This is a continuation of a conversation I had with Sarah Benoit, an internet and social marketing expert based in Asheville, NC. This set of questions is more advanced and complex.
We talked about the history of social media, how to make this type of marketing effective, and what to look for andhow best to prepare for working with a social media marketing consultant.
Sarah's web page is at www.creative-original.com. I've found her to be very responsive, accessible, and knowledgeable.
Q. How long has this social media marketing existed? What is its future, practically speaking?
A. Social media as it exists today is the evolution of what we call the social API (application programming interface). Without getting too technical, this means that a service provider (Google, Facebook, eBay, etc.) provides the tools to outside parties to build new applications on top of that service to add more value to the user experience.
A good analogy would be the apps you can download for your iPhone or aftermarket accessories you can buy for it. Apple makes the internal specifications (application interface) available for outside parties to create new products. Similarly, Facebook has apps, eBay and other sites have "plug-ins" and so forth, all of which extend the basic service in new directions.
It wasn't until the last 3 years that what we call social media marketing began to emerge. And it is a form of marketing that many people still do not understand simply because it forces us to think about business very differently than we have in the past. The line between what is personal and what is professional is blurred. Customer experiences are easily shared worldwide. Social media marketing is only successful when you have a plan and clear goals.
According to www.Socialnomics.net "over 50% of the world's population is under 30-years-old and 96% of them have joined a social network." This is why social media is going to be part of the future, because it has become an easy, fast, and affordable way to communicate and it has changed the media landscape in a way that it has never changed before in human history. Social media marketing will continue to develop and grow because it is a fast, easy, straightforward way for businesses to communicate and build relationships with their customers, as well as for customers to share info about products or services they like.
Q. What kind of resources do I need to really make this type of marketing work for me?
A. There are a few things someone who wants to do their own social media marketing needs to do in order to produce a result.
- First, you must want to learn. Like any technology, social media changes every few months and it is important to keep up. If you don't like technology and you don't have the time to learn new skills this may not be the right avenue for you.
- Second, you must know all marketing requires a plan, clear goals, execution of that plan and then tracking and evaluation of the results. Marketing on social media is like all other marketing, it is a process and all parts of the process must be given attention.
- Third, you need to be excited and enjoy building personal relationships for professional purposes. You must also have the time required to build those relationships and reap the benefits of them. If you can not get excited about your social media you will not make the time and if you don't make the time you will not see the results.
Q. What questions should I ask a potential social media marketing consultant to help me decide whether or not to hire her?
A. The first key to hiring the right social media consultant is that you need to be clear about your needs. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want to learn how to execute a social media campaign or hire someone to manage it?
- What role do you want to play and how do you see this person assisting you?
- What are your expectations and goals and can you communicate them clearly? For example, do you want more online sales, more attendees at an event?
The second key is that you hire someone you feel can truly understand your business, your company image and your marketing message. This person will be speaking for your business on a regular basis, you must place your trust in them that will represent you in a way that is true and accurate. I also believe any social media consultant should be passionate about your business. If they are passionate about working with you this passion will carry over and others will see it shine through. This passion often attracts others via social media. Also remember even if you hire someone they should always be communicating with you in order to share ideas and to clarify what kind of content you want on your social media.
Q. How should I prepare for a meeting with a social media marketing consultant?
A. Do your homework and be prepared:
- Write out your goals and expectations.
- Be clear about your marketing message and brand image. If you are not sure what these things mean speak to the social media consultant about potentially exploring these topics in more detail before a social media campaign is launched.
- Be open-minded and listen to their ideas, decide if what they are saying resonates with you. Don't ever be afraid to ask questions.
Q. Can social media be tied in with my other marketing efforts?
A. Social media must be tied in with your other marketing efforts. Your website, blog, social media profiles and more should have a cohesive look, consistent messaging and all be linked to one another. Traditional forms of media like print, radio and TV can be used to drive traffic to your social media as well as your website. Social media can also be used to promote events, coupons, contests and more. You must always think of your marketing as a whole, as a single plan and every form of media has its role based on your goals.
Q. What kind of results can one expect? Are they measurable?
A. Results differ for every industry. The best thing you can do is see who is out there in your industry and see how well they are doing. When you find someone that is getting a lot of attention on social media observe the way they interact and behave. If you have clearly outlined what our goals are you want to develop some systems for tracking the results. Google Analytics is best for tracking the effects of social media on our website. Google Webmaster Tools can also be helpful. Using coupons, discount codes, promotional giveaways, contests etc can also help create a trackable result.
This concludes the interview. If you've gotten this far, you realize how interesting and complex social media can be, and how we've only scratched the surface. I hope these will give you a roadmap for investigating this marketing approach.