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Is Social Media Marketing the right communication tool for your business?

Content provided by Venture Magazine, content partner for SME Toolkit               

Without a doubt, Social Media Marketing (SMM) has been, and remains, the hottest trend marketing has seen in a long time. It’s probably even hotter than AOL in the early 90’s. It’s now, it’s in, and it’s what most brands see as a must- have communication tool.

But it’s not free. Granted, setting up social media accounts and pages won’t cost you any money. But keeping them running properly will cost your company a tremendous amount of effort and time. You see, just because your company registered that Twitter account or created a Facebook page doesn’t mean people will start “following” or “liking” your brand by the thousands. You need to give them a reason to do so, and that reason is quality and relevant content that will engage them.

And it’s not a numbers game either. It doesn’t matter all that much how many people follow you on Twitter, nor how many people like that Facebook page. We’ve seen brands with tens of thousands of followers that follow even more themselves so they can keep their numbers. The concept seems to be “follow me, I’ll follow you.” It works if your target is numbers. The only problem is we’ve yet to see a bank that accepts likes as a payment currency for deposits. Other brands that seem to be very active or social do nothing more than posting links to interesting articles they come across or retweeting stuff mostly in the form of links to more articles. Not the best way to demonstrate knowledge and leadership, right?

The point is not whether SMM is an effective communication tool or not. The point is whether it is suitable for your particular type of business, and if so, whether you have the time or resources to do it such that you can really engage your target community. And provided you do, the key question you need to answer is what you want to accomplish through SMM. For example, do you want to increase sales, build loyalty, encourage referrals, or drive traffic to your website? Keep in mind that each of these objectives come with a different strategy. You then need to understand your target audience. If you’re into business-to business (B2B), Twitter or LinkedIn might be good channels. On the other hand, if you’re more of a business-to-consumer (B2C) type, a Facebook page might work great for you.

Based on the above (and a whole lot more) you can then design effective tactics that will deliver the re-quested results. B2C brands can use SMM to promote new collections, discounts, or new product releases. The conversion will occur most likely at their websites, but SMM channels can effectively drive traffic and also spread the word. At the same time, we’ve seen some brands that have done a great job with their fan pages, so their websites may not be as important anymore and serve more as a corporate background. On the other hand, B2B brands can use SMM to increase awareness about the benefits of products or services, or position the brand as a figure of authority in its respective field – which in turn does wonders for business development. B2B guys, be careful though; there’s a thin line between engaging prospects or clients, and providing a free service just to increase the number of followers. If you feel compelled to help someone, do it offline.

Finally, if you can’t find the time or you can’t hire someone else to do SMM the right way, you may want to seriously consider holding off until you’re ready. Having a blank Facebook page might harm you more than not having one at all. It might give people the impression that your brand is unworthy the follow or that you’ve gone out of business. So if you’re determined and ready to take advantage of this great communication medium, know exactly what you want to accomplish, plan it well, allocate the necessary time and resources, and work on your plan. And one last word of advice: be patient and persist. SMM is a great tool, but it’s not a magic wand.

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