Is social media the answer to your marketing problems? The internet has created dramatic shifts in how marketing and sales work. Companies have historically interrupted potential customers day to present a sales message and close a deal.  TV and Radio present a mild form of interruption, while telemarketing and email are more intrusive. People are fed up and just want to be left alone. There is a National Do Not Call Registry. The CAN-SPAM Act allows you to unsubscribe from updates with one click. Dish has introduced the ability to skip commercials. Combine these trends with the failure of newspapers and print media and the result is a real problem for your business. How do you meet, connect with and sell to new customers? Social media may help you solve these problems, but it is more complex than you might initially think.

Starting in social media

social media sign postAs you bring your company into world of social media, leave your old interruption marketing tactics behind. Think about all of the networking events you attend to market your visit. If you walked around the room saying “I’ll give you a free guide to implementing an x,y,z strategy” as you walked by people, would it work? It won’t work well online either.

Social media is social. It is all about conversations. Send out updates with valuable content, but realize that you need to be present and have a conversation.

Let’s consider Twitter.  Go to and find a hashtag that you find interesting. Enter that hashtag into the search box on Twitter. How many of those updates are actually interesting? Look at a few profiles. Are they interesting? Do they invite conversation? Look at their tweets. Are they a stream of information put out like a robot? Does that invite you to make a connection? Now, start talking with people. How many respond? How does that experience differ from just watching the stream of updates fly by you. Consider the difference between these two approaches. Which experience would lead you to purchase from someone? Here are some more tips on how to publish updates on different social media networks.

Social media is not free. It never was.

Many companies approach social media as the new free way to get new customers. It is not free and it never was. At a minimum you will spend time developing and publishing valuable content. As social media platforms monetize, this will impact your approach.

For example, as Facebook begins to explore monetization more seriously, companies are complaining. Some are even leaving the network altogether. The business reality is that it may or may not make sense for you to be on a given social media network. You need to look at the business case and the first question you need to ask is: “Are my customers spending time here?” You have to start by finding the right social network for your business.

Consider the business ecosystem around you. All of the social media platforms want to monetize. Would you provide access to your key resources for free? They won’t either. So you can expect that each social media platform will begin to monetize. Consider how this could impact your business strategy. In some cases, having to pay for exposure and new leads could mean that Facebook is no longer a viable place for your business to market.

You need a real social media strategy.

Your strategy should start with your customers. Ask yourself, “Where do my customers spend time?” They might be on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+. The odds are that your customer is on Facebook. The next question is, “Can I develop a business relationship with my customers?” B2B companies may struggle to sell on Facebook, but find it easy to sell on LinkedIn. When you find the right network, start testing. Learn how to develop a presence on more than one social media network. What if the rules change and that social network is no longer a viable way to  meet customers?

Next test how much it costs to get a customer on this network. Measure the time you spend and how long it takes to get a lead. How much does it cost to get your first customer? Remember that progress in social media tends to be exponential. It is easier to get your tenth customer than your first. Your 100th should be even easier. That said, measure this and be sure that it is true for your business.

Your strategy absolutely must include developing your owned media platform. Social media should become your distribution and feedback channel. You want to develop audiences on each platform, but the key point is to drive them back to your platform. You also want to collect emails, names and phone numbers. Many b2c companies capture leads with contests, while b2b companies offer white papers and guides in exchange for contact information. The next step is to develop a relationship before you start selling.

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