I'm going to say up front that I love when a business hires me to handle their social media marketing; not only because of the business itself, but the chance to design a program that works for my client. However, before any business takes a step towards social media as a marketing tool, whether on their own, or letting someone else handle it, there are new developments they need to take into consideration.
Not that long ago a Facebook business page offered a great opportunity for free marketing, and everyone had heard the stories of the pages that became phenomena in their own right. And the common cry was, "You have to have a Facebook page!"
And that was what many businesses did, particularly the smaller ones. Some of those pages are now sad, empty virtual store fronts, but other businesses have dutifully posted to their pages. Maybe not every day, maybe not every week, but they posted.
Unfortunately that faithfulness isn't offering the rewards it once did, and in truth hasn't in a while.
What has been happening is that Facebook has truly become a corporation, and has been decreasing its "organic reach" (how your free posts appear in newsfeeds). And they are doing so again. Rumor has it that the changes is so that businesses will buy Facebook advertising, or buy "likes" to boost a specific post, and there is a strong likelihood that rumor is true.
It has always been true that if you aren't active on Facebook (at least 3 times a week) that your posts would get bumped from newsfeeds by more active pages. This also requires having "sharing" and "liking" occurring. Now this is even more so.
The truth be told, you can't just concentrate on Facebook. All of the social media platforms are intertwined. So to have it worth your while you need steady activity on Twitter, Google +, and Linkedin (at minimum). We won't even get into the power of original content (blogs) or YouTube.
This is where you need to decide whether you can commit to social media.
Small businesses always have had challenges when it comes to marketing. They try very hard to stick to flyers and business cards they can do themselves. Maybe get a free website up. And try to do a bit with Facebook. However there comes a time when you have to go to a printer, or get professionally done business cards, and its the same with social media. You have to ask yourself whether you have the money, or the time, to make it work for you?
Recently I overheard a conversation while I was at a dinner, and during the course of the meal the conversation managed to cover both the uses and liabilities of social media. The over-dependence on social media in this particular case had caused hard feelings amongst friends. This "why"was being discussed in length by my table partners. The lament was that some had been invited to a party, and some hadn’t.
It turned out that their friend had only used Facebook’s “Events” to notify everyone. He had not calculated that some were not daily Facebook users, and if they were, that they didn’t check the notifications.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was a woman who admitted she usually didn’t know where her daughter was. And in order to keep track of the girl her mother would call the girl’s aunt. The reason the woman’s sister was in the “know” was because she kept an eye on Facebook and Twitter, since she had children of her own.
The woman’s excuse was, “I don't pay much attention to Facebook.”
It all comes down to social media being a communication tool.
And with all tools there are times when it needs to be used in concert with other tools. When having a party, or a meeting, it needs to be kept in mind that not everyone is going to be checking their social media. Invitations and announcements also need to be put out in either paper form, or email; along with social media reminders.
Yet, on the other hand, social media is a powerful tool. There shouldn’t be a disdain for it just because it’s “just” social media. This holds particularly true for parents. Parents need to stay aware of popular trends in social media, and know how their children are communicating. It has been noted that with a teenager a “tweet” is rarely ever left unread.
This time around I am going to focus on public opinion and communication. Letter writing has always played a huge role in the spread of public opinion, with an example of this being during the heydays of immigration. In A True Picture of Emmigration, by Rebecca Burlend, the author told how her husband listened for news of letters coming from America. Then he would go and hear what was said of conditions in the U.S.. Nor can the power of the coffee and chocolates houses be forgotten - as those gathering places were where politics and popular opinion were vehemently discussed.
Jumping ahead to today, and particularly to the oft-bemoaned fact that everyone has their nose in their smart phones and tablets. And while I will admit that I too bemoan this on occasion it also cannot be ignored. Or, it might be better to say, "It is risky to ignore."
The forums for public opinion have changed, and become lightening fast....
......Pictures of a restraurant dinner on Facebook are usually sent with a comment.....
......Bored people, waiting in line, having nothing better than to Tweet their status......
Basically opinions of businesses and services fly with the speed of thought.
And businesses can only ignore this at their risk.
If you don't "hear" what is being said then you cannot highlight the praise, or show solid customer service, if there was a problem. Nor can a business afford to focus on just one "window" into the thoughts of their customers, because their clients may use a Tweet one day, or a FB post the next. Or they may be on a tablet, and writing a longer review on Google Plus.
In every business "how to book" and seminar one of the main emphasize is networking, and it is accepted as common sense that to build your business you have to know a range of people. Sometimes these are people you meet at networking groups. Sometimes it is an acquaintance you meet at the grocery store.
And it is a solid practice.
A practice that hold true for your Facebook, Google +, Linkedin, and Twitter interactions. And even Pinterest - "pinning" makes a difference too.
When you "like," "follow," "connect," or "create a circle" another site, or customer, you begin to get their postings in your "newsfeed." Your newsfeed is usually found in your "home" on most of the platforms. However, what you see in your newsfeed is not, at that point, showing up on your public profile. This holds true for either personal, or business, pages; both of which have "home" icons and newsfeeds.
Those postings in your newsfeeds offer a wonderful chance to help out your business associates and clients. As you read through your newsfeeds you can also share or retweet your colleagues' postings, and with this you help broaden their visibility. And remember, if you are pleased with their business - add a comment, or recommend them.
So, when you go out to post, keep your business friends in mind, and help them out. It not only will help strengthen their web presence, but yours' too.
More often than not we take "likes," "friends," "follows," "sharing," "retweets," and "endorsements" for granted; requests for them happen so often that they become background noise. Or an annoyance. For a business page, however, they form part of the life blood of the media interaction, particularly since search engines are more heavily tracking social media traffic.
What most don't realize is how thrilling a "like" or a "follow" can be to a business starting off into the strange world of social media.
And comments of satisfied customers can make a owner's whole day.
In truth, this holds true for most small businesses and their social media accounts. Activity means that people are staying aware of the business and their services.
Yet with the demands of keeping up with their own media platforms businesses sometimes it is easy to forget to return the favor for their customers.
For business to business relations "liking" a customer's page helps build activity for both, and to take that a step further - sharing posts between pages really helps. And it goes beyond that too; by keeping up with clients' pages, personal or business, you learn what is important to them. Plus you learn where you can help - whether as a business or as a person, by supporting their favorite causes.
So when you are out posting to your own social media sites make sure to look in on your clients'.
Like their pages.
Endorse their talents.
And share generously!
Cathy Mosley brings her 26 years of storytelling and writing experience to the realm of Social Media. To help small businesses.