At some point, most of our clients ask us this question. So what’s the answer? It really depends on you, your business, and your budget. Social media covers a broad spectrum of marketing possibilities, and it can be daunting if you’re just dipping your toes in. Your best strategy is to approach it like any other marketing endeavor: consider your goals, your audience, the cost, and the time commitment required to do it successfully.
Social media is a powerful tool to enhance the promotion of your business. It takes minimal effort to get underway, and setting up an account is generally free. Advertising through some social channels can be an inexpensive way to deploy highly targeted campaigns, which is critical during difficult financial times. Using Stride to help you get your social media program started is also a small investment, and you can easily take over the program yourself when you’re ready.
There are many ways to dive in: you can tweet, post messages, connect immediately and personally with customers, provide information, create events, and advertise. Every point of contact you make is a potential customer, an advocate for your business, and a vehicle for increasing your reach exponentially. It’s an amazing way to get your word out to a large audience.
Your best bet is to focus on one or two channels to start, which should be aligned with your audience and communication needs. Can your business be casual and personal in its communication style? Try Facebook. You’d be surprised how many people and businesses are using it. (http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics) Does your audience demand up-to-the-minute information about your business? Twitter may be for you. Do you have a highly professional audience? Linked-In may serve your needs best.
Most social media specialists will advocate social media as the ultimate marketing tool: “You must, you must, you must!” To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Our advice is that you consider it carefully: plan what you want to get out of social media, and how you think it could help your business. By taking smaller, self-assured steps into this realm, you’re more likely to be successful in reaching the people you want to connect with.
Provide a reason for your audience to connect with you on social media, whether it’s deals and discounts, new service offerings, or timely industry news. Don’t overdo it, and don’t talk in marketing speak. It’s called ‘social media’ for a reason—this is where you must show the genuine, human side of your business. And content rules in this new realm. Waste people’s time and they will quickly block you out.
Lastly, think of social media as an ongoing effort, not just a once-and-done type of affair. By keeping the conversation going, you’ll continue to engage your existing customers while attracting new ones. You may find that your dive into these new waters was worth your while.
Coming up soon: Measuring the Return on Social Media