Picking your social media platforms

August 2014

A modern day myth which seems to prevail across far too many businesses is that you absolutely must have a Facebook page. You don’t. Or at least you don’t if your customer base won’t be interested in it, and therefore you’ll end up with five followers and zero engagement for the posts you put on about ‘exciting’ new products which, in reality and to your customers, are anything but exciting but simply about your latest radiator hose or industrial door hinge.

Of course for many businesses – and more typically those with B2C markets – a well-run Facebook page is now an essential component in a wide-ranging and integrated marketing strategy, with its value being measured in many ways and including:

· Engagement with existing and potential customers to increase brand awareness

· Increased brand saliency (i.e. think of the product category they sell and think of their brand)

· New product launches

· Special offers

· Research and development (e.g. to get customers’ views on new products etc.)

· Customer service issues (including a platform for folk to post their complaints of course)

· SEO (level of social media activity is part of search engine algorithms)

I have a number of clients who have, quite rightly, fully embraced Facebook and for all or most of the reasons I’ve bulleted above. But I also have one, and have worked with others on a more ad-hoc basis, who have taken advice from ‘social media experts’ (generally meaning someone who only works in social media and has no real concept of its role in an integrated marketing strategy) and this has resulted in the scenario I’ve described in the first paragraph above. But not only that, the now-ubiquitous Facebook icon (along with its Twitter friend) has been given headline status at the top of the website homepage, and once onto the Facebook page we not only see just a handful of followers (15 to be precise – with probably half of these being employees) but poorly written content and complete with typos.

But there’s a bigger point to be made here which is this: Whatever market or markets you operate in and whether they’re B2B, B2C or both, there will be a social media platform for you – or, quite probably, several social media platforms for you. In the case of the client I’ve referred to above, that platform is LinkedIn and for these reasons (amongst others):

· It allows their sales team to have dialogue with potential customers which would otherwise be very hard to reach

· It increases brand awareness, brand authority and therefore brand saliency through providing expert opinion in ‘LinkedIn Groups’ (essentially, there are ‘groups’ for every conceivable market and subject area on LinkedIn)

· LinkedIn’s relatively new ‘Publishing’ facility provides an excellent (and growing in importance) vehicle for content (e.g. an article with embedded video about one of its new industrial products)

Suffice it to say that the client in question has underinvested in LinkedIn and because, I suspect, getting it right involves all your key players in the management team getting involved in the right way. (Whereas for Facebook just one person can be ‘given the job’.)

One common platform which all businesses should embrace is Google+ (essentially, this is Google’s competitor to Facebook) but not because it has huge usership figures – it doesn’t – but because it has a considerable bearing on SEO. So if, hypothetically, all other factors on your website were equal with a competitor’s website but yours had a Google+ page linked to it and theirs didn’t, your website would come up higher in a Google search for a product category you both sold.

And there are other platforms which are especially useful to certain sectors and the markets within them – e.g. Pinterest is great if you’re in the travel business (because your customers might post their holiday snaps on their page).

I’ve taken a somewhat simplistic view here of what social media platforms are right or wrong for different business types, and I’ve done this for the sake of brevity (the subject is actually worthy of a fairly large book). However, you’ll no doubt get the gist of the message and if you now think you might be getting your social media wrong, then seek some expert advice from someone who can see social media within the much wider context of an integrated marketing strategy, then get the social media expert to help you rollout the plan.

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