By Corey Smith, Dealer Marketing Systems, imageSource magazine Feb 2012
Many small and medium-sized business owners don’t know where to start with social media, and wonder if there is real value in running a social media campaign for their business. Let me assure you, there is tremendous networking and branding value in this initiative, and at little cost, as long as you realize that social media’s primary purpose is about being effectively social – and it’s through that social aspect that “word-of-mouth” is empowered.
Too often, business owners complain about the use of social media. There are many reasons they think social media is “bad” such as:
“I don’t want people knowing what I am doing.”
“I can’t mix personal and business.”
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to hear what I have to say.”
“None of my contacts are on social media.”
“Can’t I just pick up the phone or email?”
Not wanting to participate in social media to some degree shows a level of shortsightedness because it means that we/you aren’t willing to look at the uses of social media from an objective or realistic point of view.
Let’s first look at the statistics of social media so that we can put a framework around the 3 big reasons for social media. Certainly, we could write many more data points, but I think you’ll get the idea from these five.
- 96% of Americans use Facebook (Business Insider)
- 46 million American check social media profiles daily (Edison Research)
- 50% of Small Business Owners report gaining new customers through Social Media (Mediabistro)
- 51% of Facebook Users and 64% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from the brands they follow (Mediabistro)
- Of Small Business Owners decision makers that use social media, 86% use Facebook, 41% use LinkedIn & 33% use Twitter (Zoomerang)
Even with these stats, the reality is there are three primary reasons why businesses need to seriously consider social media as a part of their overall marketing strategy. Failing to understand these three critical aspects will cause you to miss out on spectacular marketing opportunities for your business.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
When other websites link to your website, you get a vote for your credibility and relevance. It has been a long-standing tactic for search engine optimizers to generate in-bound links to their websites to help build search engine credibility. In fact, spammers love this tactic as they can often get many links in comments on other people’s blogs and websites.
When you post a link in your social media channels, your link becomes another in-bound link to your website. If those in your network share that link, it means that you have even more in-bound links.
However, link building is not the only benefit. Social media posts (profiles, articles, etc.) are indexed in the search engines (assuming your privacy settings don’t prevent them). Many times, your social media profiles and status updates (tweets) will even appear above your website in the search engines… which will then have a chance of driving traffic to you.
But, don’t forget, search engine optimization does not mean you’ll get traffic.
When I started my latest blog, I had no rankings in the search engines. In the beginning, Google had no idea that my new blog even existed. Long before the search engines took notice, I was able to garner a fair amount of traffic. I was able to gain this traffic through posts to my social networks.
Even now after the rankings in my personal blog are growing, and people are seeing my blog more often in search engines, I can look back and analyze my traffic and see a direct correlation of traffic due to posts in social media. When I post a link to my blog, depending on what time of day and how compelling my message is, I can see a reasonably consistent amount of new traffic. If the post on my blog is particularly compelling, then I can see that number double or even triple because of the sharing of other people within my network.
Remember that just because you get traffic, it does not mean you are going to make a sale.
As I mentioned before, social media’s primary purpose is to be social. However, it’s more than just the social aspect. It’s about actively fostering relationships with new people.
I think it’s laughable when I hear the comment that, “None of my friends are on social media.” To presuppose that only people you know are the only people you should connect with on social media is a major fallacy in the way social media is intended. Virtually all social networks that have been built, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were founded on the idea that you can connect with people whom you’ve ever met before.
The hallmark of social media for business is that you can create and build new relationships. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, you have an opportunity to build new relationships with people that you don’t already know.
There is a catch to all this. While it’s great that you can gain a stronger presence in the search engines and you can garner new traffic to your website, there is a requirement.
That requirement is that you have strong relationships. Google, Bing, etc. understand the influence of your network. The stronger the influence, the more weight they will give to your posts. The more people you influence, the more traffic you will generate.
You can also destroy your influence by posting only links to your website and never providing any value. No matter how many people follow/friend you, if you are always asking them to do something (go to a link) and never return anything (information, engagement, humor, etc.) they will begin to ignore you. That will negatively impact your search engine optimization and traffic.
So, the moral is…. Be social.