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Yes, Social Media is even for you, and you and you!

April 14, 2011

Social media marketing is growing in popularity and is being used by companies small and large. Through the networks for social media marketing, people share information, share opinions, tell people what they think about products, share their positive and negative experiences with brands or products and services that they’ve bought, and even influence buying decisions of their buddies who are on these networks. That’s why social networks have become a powerful tool for companies of all sizes to listen to, learn, and understand what their target audience may be saying about them or their products and services.

Social media marketing is fun. Social media marketing is addictive. And Social media marketing is labor intensive. Social media marketing is a huge opportunity for small business owners because it helps level the playing field. Small business owners can reach global audiences and extend their reach just as if they were a larger company because they can leverage the Internet to do so.

Impact of Social Media on Our Daily Lives
Our daily lingo has changed to include cryptic phrases like “tweet me,” “hit me up online,” and “skype me.” If you haven’t succumbed to this cryptic phraseology, Congratulations! But then again, don’t get too happy, you’re going to start talking in the same weird lingo very, very soon!

As if the weird lingo (including short forms such as LOL, ROFL, BTW, L8TR, etc.) isn’t enough of a shock to deal with, almost on a daily basis our emails are bombarded with invitations to join this social network or that. Yes, I know right! There’s barely enough time in the day to do our work, never mind join yet another network!

The Business Owner Dilemma
To go online or not? To engage on social media platforms or not? How to find the time? How to determine how much time to spend online? Who to assign to do the online marketing? Hire an outsider or give it to the admin to do it as part of her job? Do it themselves or hire an intern? How to calculate ROI (return on investment) of their online investment? And so on and on and on…you get the point!

Social Media is Just Another Channel
As a business owner, you must look at Internet Marketing as “yet another channel and the MOST cost-effective channel” to promote your business.

If we could all afford to place an ad on a billboard that is on the most popular highway in town, we’d all do it, right? Similarly if as business owners we could afford radio and television advertisement, we’d all do it in a jiffy. But those media are all expensive and not really cost-effective for most of us.

This is where people are flocking to search, recommend, discuss, and influence buying decisions. So why shouldn’t you be there?

Social Media for Lead Generation
You go to networking events to meet people in person to help showcase your business. The more you meet them the more you learn about them and their business. Over a period of time, this becomes your trusted network for leads and new business opportunities.
Similarly, social media websites allow business owners to conduct networking except it is online so it provides ease of use and allows you to reach a wider audience. The purpose however remains the same as face to face networking: build relation-ships with others, create a trusted network, find new referral sources, and influence buying decisions.

Traditional Marketing Versus New Media
Internet marketing doesn’t replace the need for traditional marketing activities that still do work. There are traditional marketing methods that do work such as email marketing (Yes, I call it traditional), radio, television, and yes even billboards and direct mail. These traditional marketing methods can complement your social media activity or vice versa.
Social Media Marketing is Free – But is It Really?

Yes, social media websites are free to use. However, time spent is money spent. And since you need to be on social websites on a regular basis (daily), there is an investment need here. Therefore it is critical to have a robust plan and resources to manage your online marketing campaigns. Although the “medium” or “channel” is free, the actual activity of social media marketing is time consuming.

It may appear free if you do it yourself but if you do it yourself, what about the time you aren’t spending building your business?

The Case for Internet Marketing for Business Owners
Internet marketing is not the only way to market a business. It is also not a pill that will work overnight and begin generating leads for you. It requires watering in the form of content and fertilization in the form of daily interactions and engagement with others.
Also, Internet Marketing will not replace face-to-face networking, phone conversations and other business development strategies used by most of us. However Internet Marketing provides tremendous reach and is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels available to businesses small and large. It can cut down the time spent conducting business development research by over 50 percent.

So whether you are selling a special widget or whether your only client is General Motors or even if you are a mortician or an accountant, social network engagement is still an important marketing investment for you. That’s because social media websites provide visibility, branding, and lead generation. The biggest bang for it will come when you not only understand your own goals but also your target audience and the message you want to send them.

So yes, social media is even for you, and you, and you, no matter how specialized, localized, or vertical market focused you may be!

Nipa Shah is president of Online Marketing Simplified

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