Many companies I work with today are enthusiastic about diving into social media. It's shiny object syndrome at its finest. The problem I find most prevalent is that companies have no realistic idea about what it takes to launch and support a social media program.
It takes a lot more than creating an account and setting up a profile with the best of intentions to participate.
Here are 5 things to consider before you choose to add social media to your marketing mix:
- Prospect Preferences. Do you know where your prospects hang out online? Do they engage in social media? If so, is their involvement based on personal or professional reasons. (e.g. many people use Facebook for family and friends, keeping it separate from business)
- Content. How much of it do you have? Do you have plans to continuously develop a flow of content with the variety of contexts you need to meet expectations in different social media venues? Is your company stance to gate content or make it freely available? Is all this content focused on your prospects' perspectives? Is it helpful? Do your prospects engage well with the content you already share with them? In other words, will they be receptive to more of it? If not, fix that first.
- Resources. How many people do you have that can spend time working on social media efforts? What? Just you? How much free time do you have in your current schedule? Social media is not free. Take a look at #2 above and then consider how much time it actually takes to keep up with conversational threads, developing and sharing your content—-as well as that of others—contributing to conversations, answering questions, etc.
Are you a writer? If not, make sure you line up writing resources to contribute content you can use. If you think you can force people (engineers, product managers, customer service agents, executives, etc. to write blog posts, think again. It's harder to get busy people to make time to write than you'd ever imagine.) Solely interacting in social media by curating other people's content (not your own) may make you a relied-upon resource, but it won't make you a thought leader that people seek out for ideas.
- Long-term Commitment. Social media is not something you start and expect to see amazing results with in 3 months or less. It's definitely the turtle that beats the hare in this race. It can take 6 months to a year to develop the following, engagement and participation that leads to directly attributed sales gains.
And, if you start, what impression will you make if you stop and your accounts become inactive? Social media requires commitment. You must be prepared to measure short-term wins and long-term goals accordingly. And those goals must be reasonable and achievable or you'll be setting yourself up for failure. Getting pushy and trying to make it happen faster can (will) backfire.
- Connection Points. How can you integrate your social media efforts with your existing marketing programs? Set up a plan to develop cross-over and help your prospects find the content they're searching for regardless of where they look. Make sure you've got calls to action designed to help them migrate from one platform to another to follow your ideas and engage with your content—and your company.
How will you share what's going on in social media internally across your company so that when the subject comes up, your customer service agents, salespeople, installers, etc. know how to respond? For B2B companies, social media is not a singular effort but a plural one. If people are out of the loop and get blindsided, it can be problematic—both for your company's reputation and your own dealings with other departments within the company.
Social media can be a boon for marketers and companies. But it does require planning and commitment that's often out of reach for many marketing departments already spread thin.
The best advice I can share is to do your research and stockpile some content (or create an editorial calendar) before you begin. Incorporate it with your existing marketing programs from the start to give it legs. Choose one tool that matches your prospects' preferences and apply yourself to becoming the best at it. Measure as you go. Then add more platforms/tools as you and plan to be prepared before continuing to expand your efforts.
Consider starting with a blog. A blog is the surest way to generate the content you need to fuel sharing on other social media platforms. Plus, with the proper planning, you can incorporate blog posts into newsletters and nurturing sends right away. This said, go back and really take a hard look at the list above before you commit.