Not so long ago, the traditional marketing model was to get as many eyeballs on your message as possible, and hope that a percentage of the audience would purchase. Yellow Pages, radio advertising, direct mail, television commercials, and magazine ads are examples of these traditional advertising methods. These conventional types of marketing are no longer very effective because many consumers have become blind to this sort of one-way messaging. Advertising has become omnipresent and people no longer trust advertisers: A recent survey found that only about half of people trust advertisements at all – while 83% of people indicated they do trust personal recommendations. That’s why in the Internet age marketers have been finding alternative ways to connect with potential consumers.
Online marketing began with simply publishing websites – and then optimizing them with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, so that Google or Yahoo can notice and show your site first. That’s still a tool in the marketing toolkit, but SEO has been supplemented by interactive strategies such as blogs, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and other online marketing tools. The benefit of interactive marketing over traditional means of advertising, is that it involves two-way communication, where users are empowered to generate reviews, ask questions, submit their experiences, or request personal care even from big corporations. Instead of broadcasting to a passive audience, businesses can now communicate directly with their customers.
The days of broadcasting your product or services message out to a mass audience and hoping for a response are over. People don’t want to purchase from nameless, faceless companies. Not only are consumers paying attention to the “man behind the curtain,” but they also want to know what others are saying about your product or service. A recent study concluded that 80% of US Internet-using moms were influenced by word-of-mouth from friends and family when making a purchase decision. No other communication medium allows businesses to benefit from consumer word-of-mouth publicity like social media marketing.
Benefits of social media marketing
- Increased New Customer Acquisitions. The main advantage of social media marketing is that you will have the opportunity to connect with networks of potential customers that you would otherwise be unable to come across using traditional marketing techniques or even SEO.
- Word-of-mouth Marketing. Word-of-mouth publicity has always been the most influential way to generate sales. With social media marketing, you are able to create raving fans who will voluntarily promote your product and services to their networks of friends. Of course, if your product or service is poor, then this could come back and bite you!
- Brand Awareness. Branding your business using social media marketing is much simpler, faster, and less expensive to achieve than the traditional advertising medium or even website marketing. You’re no longer a name and a logo in the phone book: Now you’re a story about above-and-beyond service that gets forwarded to people you’ve never reached – and at no cost to you.
- Customer Retention. Social media platforms are effective places to communicate with your customers about new products, special promotions, or merely to educate them on your business. Through consistent, free communication, you can keep your company in front of your customer’s eyeballs – which will in turn lead to repeat business and referrals. Remember, the key to this type of communication is to be content rich; don’t use these avenues to pitch your product or service.
- Rapid Results. The effective and successful implementation of a social media marketing plan will create almost immediate results for your business. This increase can be quantified through increased website traffic, increased lead acquisition, and ultimately increased sales. Unlike radio or TV ads, where your customers disappear once the ads go off air, these social platform benefits will continue as long as the communication and updating of your social media presence is maintained.
Why aren’t more businesses using social media marketing?
Most businesses don’t know how to create or implement a social media strategy. What options do small business owners have when seeking to create and implement a social media marketing plan?
- Hire an employee. While leveraging the time, experience, and services of others is a smart way to do business, many times this strategy fails. Why? Ultimately, it is up to the small business owner to create the plan and manage the employee. However, most business owners don’t understand online marketing and social media enough to create a plan, and haven’t a clue how to manage the employee’s time investment. Besides, paying an employee increases your labor costs, your payroll taxes and benefits.
- Outsource. Outsourcing is a better alternative hiring an employee: you don’t have to hire, train, manage, and pay an employee to perform these functions if they’re already a professional at the job. However, there is a price for these benefits. Outsourcing these services can be expensive. The retainer to have an online marketer or agency running your online presence may turn out to be a good investment – but it will not come cheaply.
- Do it yourself. The fact is that every business owner can learn the basics of social media, creating and implementing a plan. There’s no shortage of books for beginners to experts. With an investment in training, you can create your very own interactive media marketing plan. But the world of online advertising and marketing is complex and fast-moving; is this the best use of your time?
- Hire a coach. Perhaps the best of all the options above is to bring in a consultant to create a plan that suits your unique business needs, set up your website and social media presence to be most effective for you, coordinate your online campaign, and train someone on your staff to do the job going forward. In this way you gain in-house expertise without adding a staff member, and you begin almost immediately seeing the results of increased traffic on your website and increased revenue to your bottom line.