, the million dollar question that every company wants to know is this — will social media be an effective communication channel for my business and will my investment in it pay off?
To be honest, I have become bored with the question. In fact, asking the question in itself shows a complete lack of understanding of the communication revolution that we are experiencing.
I have yet to work with any business that has not acknowledged that one of their most important lead sources is word of mouth; in other words, recommendations and referrals from existing customers, or those people who have been “touched” positively by your business in some way.
If word of mouth is not an important marketing channel for your company, then you can stop reading right now. However, if it is, then the truth is quite simple:
There is no point thinking of social platforms as one channel to market and word of mouth as a separate route to gain customers. They have become one and the same.
For example, I recently saw an extremely funny sketch about an electric toothbrush that the comedian Rhod Gilbert received for Christmas. I was crying, I found it so funny. In the past, I would have mentioned it to several friends, in conversation, until it was something about which I forgot. Instead, however, I found the sketch on YouTube, and posted it up to several friends who I thought would appreciate it as much as I did.
The point is, whether the platform be Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter, these tools have become the way we regularly share stories, events and information. For many individuals there is no difference between telling a friend face-to-face or tweeting the same information. We do both things seamlessly depending on where we are and who we are with.
The single biggest inﬂuence on human behaviour is “social proof”. That is, our actions are greatly inﬂuenced by what others say and do — especially if these are friends and colleagues whom we respect and trust.
The simple truth is this. Social media is a vital channel for your business because this is increasingly where the conversations are taking place. The challenge is to become part of the conversation. In order to do this you have to ask, “what value can I give which people will want to share with others?” Whether your audience comprises mechanics, estate agents, footballers or lawyers, what value can you provide that they may share with some of their colleagues?
With old marketing, your reach was limited. If your company had a database of 5,000 people and you decided to send them a direct mail piece, your biggest hope was to reach 5,000 people. This is because people generally, when receiving a direct mail piece, don’t carry it about in their pocket, or handbag, with the intention of showing it to others.
However, with digital media, this is not the case. If we read an article, listen to a podcast or watch a video, we will often retweet it or send it on to friends to whom we think it will be appreciated. In other words, with digital, you are not limited to those people with whom you are in direct contact.
As a professional speaker, I have more professional speakers in my network than the average person. Therefore, if a business wants to engage with professional speakers, and I see a communication from them that I decide to share, they are likely to reach a disproportionate amount of professional speakers. Whether you want to reach lawyers or accountants, recruitment agents or doctors, the best access to these people is via those with similar proﬁles already in your network.
The point is this — I do not know a business that would declare they do not want word of mouth recommendations. That being the case, social media is impossible to ignore, because it is where word of mouth is now taking place.
Asking whether social media works is akin to asking whether referrals and recommendations work, a dumb question by most people's standards.
The reason, however, why so many businesses fail to make social media work is their complete failure to produce, or say, anything of value or interest to their prospects and customers. One of the keys to making social media work is to ensure people are sharing and talking about you. This requires companies to produce comments, materials, contests and information that are worth talking about. If a business succeeds in that, then they will get a “return on sharing”.
Does social media work? Please, don’t make me laugh.
Further reading on the Marking Donut:
Social media use showed no signs of relenting in 2012 and with that growth came the wider use of hashtags by businesses and consumers.
In fact, the American Dialect Society crowned “hashtag” the word of the year and one couple even went as far as naming their child Hashtag. I don’t recommend that but here are some tips to help businesses use hashtags to best effect:
1. Figure out what you want to use a hashtag for
By using a hashtag in a tweet or in the description of a photo, users can associate their content with a theme denominated by the hashtag itself. For example, by using the hashtag #Downton Abbey, you’ve naturally associated your content with the TV series and indexed with it. This automatic indexing makes search, the second use of hashtags, possible, meaning users can find out information linked to their interest on a social rather than search-optimised basis.
2. #Don’t #overdo #the #hashtagging
Instagram users briefly enjoyed Firegram, an app which changed the hashtags on photos continually so they’d appear in more searches, gain greater exposure and consequently more likes. Needless to say it was essentially spamming and the app was taken down. The more hashtags you’re using, the more conversations you’re entering. Instead of jumping on three hashtags to make sure your content is seen, just pick the most relevant possible hashtag and use that. Numerous hashtags can make things look messy and hard to read.
There are a couple of good reasons that short and concise hashtags work. The longer a hashtag is, the harder it is to read and the easier it is to confuse. Secondly, typing out something long will often result in the hashtag being misspelt, meaning the content won’t be associated with its intended conversation, especially if done via mobile. Finally, a hashtag that takes up half your space just isn’t viable if you really want to say something.
4. Don’t change the hashtag halfway through a campaign
You’ve selected your hashtag, now stick to it. Users hate a split conversation or having to use two hashtags and you’ll just make your own life more difficult when you’re trying to track what’s going on.
5. Promote your hashtag
What’s the point of a hashtag if nobody sees it or uses it? Stick your hashtag on all your social media websites, on your print marketing materials, at the bottom of your emails, and so on. The more places it’s seen, the more people will use it. That said, there does need to be a reason behind the use, and inviting people to “join the discussion” or “voice their views” by including a hashtag is a good way of boosting engagement.
6. Jump on other hashtags
Popularising hashtags is difficult, so rather than coming up with your own, search social media to find out what is being used in conversations similar to the one you’re trying to start. As long as what you’re saying is relevant it’s not a crime to add to the conversations. There are even opportunities to change the use of a hashtag altogether, a great example being the charity Water Is Life turning #firstworldproblems on its head.
7. Integrate your hashtags into sentences
By integrating your hashtag into a sentence the hashtag is contextualised and the content looks better. It also means you save space and can therefore write more. Simple.
8. Remember your hashtags are accessible to everyone
You may have come up with it but that doesn’t mean you own it. As with everything on the internet, hashtags are open to manipulation, often in a bad way. First off, make sure your hashtag is foolproof. Long hashtags made up of many words can often make for some difficult reading. Additionally, individual words used as a hashtag can easily be manipulated in any sentence. Best practice would be to come up with an acronym and end it with a number (if relevant) to ensure it isn’t internet trolled. There are already enough hashtag disasters out there and you don’t want to be the root of the next one.
9. Look beyond the obvious
Using hashtags in their conventional ways should now be second nature but their capabilities don’t end there. One such way businesses can innovate is by using hashtags for advertising. By identifying consumers through the hashtags they use, businesses can connect in real time with people who are receptive based on their engagement with a particular subject, hence getting relevant adverts to the right audience.
These tips should point you in the right direction when using hashtags but as with everything social media, using a little bit of common sense and instinct never goes amiss.
Rupert Staines is the European MD of RadiumOne.
Social media is the driving force behind a wave of start-up companies. Finally, a platform exists which allows access to a huge market without traditional barriers to entry. Simply put, the benefits of involving your business with social media will be — you will still exist in five years’ time.
Although you might know this, your boss or colleagues might not. Getting them involved with social media sites can be challenging. However, follow these simple steps and it will be impossible for your boss to say no!
One of the simplest ways to convince your boss that social media is the future is showing how much profit they can make. Show them how your competitors are using social content to attract potential clients, showing the strengths and weaknesses of their campaigns. Use your website analytics to monitor the flow of visitors to your website from Facebook, Twitter or organically, and how many convert to leads or sales.
Remember, this is a way to win over your boss. Start with something like, “currently we convert 6% of our online leads. With a social content campaign, we could increase conversion rates by 4% in the first six months”. Back this up with facts and don’t be tempted to oversell, this will come back and get you when you don’t deliver.
Your competition is already in your online space, and they will continue to grow and become harder to beat. You need to be establishing yourselves as leaders in your field. You may supply anything from radiators to a new digital service — don’t think your industry is too boring. Becoming established in your niche is important and social media is one of the easiest ways to do this.
SEO plays a huge part in boosting organic traffic and that is obviously a huge factor in being found online. And social signals are playing an increasingly important role in giving some websites more authority — and that affects where you come in Google rankings.
By creating content that answers the questions your potential customers have means you can save your employees valuable time and spent answering phone calls. With the right content on your website, the only phone calls you should be getting should be warm or hot leads looking to find out more about prices and details before making a purchase. As customers ring and enquire about certain issues, encourage colleagues to share what they were asked. This could give you inspiration for your next great piece of content, in the knowledge you will be answering the issues people see as most important.
A well-executed social campaign will show returns. However, examine your resources carefully and create a strategy that plays to your strengths. It’s well worth having a blog, for instance, as great content is the driving force behind any social media campaign. Not only will you get the SEO benefits and get long-tail organic traffic, you can use analytics to show directly how much traffic it has driven to your website, and how many conversions have come from it.
Once you can show the blog is successful, you may get more budget or resources to push a Twitter account. And before you know it, you will be in charge of an entirely measurable social media campaign, and your boss will give you a pay rise — we can always dream!
Jonathan Dempster is writing on behalf of ResponseTap.
As leaders of ambitious SMEs you and your brand will be searched for online by potential customers, so it is vital that what they find helps secure a sale. Whether you are targeting a global or local audience, customers need to find the right information as easily as possible, and get a positive impression from what they find.
First impressions count
When was the last time you Googled yourself, others in your team, or your brand? What does your “snippet” say about your business in the search results? What images show up when you are searched? Are simple things such as titles, dates and brand statements consistent across all your profiles? Do all links work? Consistency in appearance and core messages across all of your channels build a better impression — increasing the likelihood of a visit to your website or that first meeting will actually happen.
Look, listen and be proactive
Regardless of how loved and successful your brand is, you will never please everyone all of the time, so it is vital to monitor and manage who is saying what about you online. You need to reply to messages on social media, discussion forums and respond to customer reviews promptly, so do searches and set up Google alerts to keep track. Another great free tool is Who’s Talkin that allows you to monitor social media mentions too.
The best laid plans
Managing risk is not just about what you do in a crisis — it’s about creating the greatest opportunity for success. In today’s digital age, opportunities and threats can arise at any moment, so review your risks, create contingency plans and be clear on the decision hierarchy in case key leaders aren’t available. Having a crisis management strategy means you can react quickly to any issues, in a positive way, creating the impression that you are in control, and prevent contagion.
Turn negativity into positivity
A happy customer is your greatest asset — not only for sales but as a great way to counteract negativity. The most compelling response to a negative review or comment about your company is to allow your biggest fans to take the sting out of the attack with their positive experience. So do what you can to be transparent with handling feedback and facilitate customer comment in the channels you own, such as your website.
Don’t let a molehill become a mountain
There’s a time and place for battles and online is not it. If something negative comes up, act quickly, take ownership of the issue and defuse the dispute online by asking if you can contact them directly to help resolve their issue. Simply provide a telephone number with the name of the specific person who will own the solution and you can avoid further inflammation.
Sorry is the hardest word — but make sure it’s sincere
Even the most popular brands make mistakes and have to say “sorry” — and I’m sure we can all think of a few in recent months. The key is to be sincere, communicate well, offer a solution — without overcompensating — and where suitable, offer rewards or offers to show you are sorry after the storm has passed.
If you handle an online incident with sincerity and transparency, it is possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one for customers by demonstrating just how seriously you take customer feedback.
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs, which works with GrowthAccelerator to support high growth SMEs.
As Clay Shirky once observed: “There is no such thing as information overload, just filter failure”. He made this the theme of his excellent presentation at Web 2.0 Expo NY back in 2008.
Clay makes the point that information overload is not new and that it has been around since the arrival of Guttenberg’s printing press. And in the print era a publisher had to filter what to publish — otherwise it wouldn’t sell.
It can be said that information overload is (and always has been) a symptom of our inability to focus on what’s truly important or relevant to who we are as individuals, professionals and as human beings. The internet era has certainly changed the dynamics and it’s now possible to publish anything for free … so the filter has gone — or has it?
There are a multitude of freely available filtering “tools” marketers can use.
Here are just three that I would recommend.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are incredibly powerful in filtering information from regularly changing web content. Personally, I set aside specific time each day to look through the articles in my selected reader and organise each feed into relevant folders (for example by industry sector).
RSS Feeds can also be used to manage Google Alerts — updates of the latest relevant Google results filtered by your search term queries. Google Alerts make it easy to keep tabs on mentions about your own company, competitors and even individual people.
By 2014, Gartner predicts that social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communication for 20% of business users. This thought is slightly daunting, and whilst RSS feeds have certainly reduced the load in my email inbox, a simple tool such as NutshellMail allows me to receive a single summary (from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) at the times of my choice.
If information overload is keeping you awake at night, spend some time setting your filters, take control of the wealth of information available and don't allow that to be your failure.