There are lots of “how-to” articles and blogs on social media marketing. If it seems to you that most of them are geared toward big companies, you are not alone. Who else can wade through all the social media sites, understand how each one works, and figure out how to apply the best social media to market their business?
The biggest objection we’ve heard from businesses across Pennsylvania from Lancaster to Williamsport to The Poconos, is using social media takes too much time. Small business people have to wear too many hats, so they do not have the time to learn about all the types of social media, let alone maintain a social media marketing program.
Why do you need to have a social media marketing plan? Because it is the next stage of the digital age which has put the audience in control, making traditional advertising methods less relevant. So if you are not learning how to use social media, you will be at a big disadvantage.
How To Start
Choose the social media sites that make the most sense for your business. This is simpler than it might seem. While there are 201 social media sites listed on Wikipedia, for most businesses in smaller markets, most of them are not worth investing in. Retail businesses wanting to reach small geographic areas need social media sites that reach enough people in their area to be effective. Because the internet is world wide, you need to choose the sites with the largest user base. But first, let’s look at the types of social media sites. According to Kaplan and Haenlein of ESCP Europe, there are six different types of social media:
- collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia),
- blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter),
- content communities (e.g. Youtube,),
- social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn),
- virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft), and
- virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life, The Sims).
One social media type I think they missed is Location Based social media (e.g. Foursquare)
Now decide which types of the social media sites make most sense for you.
Collaborative sites like Wikipedia may be a limited way to market since you can not advertise on it and it is very difficult to get a story on the site. One way we have been able to get on Wikipedia is by finding a way to be relevant to an existing story on Wikipedia. Now, Wikipedia aside, let’s focus on the sites with enough users to be useful for small market businesses. At this point in time that would be Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Here are the approximate user bases for five of the top social media sites.
- Facebook – 700,000,000
- Youtube – 490,000,000
- Twitter – 200,000,000
- LinkedIn – 54,000,000
- Foursquare – 10,000,000
Facebook has about 80,000 to 90,000 user within 50 miles of Lewisburg, PA. Half of all Twitter users (about 100,000,000) are in the US. That’s about one third of the population. Since the LinkedIn world is focused on business people, 54,000 is a good number. I recently looked for the number of LinkedIn users within 50 miles of Lancaster, Williamsport and Scranton and found about 200,000.
Not only does Facebook have the most users, it also has the most ways to touch and interact with the audience. You can buy advertising two ways. One way is with a Sponsored Ad. The other is with a Paid Story. A Sponsored Ad is one of those little square ads you see in the banner on the right. These ads can be seen by anyone on Facebook. One of the great powers of this form of advertising is the ability to reach a lot of people in small markets for very low cost, and the ability to target using the huge database of Facebook user profiles. A Paid Story can be seen only by friends and fans (fans are people who Like you on Facebook) in your news feed. In order to run Paid Stories you will need to install Facebook Insights. You can advertise to your friends or fans for free.
What is the difference between fans and friends? From a marketing viewpoint, the main difference is friends can write on your wall and you can write on your friends’ walls. Fans can write on your wall however you can not write on your friends’ walls. Why is this an important distinction? When you write on a friend’s wall, all of their friends can see it in their newsfeeds. That increases the reach of your communication times the number of friends your friend has. If you wrote on the wall of 20 friends and each of those friends had 250 friends, your communication would be seen by 5,000 people. Not only is this a pretty good sized number, but if you choose friends that are interested in what you posted, chances are a lot of their friends may be too. Fans only see what you write on your wall in their newsfeeds.
This is fundamental about Facebook for businesses. There are two types of accounts on Facebook: personal accounts and business accounts. Only personal accounts can have friends. Business accounts can only have fans. Businesses can not open personal accounts, so the objective of a business account is to build up a fan base. A fan base is like a mailing list. But on Facebook, you can reach out more often and in many different ways to stay in touch with your best customers and potential customers by appearing in their newsfeeds.
In order to get the advantage of having friends, some businesses create personal accounts for mascots or fictional characters that represent their businesses. This way they can reach out through their friends to potentially 25 million people. An amusement park can have an account for their mascot. A car dealer can have an account for their comical radio spokesperson. But one important thing to keep in mind if you write on walls for a business objective, you need to avoid selling and focus on having fun.
Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world, second only to Google. Youtube is less a stand-alone social networking site than Facebook. It is best used along with other referring sites such as social media sites, company web sites, and mobile phone apps.
Twitter is more of a news site, but has its uses for business. One of the best uses of Twitter is to build a reputation as an expert. How that works is people find you through various methods such as search engines like the Adobe Tweet Deck or Twitter’s search engine. If they like what you are tweeting, whether it is social or business information, they can choose to follow you. Once someone becomes a follower, they can see all your tweets just like your friends can see your Facebook posts. Another very popular use of Twitter is for employment advertising.
LinkedIn is much like Facebook, but focuses on business. It works much the same way as Facebook. Instead of a newsfeed, LinkedIn calls it an update. Instead of writing an update status on Facebook, you share an update on LinkedIn. I know some people who have had success with social marketing on LinkedIn to get jobs.
You also can buy advertising on LinkedIn. Purchasing ads on LinkedIn works very much the same as buying Sponsored Ads on Facebook. We have not yet experimented with LinkedIn Advertising, but I have read many favorable reviews on the internet. It makes sense for business to business advertising. We will let you know how it works out when we give it a try.