Social Media Marketing is a generic term for technologies and practices online that people adopt to share text, images, videos and audio. It can improve business and add value to what people do. As human beings have evolved, technology as evolved too together with its tools. Up until a few years ago the web was a static place where there was no interaction or dialogue among users but only material to read and no place to comment. Thanks to social media the web reality has changed and web users can now interact with each other and with the material they read leaving comments and opinions. The way people learn, read and share information and content has transformed the web from a static place where only monologue was allowed into a two-way medium where dialogue among users is fundamental.
HOW CAN WE MAKE THE MOST OUT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
The online world has changed very quickly and people seem to be getting addicted to it. The majority of the web interaction takes places on mobile devices and organisation that are planning social media marketing, have to bare that in mind that customers mainly use their mobile devices to communicate. Through internet users discover and invent new ways of sharing material and knowledge very rapidly and as a consequence market places are getting smarter and faster than companies because customers are sharing information with each other. These social media channels represent what is called Conversational Marketing . In the past organisations promoted their material via radio, TV, adverts, newspapers and so on, and consumers could only passively learn the information. Social Media, on the other hand, has become the democratisation of information, transforming people from content users to editors. They have become very popular because they allow people to use the web to establish personal or business relations. Through the most popular social media, organisations are now trying to promote conversational marketing even thou most of them still find it very difficult not to talk about themselves and their products. Some companies have not yet understood the power of social media marketing as their culture is not set up to have a conversation with their customers. Social media tools are very powerful if used in the correct way otherwise they can become a waste of time and money. Setting a web page is not enough to make social media marketing work: clarity of objectives and a good marketing strategy are necessary too. The product and services promoted need to be special, the customers service excellent and the use of analytics is also fundamental.
A very popular form of social media marketing is called Crowd Sourcing where an organisation or a business would directly interact with their potential customers asking them to come out with new ideas or suggestions. By doing that organisations are more connected to consumers and can have direct access to people's opinion.
Crowd Funding is also becoming very popular on the web. Thanks to specific websites new ideas and products can be launched and funded with very little money coming from the audience.
Paid Media , Owned Media and Earned Media is a rule on social media channels. With the first a company advertise their product on social media; the second is their own websites and the third is the right earned to be talked about online. The three do not work on their own, and if used together can generate good revenue.
THE MARKETING PLAN
Planning tools are available to make social media marketing work at best but first organisation need to:
- have clear objectives
- develop a strategy on what they are going to do
- pick the right channels
- build an action plan
- control the metrics and measure used to meet objectives
The objectives need to be SMART i.e. Specific (what needs to be done has to be detailed); Measurable (as the achievement of progress can be measured); Achievable (objectives are accepted by those responsible for achieving them); Realistic (objectives are possible to obtain); Timed (time period for achievement is clearly stated). Deadlines have to be set as without them organisations will not know when and if they have achieved their goals. Moreover having Smart objectives will consequently make customers happier, it will be cost saving and the service delivered will be better as well as communication.
Companies should rather pick a few media channels (2 or 3) and have a voice on them rather than having too many. The choice should be among channels where companies could Say (channels where opinions are expressed) – Show (channels where the organisation visual presence is good) – Share (popular social networks). Social Media Channels have to be part of the customers' conversion journey to move them along to purchasing. Social media can then be used to move people along. To do that organisation websites need to be as social as possible having forums and videos on their page. Thinking about producing great content will also encourage people to choose one website instead if another.
The content produced should Educate, Entertain and Inform all at once.
There are valid tools on the internet that can be used to give organisations a clear idea on what people search for (Google, Buzzsumo, Ubersuggest). What is fundamental is starting to act a form of knowledge where organisations gather information on the web to help their customers. Editorial Calendars can also help, mapping forward what needs to be done and how the content will be scheduled. It will help to know how much content has been produced, what is going to be published on social networks, what things need to be discussed and so on.
There is a lot that can be learnt from other companies simply looking at their websites. Some companies have specific platforms where they interact with their customers asking them their preferences in order to produce a good that is exactly what they look for. Social Media Examiners websites will also provide tips, ideas and also analytics that can be very helpful.
Social Media Marketing is about having conversations and a company that do not engage properly with their customers will hardly be successful. Social media can be used by those organisations that have decided to become social.