If Your Business is not using Social Media to Increase Sales, Why Are You There?

Social fingers

A recent blog we read told us that we should NOT use Social Media if we want to sell our stuff. The idea was that you should get to know people personally, help solve their problems and if you never make a dime, you will be more respected. Sounds good. But for most of us, making those dimes is what keeps us in business (and eating … and paying our rent).

While the strategies involved in “inbound” or social media marketing are slightly different than traditional marketing, it is still marketing.  If your participation will not be at least one reason people buy from you, why would you waste your time, effort and money?

While developing personal relationships has been a marketing tactic for centuries, the idea of developing relationships “online” was born at a time when interactive websites became a reality.  Relationships that once relied on geography could now be developed with people all over the world.  (Even hyper local businesses selling to a defined geographic area may find it difficult to meet all potential customers; social media marketing is an opportunity to reach even more local people than would be possible in person.)

While strategies surrounding online Social Media marketing have evolved over the last few years, the basics remain the same:

People do not want to be “sold to,” they want help making their own buying decisions.

It is the job of a good Social Media Marketer to give people the reasons they need to buy – in other words for the business to make a sale.

Here are a few myths that have been put forth by a few Social Media Marketing “experts,” and our answers:

  • Social Media is not for sales

False – 47% of users say Facebook has the greatest impact on their purchasing behavior. (Jay Baer)  Social Media is where people are looking to buy products and services.  Users “friend” a Page to obtain information about products and services. Facebook is often where they make their purchasing decisions. Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close ratio than outbound marketing. (State of Inbound Marketing, 2012) So tell them what you are selling.

  • Social audiences don’t want your sales messages

False – 80% of US social network users prefer to connect to brands through Facebook. (HubSpot) People are seeking specific information regarding products and services.   Using Facebook ads gives you the opportunity target very specific markets. In fact, Facebook’s recent changes have been aimed specifically at making their ads bigger and more useful. Because Facebook ads can be so finely targeted, effective AND cost effective, they are one of the best ways for businesses to reach their exact demographic, geographic and psychographic markets.

  • It’s not about you it’s about your customers 

False – 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy. (HubSpot) Give them a reason to buy. Help them understand why you have the products and services they need. Give them information about your company so they can make an informed decision.  Provide enough details and give them a special discount so you can take those 50% and make them customers.

  • It is better to use the Social Networks to engage not advertise 

False – Social Media is the new advertising platform. Providing useful and interesting information is important to help people make buying decisions. A few amusing cartoons and interesting images will get their attention. While these and other tactics that personalize a business page should definitely be a part of the overall strategy, the bottom line is that Social Media is the New Advertising Platform. It is becoming even more important as print media shrinks, phone books are thrown in the recycler and TV ads can be skipped with a push of a button.  AT&T, Disney, Netflix and Weight Watchers are just a few companies that use Social Media Advertising successfully.  You can too.

  • Social Media is all about personal relationships 

False – To become a trusted business you must have a base of customers who can tell their networks how good you are. These customers want to understand and then purchase your products and/or services. They don’t want to be your personal friend. They want a deal, a discount or a special offer. They want to feel satisfied that they have gotten the best quality product at a fair price. Once that happens, they will tell their friends about you.  Stop trying to be best friends with your followers and give them what they want.

The Bottom LineSmarty cat

Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are becoming major players in the world of advertising. Walmart has over 34 million Facebook Friends, Starbucks has over 90,000 followers on Twitter and Target has over 157,000 followers on Pinterest. Ask yourself, would they be using Social Media Marketing if it wasn’t improving their bottom line?

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If Want to Sell Stuff, Use Social Media

Question:  Why would you spend your time (and money) on Social Media sites if you are not making sales?  Most businesses I know are not on Facebook to play Candy Crush or view crabby cats.  Businesses who are successful on Facebook and other social sites understand that there is a right way to sell on these sites, but…

It’s like walking a tightropetightrope

If most of your posts are overt (or even covert) sales messages, not only will you not win customers, but Facebook may hide many of your posts. (See the article about new FB algorithm changes.)

However, if none of your posts give people a reason (or ask them) to buy from you, they probably won’t.

Inbound Marketing is Still Marketing

The idea behind inbound marketing has always been that people no longer want to be “sold to,” they want to “decide to buy.”  It is about pulling people in with interesting and valuable content. However, some of that content has to be about what you are selling and why people should buy from you (other than that you are a nice guy).  Today’s marketing on social media includes a carefully planned mix of interesting posts (blogs and articles) both curated and original, and may include a few jokes, memes and interesting facts about your company, your community and the world we live in.  However, there should also be special offers, coupons and even “member only deals,” (which makes those who like a Page feel special).

Social Network Marketing – before online sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – was only about face-to-face interactions at networking meetings, Chamber of Commerce Functions and Community events. These venues gave small business owners the opportunity to get to know other business owners and members of the community, and to tell people about their products and services. While this form of “relationship marketing” is still viable today, the intelligent use of online social sites gives business people a unique opportunity to meet people online, interact with them , earn their trust and sell to them without ever meeting them in person.  This not only enlarges their potential customer base, but can save them time and money.

The top social media sites today deliver a large and interested audience, and smart marketers are figuring out how to take advantage of the opportunity to sell to them.

Image courtesy of chanpipat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Why In-Person Networking Groups Might Not Work

referral group

We just finished redoing a website that was originally done by a business owner my client met in a networking group.  Almost nothing in the original website could be salvaged, and we started over.

The problems started with photos that were uploaded without any attempt at optimization or editing.  The result was that the very large images uploaded directly from the digital camera made the site open extremely slowly.  Google punishes sites like this and humans today are often not willing to wait for long periods of time for a site to open. The photos were also left unedited. They looked amateurish. (Cropping a cracked parking lot in the foreground of a picture and rotating it to make it look straight would have helped.) The other problems were probably even more startling.  The phone number was captured within an image (making it useless as a link on smart phones) and the text was not well-written, not optimized for the key words; there were typos and grammar problems.  Finally, although the target market of the business was definitely local, the site was not registered Google Places for Business – and the web designer hadn’t even suggested that this should be done.  The site was basically invisible to Google.

Had the client developed his own website on one of the free platforms, this might be understandable, but the website person he hired also used a free platform, represented himself as a web designer, and charged thousands of dollars.

But this isn’t a post about websites. This is a post about joining a networking group that demands that you use and refer the people within the group.

The problem with this type of “Relationship Marketing” is that simply developing a relationship with someone does not guarantee that he will do a good job.  The more insidious problem is that people in these groups become friends. No one wants to speak negatively about a friend, who sits next to him every week.  Also, since giving and getting referrals is the main reason for these groups, you may be asked to leave the group if you don’t provide members with referrals.  This sets up the perfect storm for referring less than optimal people.

While we are not saying that networking groups are intrinsically bad, the adage, “Caveat Emptor,” (Buyer Beware) definitely applies when deciding whether or not to hire or refer anyone.  Even though you may think you know someone in your networking group, ask for references (preferably from people not in the group) and investigate his on-line reputation.  People used to warn us about hiring our brother-in-law to do a job for us without checking up on what kind of work he does. Today, this warning extends to people we network with.


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Facebook Embraces Its Marketing Side

Blog header

While it is debatable whether Mark Zuckerberg had a grand plan when it came to leveraging his social networking site into a marketing platform, the fact is that any time over one billion people hang out somewhere, smart marketers will figure out a way to reach them.  And while he maintains that it is not the marketing part of the network that he focuses on, the reality is that he continues to make the enhancements that are shaping how marketing is done today, while assuring Facebook’s place as a marketing giant.

The recent Page changes that have been (and continue to be) announced demonstrate click like blogFacebook’s commitment.  The newest announcement helps people understand how the News Feed works today and explicitly explains what may get a Page quarantined.  While those of us who use the site for clients have suspected some of these “rules,” it is helpful to have them spelled out.  If you want to stay off Facebook’s “Black List,” do NOT:

  • Explicitly ask people to like, comment or share your posts.
  • Share the same content over and over.  (If you want to repeat something important, use different words and different images each time.)
  • Use “bait and switch” tactics. (Be honest when telling people where they will end up when they click a link.)

So how does Facebook decide what to show in a News Feed, they rank the post based on the following features:

  • Interest of the user and creator.
  • The post’s performance against other users.
  • Performance of past posts by the creator.
  • The type of post – text, photo, link.
  • And how new the post is.

For more on what Facebook chooses to post see TechCrunch’s equation

These and other Page changes have helped define how marketing should be done on Social Media platforms. However, it even more reinforces the fact that Zuckerberg and his cohorts continue to care about user experience. In other words, they want Facebook to remain the place people want to hang out.

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Why the Phone Book May Not Be Your Best Marketing Option

phone book

We have been talking to three of our new website clients about adding a social media marketing strategy to their marketing plans.  All three had concerns about the price.  All three currently pay over $1,000 a month for exposure in the “yellow pages” (or similar directories).

When asked why they were spending this money, their answers were all along the same lines. They had been told by the representatives from these directories that:

  • Without these printed books companies will miss a large segment of the population without access to the Internet.

While it is true that about 20% of America’s population does not have ready access to Internet, many of those folks are elderly and many are living below the poverty level.   Whether it is worth the thousands of dollars a year to continue to advertise to such a small segment of the population is a question that only the business owner can answer.  And the fact is there may be other more economical ways to reach these folks.

  • The directories are also published online. People look for companies there before they look for websites.

In order to find a company in directory sites, you first have to click on the directory and then on the listing.  The question for companies is: Is it worth thousands to be buried within a directory?  Or would it make more sense to use those funds for a more effective marketing strategy that will help get a Page 1 listing on Google AND reach more potential customers?

  • If you stop paying for your “phone book” listing, you will become invisible on Google.

This is probably the most misleading statement of all.  If a company ONLY has a yellow page business listing, when the company stops paying, they will no longer be found on Google. However, a well-optimized website, listed on Google Places for Business will definitely be listed on Google – usually on Page 1.  Google admits that it favors websites with fresh content and strong “social signals.” Allocating marketing funds to accomplish these goals will pay big dividends when it comes to exposure on Google.

The bottom line is that marketing has changed.  It might be time for business owners to get out of their comfort zones and stop spending thousands on things that aren’t working.  Hiring a professional Social Media Marketer, who understands how marketing is done today, and keeps up with the trends that will work in the future, will not only make the company more visible to its customers, but show it as a modern company that knows what it is doing.  It will probably also cost about the same or even less than advertising in the books with yellow pages.

(Images:  http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkas:Assorted_smartphones.jpghttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MichYellowBooks.JPG

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