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Social Media: Is it the Emperor’s New Clothes

Up and down the country, there appears to be a domino effect. Advertising agencies, marketing departments, web masters – they all seem to be bolting on “Like Me” Facebook buttons and “Follow Me on Twitter” links to websites.

People are being friended on Facebook by national carpet companies and major coffee chains. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be friends with these sorts of brands. And certainly don’t consider carpet companies or coffee chains to be on my Christmas card list this year.

Many of these campaigns seem to be knee jerk reactions to the media frenzy surrounding social networks and the CEO’s or Marketing Director’s demand to keep up with the times. If it’s there, we must use it!

There is no doubt that social media can be a very powerful communication channel. When used right, it can harness the power of raving fans who promote links to your latest promotions without you even having to ask them, let alone pay them.

And platforms such as Twitter provide an excellent way of searching and finding negative feedback about your products, giving you the opportunity to reach out and solve these problems.

So, are these new social networks critical new ways of communicating with your customers? Or are they the Emperor’s new clothes – the next new shiny thing to add to the marketing mix, that doesn’t really work?

Before jumping on the bandwagon, here are some essential points to consider:

1. Your Customers:

Is social media an appropriate channel to communicate with them?  How are they using Facebook?  Are they signed up to Twitter? And are they using these platforms to connect with brands? It’s essential you do the right market research before embarking on a social media project, so start with your current customers. It will save you money and months of time and energy.

2. Your competitors:

Just because your major competitors are doing it, doesn’t mean you have to. This “copy them” mentality is the reason why certain advertising media, such as The Yellow Pages, have survived as long as they have. Yes, innovation can make you stand out but do your market research first, rather than race to be one step ahead just to have the Twitter logo on your leaflets.

3. Your current marketing strategy:

The danger of jumping in to social media unprepared is that it can be an all consuming activity. Many businesses will take resources out of one area of their marketing mix before starting something new. And if you take away resources from something that works already, only to get sucked in to the new technology hype – it could put you back even further. Add social media – don’t replace it with something that works already just because it’s “old hat”.

4. Your website:

If you have a standard brochure-type website, bolting on the Twitter and Facebook logo on to the home page is just not going to cut it. Why would you want to direct traffic away from your own site, in the first place?! Take a step back and work out why your customers would want to “like” you on Facebook or go check out your Twitter feed. What value are you creating? And how can this add to your online visitor’s journey?

5. Your outcome:

Have clear goals and objectives to your social media plan. What results are you expecting? And how are you going to measure them? Just because something looks cool or pretty, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s adding to your bottom line. Social media is not a place to do hard sales, but it’s got to have a return on your investment.

Social media is here to stay, so don’t continue to ignore it. Brands are no longer dominating the web and it’s the customers who are having their say (just check out sites like Trip Advisor or Amazon to realise how powerful customer testimonials and complaints can be).

But don’t have a knee jerk reaction to social media and just bolt on that Facebook page and Twitter account. Because if you do, it won’t work and you will end up with the Emporer’s new clothes!

About the Author:Karen Skidmore helps small business owners work smarter and use the right marketing tools so they can attract more of the right clients to their business. To subscribe to her free email newsletter and get access to practical advice and marketing ideas that will move your business forward, visit www.CanDoCanBe.com

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