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The first venture into social media for many companies, whether a small start up or a big brand, is to create a Facebook page to 'experiment' with social media, which is seen as an add on to other marketing activities.
But just putting a page up onto Facebook, with no coherent social media strategy, is unlikely to do anything for a brand.
For many companies, their very first venture into social media is the decision to create a Facebook page; uploading the company logo, posting photos of the office, and writing status updates from time to time.
This is true of a massive number of companies, ranging from small entrepreneurial start-ups, to big corporate businesses.
The paradox is that most of these same companies would not undertake offline marketing activities on a whim, but carefully plan their campaigns to the smallest detail. They are scrupulous about targeting their direct response campaigns, and every word of a print advertisement is carefully chosen.
When using pay per click, they use all the tools available in order to get their adverts in front of the specific audiences they want to reach. But social media is viewed as an add on, something to be done “if we have time…”
Creating and managing a page in this ad-hoc way, in the hope of becoming a hit on Facebook, is likely to be as effective as being in a stadium at a world cup match, trying to shout about your products over the roar of the crowd and the deafening drone of vuvuzelas. Nobody wants to listen, and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to hear you anyway.
Social media can, and should, involve identifying your target audiences and the platforms they already use. If you are a B2B company, LinkedIn and Twitter are likely to be much more useful than Facebook. If your business is B2B and your target market is Poland, then using Goldenline (the Polish equivalent of LinkedIn) would give you access to the specific audience you want to reach. Demographic information is available for most of the major social networks, so there really is no reason not to target your social media activities.
And when I say social media activities, I mean a structured, organised set of activities, which bring your social media strategy to life. It’s not about being on Facebook, or having a Twitter account, or creating a YouTube channel. Social media isn’t a set of platforms; it’s an attitude towards engaging with prospects and customers in an open, honest way, and it has to be properly co-ordinated in order to avoid the social media disasters which have become so ubiquitous in the press recently.
Another reason why you need a coherent social media strategy is because becoming a “hit” on social media, or “going viral”, is a one in a million chance. Social media isn’t supposed to be a lottery, and I don’t think any company would want their marketing activities to be based on luck alone. In addition, the nature of some companies and their products means that their audience is niche, and they are never going to have 10,000 followers on Twitter.
It is more realistic, and likely to provide more predictable results if you plan how to grow your online following steadily by engaging with the right people, on the right platforms, with well-considered content which adds value to your audience.
Lastly, your social media strategy must detail your marketing aims and objectives. The old adage of “what gets measured gets managed” comes into play here. Besides, if you don’t have a social media strategy, how will you know when you’ve achieved your objectives?
To conclude; yes, Facebook does have over 400m members, and yes, there are charismatic businesses out there that have millions of followers interacting with them. But Facebook is not the world, and being “where everyone else is”, is not necessarily the most suitable place to find and talk to your audience persuasively.
Let your strategy guide your choice of platform, and not vice-versa, in order to get the most out of your time and effort.