Combine social media with other forms of marketing

Social media marketingMany small businesses are blogging, tweeting and posting updates on social media websites. At first glance, it can look fun and easy. However, social media marketing is a powerful tool and it is vital to approach it strategically. Rachel Miller explains how to bring your online and offline marketing together

Small firms that are using social media to market themselves online need to set objectives, plan their approach and make sure it dovetails with their overall marketing strategy.

Like any marketing initiative, getting results can take time and your strategy may need developing. You may find that you are spending a lot more time online than you first anticipated - and neglecting other tasks as a result. Perhaps you are taking an ad hoc approach and failing to co-ordinate all of your marketing messages.

Match the message to the medium

The golden rule when it comes to social media marketing is not to overtly sell. So, the way you communicate on Facebook or Twitter, for instance, will be very different from the way you would approach a sales letter or flyer.

However, it is vital that you don’t go completely off-message. All your marketing communication should highlight your USPs, strengthen your brand and be aimed at your target market. With social networking, for example, you can position yourself as an expert or talk about relevant issues that you are passionate about.

How social media can fit into your overall strategy

Have a look at your existing marketing activities. Each of them does a specific job, reaching your target audience in different ways. Social media marketing can work with your traditional marketing to enhance it.

  • Advertising. You can’t necessarily use social media to sell, but you can talk about issues related to your products and services that will subtly help your sales effort.
  • PR: Submit your press releases to online PR services. In your social media engagement, position yourself as an expert.
  • Your website: Include web links in your social media marketing to boost traffic to your website and improve your search engine ranking. Use keywords in your blogs, posts and tweets to help potential customers discover you online.
  • Market research: Use online social media to gather feedback about your products and services.
  • New prospects: Find new prospects and develop relationships with customers.
  • Customer service: Use social media marketing to give customers more - alert them to new developments, explain issues, answer questions and provide support.

Your social media strategy

Given the growth of online social networking, it is likely that more and more customers are coming to you via new routes — such as forums, your blog, Facebook or Twitter. It is vital to be responsive and to convert this interest into sales.

Like any marketing, you will need to take a strategic and professional approach to your online social networking:

  • Set objectives and targets.
  • Integrate your online networking with your overall marketing strategy.
  • Allow enough time and set a budget.
  • Be flexible about how and when you use social media.
  • Take a personality-driven approach but don’t damage your reputation.
  • Social media networking is a two-way conversation. Don’t shut down criticism. Learn how to respond and try to turn negatives into positives.
  • And don’t forget the golden rule — no sales pitches.

You will also need to monitor everything you do, which is possible using tools provided by the social media platforms themselves, or by other software developers. This will enable you to measure the return on your investment in time (and money), find out what works and what does not and fine-tune your approach.

More on social media: