Are you ready for social media?

16 February 2011

2011 is set to be the year of the social marketer, as businesses big and small gear up to ride the wave of social media.

As Australians spend increasing amounts of time online, it should come as no surprise that we are one of the biggest consumers of social media, according to recent research by Neilsen. While many business owners have jumped into the fray and set up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels, some are pausing to ask a very simple, but important question:

Is it worth it?

It's a valid question for time-poor business owners who are often stretched by the demands of running their business, managing staff and satisfying their customers. And the answer, which will surely be frustrating to some, is that it depends. Like any investment of time and resources, you need to know what your social media goals are before you can understand its yield potential.

Using social media for business development

Whether you're at the big end of town, a mum-and-dad operation, or somewhere in between, social media can help you grow awareness of your business, promote sales activity and take your interaction with customers to a whole new level.

With a lot of media attention being given to social media and how it can benefit your business relationships, many businesses jump on the bandwagon without thinking of the implications for their business. If you don't implement it well, it can be a waste of valuable resources and time.

The more successful forays into Facebook or Twitter are those that deliver something of value to followers and actively seek opportunities to engage – whether it is providing useful information, special or discounted offers, good customer service or simply a forum for feedback and opinion about your product or service.

The rules that apply to customer service are applicable in social media too – treat your followers with respect, learn the difference between engagement and a sales pitch, and give them a reason to come back. Smart, savvy business owners who understand the value of customer relationships and the ability to deliver a more intimate, tailored service or product offering are embracing social media for those very reasons.

If you build it, will they come?

Before you jump in and build your Facebook page, step back a moment and look at how it will fit into your overall marketing and sales strategy.

Social media is about direct engagement and interaction, not just being on message. If you decide to venture into Facebook, Twitter or any other of the myriad social media opportunities, then look at ways to integrate with your other marketing activity, for example linking to relevant blogs or services on your website, prompting people to come back to your Facebook page by mentioning a current conversation in your email newsletter or making some resources only available via your Facebook page.

Understanding the purpose of each of your marketing activities is key. For example, you may use email as a prompt to keep your customers up to date about what's new, Facebook for facilitating engagement and Twitter for broadcasting your opinion on topics relevant to your business but to a wider, less targeted audience.

And if you're starting to hyperventilate about the time involved in managing your marketing – stop and take a deep breath. You don't have to be on every social media channel straight away. Think about your business and how you interact with your customers now and choose one social media channel that is most relevant to your target audience. Then as time, experience and resources allow, expand your social media activity in line with your business objectives.

What about return on investment?

Any marketing worth doing is worth measuring, and social media ROI is a hot topic as business owners want to know whether it's going to make a difference to their bottom line.

Like any business activity, determining ROI depends on your objectives. For some businesses it is purely about the dollar value of new business; for others it is about the quality of the relationships, increasing the number of people in your mailing list, click throughs to your website, more inquiries, better response rates, and ultimately increases in revenue.

At the end of the day, determining the value of social media to your business is not just about dollars and cents. What is important to keep in mind in the decision to go social is that it is an investment – of time, money, human resources within your business and customer service in building relationships. With the right strategy and good execution, social media could just be the right tool for growing your business.

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This article is provided for information purposes only and correct at the time of publication. It should not be used in place of advice from your accountant. Please contact us on 02 9957 4033 to discuss your specific circumstances.

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