Social media has been liberating for small businesses—it gives you the platform to reach out and connect directly with your existing customers and your target market. Yet it’s also a taskmaster; staying up-to-date and current on so many different social networks isn't only confusing, but very time-consuming.
It's not surprising that many small-business owners turn to a social media agency or digital marketing agency for help establishing a social media strategy—and executing that strategy. You may turn to a social media agency or digital marketing agency to help you. And help you, many of them can.
But what you may not realize, and what they won’t always tell you, is that to be successful with social media, you as the business owner must be involved in the messaging. And not just in the beginning, but through the entire life cycle of the account.
That doesn’t mean you have to write every Facebook update or share every Pinterest image. But it does mean you must share information that only people in your company would know, such as your company culture or daily workings.
Let me share what I’ve seen go wrong with social media countless times; and let's use a B2B example, because these are the businesses that misuse social media the most.
A widget company wants to get started with social media. It sets up a blog to communicate with its customers. The blog winds up taking more time than expected, and isn't generating the following it hoped for. So the writing of the blog posts, and the social media amplification of those blog posts, is outsourced. Seems like a great idea, a win-win; you hand the whole thing off to a social media agency, and get back to work, running your business.
Pretty soon your blog has articles like, “How to use Twitter for marketing.” You’re in the business of selling widgets. Why are there marketing articles on your blog? You will never see a customer request for “How to use Twitter for marketing.” Why are you spending money helping your customers learn to use Twitter?
Making Social Work
There are a lot of things your customers and potential customers really want to know. For example:
- How to select the correct color widget for their needs.
- How to maintain a widget for long life.
- What to look for in warranties and service plans for widgets.
- What specials and coupons are being offered.
Prospective and current buyers, especially those in B2B companies, are always looking for in-depth, reliable information when researching a purchase. That's where your blog, Facebook page or LinkedIn group should come in. These are the perfect places to share that information (when you're not writing about the latest Twitter tips).
In addition, social platforms like the company blog, Quora, YouTube and LinkedIn are great places to explain the nuances of your business, and establish the value proposition. (Again, you're the best person to do this, not the intern at the social agency you hired.) If your company distributes a certain type of widget that beats anything on the market hands down, you need to be explaining those nuances. You need to be giving helpful tips on selecting or using widgets, so that your blog or your social channel becomes the “go to” place for widget information.
What you don't want to do is post blatant sales pitches. Information trumps blatant sales pitches on social any day.
Secret To Success? Stay Involved
It’s easy to see how a social media strategy gets off track. You’re busy and you need help. You find a good agency to help you. But the writers and specialists assigned to your account don’t understand your business in any depth. What they know about is marketing. When they don’t get input from the business’s management team, they default to writing what they know about.
And pretty soon your social strategy isn’t really bringing much return for the investment. You begin to question the money you’re spending, because while you might be getting followers and fans, you’re not necessarily selling any more than you were before or not seeing more renewals from existing customers.
The way it should work is simple. A person internally needs to be the brains, doing information dumps about your business. Those in the outside agency need to take that information, work their magic with it and help assemble it into compelling content assets that meet your company's goals. And they need to help you get those assets and messages out using social channels.
Remember this: The output depends on the input. If you give little input, the social-messaging output probably won’t do a compelling job conveying your company’s value proposition to the world.
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