Are you one of those CEOs or business owners who thinks social media is a waste of time and money? Rather than argue with you, I’ve decided to agree wholeheartedly and see how small businesses can get the same marketing benefits that social media brings without all the time-wasting, money-sucking fluff that keeps so many CEOs away.
A recent report by the Social Media Examiner listed a series of benefits that marketers found from using social media for 2011. Let’s go benefit by benefit and see what non-social media alternatives there are for social media haters.
The number one benefit marketers found from using social media is brand and company exposure. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook build exposure—but only if your customers and prospects are participating. If your audience isn’t social media savvy, your best bet is to create your own community.
1.Build a list
All good marketing starts with a solid list. Create a master list that includes customers, prospects and friends. These can be separate lists or a single list that contains segments or tags that will help you group. Put a process in place where you are gathering as many e-mails from your customers, prospects and friends as possible—at this stage of the game, it's all about quantity. You want to build a community and fill your funnel.
2.Stay in touch with e-mail marketing
Pick a service that makes it easy to choose which list get communication from you. Constant Contact has a terrific all-in-one solution that allows you to upload an existing customer list without forcing your existing customers to double-opt in. For prospects and people whose names you’ve collected, you’ll want to be sure that you ask permission to send them e-mails. Start by sending a monthly newsletter that you can write yourself, or pull from your blog. Think about having people from different departments such as customer service or engineering submit articles for the newsletter and be sure that they include their contact e-mails so that they are available to respond to customers who have questions.
3.Treat your blog like a billboard
Don’t think of a blog as a social media element, think of it as free advertising. Placing an article inside a printed publication can either be difficult or expensive if it’s an advertorial. When you write and publish articles that are written about specific niched topics such as “CNG fittings,” “Playground paint” or “rubber testing” you’ll find that this might generate even more leads than any advertising you could have placed. Not only that, but be sure to leave the comments open so that your customers will respond to your articles. One last tip: send a link of your latest blog articles to your customers so that they can be sure to read and comment on them.
4.Ask your customers to define their products and services
It’s called crowdsourcing. And if you’re familiar with the “ask the audience” option on Who Wants to be a Millionaire then you know that more brains are better than one. Take a look at Get Satisfaction or IdeaScale who both have free options that you can try. These tools make it a breeze for customers to give you their suggestions and for you to respond to them on what progress you’re making on their recommendations. It’s like an online product development focus group.
5.Invite your customers to be part of an advisory panel
Advisory panels are like direct marketing lists on steroids. There are lots of high-priced online options for creating an online advisory panel. But if you’d like a low-cost, DIY marketing option, you should consider a new application like SurveySwipe. SurveySwipe is a mobile survey platform—it’s the only one that runs on all mobile platforms. It not only reaches your advisory panel wherever they are, it gets them in and out of your short survey in less than a minute. My favorite feature of this app is that it gives you results in minutes so you can make a decision quickly.
When you really think about it, social media is nothing more than a series of tools that you can use to interact and communicate with your customers and prospects. The alternatives I’ve outlined here give all of that, and then some. The only thing you will need to do to get the most out of these tools is the all-important customer and prospect list. So don’t worry about ignoring social media, just don’t ignore your customers, prospects and industry. Use these alternatives and you’ll get all the benefits of social media without any of the waste.