The High Value of... ‘Social Media’
“Social media” – have you heard of them?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say your answer is an unequivocal yes! You likely hear the term every single day, multiple times per day.
From posting a status update to sharing content to liking or commenting on a colleague’s posting, social media are everywhere. And the adoption of social media and their integration with other types of marketing will only accelerate as they continue to become an extension of your overall corporate strategy.
Social media platforms create an entirely new way of marketing. Gone are the days when businesses used the Yellow Pages or traditional media outlets to market themselves. Instead, social media allow your company to bypass traditional media and build relationships directly with customers.
Social media have meant everything to the success of my career and my business. I was an early adopter to both Facebook and LinkedIn, having used these Internet sites for nearly a decade. I jumped into the Twitter world about a year ago to increase the visibility of my business, and it has been nothing short of a miracle.
These social media platforms have helped me gather hundreds and eventually thousands of followers. I have been able to brand myself as a “thought leader” in the parking industry in a short period of time.
(ParkPlus System recently released a list on its blog website of the top parking industry “influencers” active on social media – see www.getparkplus.com/100-top-parking-influencers-to-follow. I was seventh on the list of “Top 10 People to Follow on Parking. – JVH was Number 1”)
Some of my best clients first contacted me directly through social media. Many of them reached out as a result of following me on these platforms. Social media allow me not only to remain top-of-mind with parking professionals, but also to brand myself as a thought leader in topics ranging from recruiting and HR issues to the future of work and technology trends.
If you’re one of the few remaining businesses that have not embraced social media, you may be wondering why all the fuss? Does your company really need to use them?
The short answer is, yes, you need social media – at least you do if you want to reach customers and stay competitive. These days, a website or e-newsletter only just doesn’t cut it. At the very least, your digital storefront needs to extend to social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
People expect businesses to have a presence on these social media. They also expect to be able to get in touch with company representatives through social media. If you don’t have social media profiles set up for your business, you look less legitimate.
How do social media add value?
• Social media provide your company with an opportunity to learn about your target market through interacting with your customer base.
Unlike social media, most marketing has been a one-way street. For years, a business would market its message, and the customer or prospective customer would receive it – end of discussion. Today, social media allow you to have an actual conversation. It helps to create a base of fans and followers that sees you as an expert and someone they trust. And people buy from those they trust.
• Social media are free, or very inexpensive.
Who can argue with that? The highest cost of this type of marketing is the time investment you must make. By handling your own social media, running a campaign is about as cheap as it gets.
• Social media are especially cost-effective for companies in niche industries.
The “granularity” of targeting options available through such platforms decreases the need to market to the entire general public with the hopes of reaching your niche target audience. Social media allow you to market to a very specific audience and have more tangible response than, say, a TV advertisement.
• And unlike a commercial, social media can be measured easily. In our digital world, there are many opportunities to understand what works and what doesn’t.
Through measurements such as the number of followers, fans, mentions, reach, blog subscribers, retweets, likes, sharing, comments, it’s easy to understand the usefulness of your social media activities and what needs to
Being able to measure the effectiveness of your efforts will give you additional insight into how best to engage with your target audience.
• Social media also provide you with the opportunity to monitor complaints or problems and respond in real-time. They are a magnification tool. When business is good, social media will magnify that. When business is not so hot, social media will magnify that, too.
In this way, social media are a double-edged sword that can be negative for your company. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from them. Negative social media will happen regardless whether your business uses them or not. If you are not around to mitigate bad social media attention, your competitors might exploit such an opportunity.
And while you can’t control the online reviews, blogs or complaints, what you can control is your company’s response to the negative feedback. Customers and prospects appreciate when companies respond to complaints.
So you can’t stop the negative comments whether or not you participate, but you can turn negatives into positives through participation.
• Social media help create a competitive advantage. While you may not be using social media, most of your competitors are. If that’s the case, you’ll want to add such platforms to your marketing strategy ASAP, or you risk falling behind. And if your competitors haven’t ventured into social media, take this as a chance to get a leg up. After all, the early-bird gets the worm. Social media will get you more sales by keeping you in front of your customers and introducing you to those you didn’t know existed.
Social media marketing issimply part of doing business in this new millennium. If your organization isn’t active on social media sites, now is the time to start. After all, you might be missing out on opportunities right this moment.
Kathleen Laney, President and Executive Search Consultant at Laney Solutions, is a Contributing Writer for Parking Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.