90% of Inc. 500 companies use at least one major social media platform. And 62% say social media is either “somewhat” or “very” necessary to their growth. – Heidi Cohen
92% of small businesses say that social media is an effective marketing technology tool. They are evenly split on the effectiveness of social media for attracting new customers vs. engaging existing customers. – e-Strategy Trends
Social media is here to stay. According to recent data from PEW Internet 73% of online adults use at least one social media service, and businesses large and small attest to the power of it to help maintain ties with existing customers and grow their client base. It allows the public to better connect with your business, and for relationships to be built over time.
While the benefits of using social media are touted, any business that is either establishing their presence or evaluating strategy for the coming year would do well to consider the following:
What Is The Value Of Your Time?
Social Media Isn’t Free, Even If The Platform Is
Time is money. – Benjamin Franklin
The surest sign that somebody is unfamiliar with social media is when you are told that social media is free. The truth is that, at a minimum, you are spending valuable time on it. Learning the various platforms, researching content, posting and interacting with followers are all things that must be measured.
Beyond your time investment you must also consider that in order to reach your target audience there could very well be some capital outlay. One time fees to redesign printables, websites and other assets to include social listings are one cost. Then there are ongoing efforts. Advertising on social networks is becoming increasingly critical to the long-term success of your digital campaigns.
Social Media Is Constantly Changing
The only constant in life is change – Heraclitus
There are more social networks than most people can hope to remember, and newcomers entering the field every year. Innovative ideas emerge, and as new technology is adopted older services adapt or fall out of public favor. A savvy digital marketer has to not only know how to manage their existing networks, but also be able to incorporate new ones as required, and they have to know when a network is no longer serving them.
A personal anecdote, if you will. The first webinar I attended regarding social media marketing mainly covered how companies were flocking to the website MySpace, and creating profiles to tout their brands and offerings. This was in 2006, and Facebook was still closed to anybody without a .edu email address. These days I cannot think of a single company still using MySpace in any significant manner. The change from when MySpace was the dominant network to when Facebook took over was a span of less than 2 years, and the time tables have only accelerated. New networks can go from concept to major player in the span of a year.
Social Media Is Always On & Always Open
As universal as business use of social media can seem to be, 26% of companies still block access to social media sites in their workplaces. 31% have no social media policy in place. – WordPress Hosting SEO
The timing of your social media strategy needs to be considered, especially if you are a local or regional brand. Capturing your audience means interacting with them when they are online, often not the nine-to-five hours of a traditional business day. You don’t want to go silent over the weekend, and you need to be able to respond quickly to customers on your networks.
Scheduling posts can help to keep the content flowing even when away from the office, but should not be relied upon as the answer to the weekend. If a customer has a concern, and sees automated posts but no response it could anger them and make them feel ignored.
Agency Vs. In-House For Your Social Media Needs
The other part of outsourcing is this: it simply says where the work can be done outside better than it can be done inside, we should do it. – Alphonso Jackson
It’s really important that social media isn’t treated like a side job, or you’ll get side-job results. – RG Logan
The question of who will manage your social media presence is one that must be carefully considered. As of October 2012 it was estimated that 43% of businesses spend an average of six hours per week dedicated to social media, the bulk of which was researching and creating content, and the amount of time likely only increased in 2013.
While keeping the social media campaigns in-house may seem to be an ideal, it comes with hurdles that any company must face, namely in terms of manpower and experience. Some questions that should be asked include whether there is room in the budget for a dedicated employee who can handle the accounts, or whether duties can be shifted and allow existing staff to take on the task. Either way, training and continued education must also be considered, whether you plan for them to attend internet marketing conferences, or just want to ensure that they have free time to participate in webinars and research the best social media sites for your business.
Hiring an agency to handle your campaigns is an effective way of maintaining a social presence without further burdening already busy staff, or to ensure that current best-practices and appropriate sites are being used and considered. As professionals in the field they are well versed in not only the technical aspects of social media, but also the content considerations.
One common concern seems to be that in order to utilize an agency, the business must trust them to properly handle their digital accounts. However, one thing to keep in mind is that agency professionals must always keep the best interests of their clients in mind, as an agency’s success depends on yours. Perhaps of greater concern should be the working relationship. When hiring look at some of the other accounts they manage to determine if you like the way they convey the voice of the businesses they represent. Ask questions as to the procedures for creating and approving content, and define what is expected from you in return so that a good working relationship can be established early.
With so many businesses and individuals either using or recognizing the power of social media it’s an undeniable force in twenty-first century marketing. It allows for more exposure than anything in the past, and it will continue to be a critical portion of marketing campaigns for the future.