In 2010, industry experts predicted Facebook to see exponential growth in the years to come; and rightly so. Facebook saw its active user base (outside the US) grow by over 19 million in just four months (October 2010-February 2011), signaling that the networking giant was clearly the king of social media. Predictions for Twitter indicate that it will have a steady 2011, while LinkedIn is expected to witness strong growth in the next five years. According to eMarketer, in 2012, 88% companies in the US will use social media tools for marketing purposes. This brings us to the question of what social media tools are best suited for your marketing needs.
Automotive giants such as Ford and GM lean heavily on Twitter for marketing their products and engaging with customers; a strategy that has worked for them. However, solely using microblogging tools like Twitter may throw your social media mix out of balance. While every tool has its strengths and restrictions, it is important to use them in an integrated manner for achieving the right balance. For instance, if you tweet more than 25 times a day, perhaps you are better off blogging. In addition to popular sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, recent entrants such as Quora and Focus are some of the options to choose from.
According to Jeremiah Owyang, sensible Twitter use involves focusing on fewer, high quality tweets instead of overloading followers with too many tweets. Data from ‘The Social Break-Up‘ (a study conducted by ExactTarget and CoTweet) shows that: 41% of people felt that their Twitter stream had become ‘too crowded with marketing messages'; 39% indicated that companies posted too frequently; and 21% said tweets were ‘too promotional’.
Here are some reasons why online marketers should incorporate other social media tools in addition to Twitter:
- Tweets are hard to find after being published. Facebook, on the other hand enables users to sort their news items in an organized fashion.
- Google research shows that the average worldwide Facebook traffic, in terms of search volumes, has seen significant growth between 2009 and 2011. Twitter, on the other hand, has some catching up to do.
- Marketers and advertisers using Facebook and other sites are more likely to generate ROI when compared to those using Twitter in isolation.
- HubSpot’s “The 2011 State of Inbound Marketing” report highlighted the importance of Facebook and Twitter in 2011 business strategies at 44% ( up 24% in two years) and 38% (up 21% in two years) respectively.
- While Twitter personalizes your online presence, LinkedIn adds a professional touch. Potential clients looking for information about your company are more likely to trust LinkedIn than your twitter profile. To achieve a balance, it would be a good idea to install the LinkedIn Tweets application on your profile.
Smartly Using the Big Three
As a marketing professional, the first step is to familiarize yourself with different social media tools before determining what works best for you. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or the ‘big three’, as they are popularly known, can yield dividends and drive traffic if used in the right manner. Utilizing the social media tools that are most suited for your business depends on what your goals are.
Experts forecast Facebook to garner nearly 750 million users by the end of this year. Currently, the ‘Facebook for Business‘ group boasts 57,123 members. Staggering figures like these are tempting enough to lure you into focusing your social media strategy entirely on Facebook; but is it a good idea to do so? Absolutely! if you want to:
- Attract new customers through creative promotions: Toy store chain Toys “R” Us launched a holiday promotion two years ago, where the company encouraged visitors to become ‘fans’ on their Facebook page. In return, the toy store promised customers great discounts and other incentives. The promotion saw almost 90,000 new fans sign up in just one day, in addition to a significant increase in sales at a time when other companies were facing financial crunch.
- Establish a Client Base: By using Facebook you can connect to potential clients with the least amount of effort. A smart move, if you want to establish a meaningful client relationship.
- Get Noticed: Marketers today are turning to Facebook to stand out in an otherwise crowded digital space. The fact that Facebook allows for uploading of images and videos of your products adds value to your brand and helps grab some positive attention. When the marketing department at Coca-Cola wanted to improve the company’s image in the digital space, they decided to get creative with photos on Facebook. The beverage giant’s innovative approach to social media gained all the necessary attention and placed it in the spotlight.
- Lure Fans to Physical Locations or Events: Facebook’s location-based app, Facebook Places, is a great way to convert fans to actual shoppers by convincing them to visit the brick and mortar store. By using this app, your company can provide incentives for people to come to a physical location or event. Despite being around only for a few months now, quite a few brands such as Westfield Valley Fair have integrated this feature into their marketing programs.
Can a B2B company effectively use Facebook? Why not? E-Commerce shopping cart provider, BigCommerce, regularly reaches out to its Facebook fan base to identify reference customers and unearth interesting use cases for the media. In 2010, the company promoted the success of its Facebook app by posting a query on its page asking which customers had witnessed an increase in sales from the app and who would be willing to talk to the media. The company generated 15 new customer references within 24 hours and immediately converted this information into media coverage.
LinkedIn is a great tool for:
- Recruitment: Irrespective of whether you are a marketing company or otherwise, LinkedIn is the perfect place to reach potential employees. For example, if your company is looking to hire social media experts, LinkedIn is the one place to look. Although Facebook and Twitter, to an extent, can be used to check out candidates, LinkedIn’s status as a professional networking tool gives it the edge. HR managers at companies such as Accenture and SABMiller use LinkedIn in their hiring processes.
- Increasing Visibility: While Facebook and Twitter are for personal connections (recommended for B2C companies), we suggest B2B companies use LinkedIn because of the site’s focus on professional contacts. To increase visibility, you company profile on LinkedIn should a) feature information on the company’s background and history b) list out awards, testimonials and honors received and c) publish the company’s LinkedIn URL on all marketing collateral, including business cards, email signatures, email newsletters, web sites and brochures, so prospects learn more about you. That said, answering the questions posed by clients and users, and providing and receiving recommendations from your connections are also effective in improving visibility.
- Establishing Contacts and Building Business Relationships: To begin with a) you could do look for people or companies by using the search feature b) research your prospects before meeting or getting in touch with them c) increase your network by joining industry and alumni groups related to your business and d) share useful articles that will interest customers and prospects.
- Improving your Google PageRank and Enhance Search Engine Results: Using this professional networking tool your company’s profile information can be made available for search engines to index. Profiles on LinkedIn receive a reasonably high PageRank in Google, making it a good way to influence what people see when they search for your company profile.
LinkedIn is full of opportunities for B2B companies. By using a combination of LinkedIn and other social networking sites, mid-size market research and consulting firm, Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB) increased its reach within the market research community. The company established contacts, fostered business relationships and researched various case studies via LinkedIn, resulting in the generation of over 1,400 leads in just nine months.
For companies that already have a presence on other networking sites, Twitter can function as an added advantage. For instance, Virtusa, a global IT services company, has integrated social media into its PR and marketing strategies. The company uses Twitter along with other social media tools and blogs to supplement its existing marketing efforts.
- Twitter is great for updating your followers about ‘what you are doing’.
- You can follow competitors in the industry and know when something ‘worth reacting’ happens.
- Giving a personal touch to your brand is best done through Twitter. Automotive brand Ford’s @Ford official account does not have as many followers as the company’s @ScottMonty account (Scott Monty is the head of social media at Ford). The reason for this being Monty’s personal touch to the tweets.
- Twitter is very effective in providing 24/7 customer service in social media. JetBlue Airways maintains a Twitter list of off duty reps so that customers can know who they are interacting with at any given point in time.
Sensibly using the big three is centered on figuring out what your goals are. If the needs of your company are close to the goals discussed above, then the right social media combination (Twitter+Facebook, LinkedIn+Twitter, LinkedIn+Facebook etc) will help get your business to the next level.
Using Blogs Judiciously
Ever wondered how blogs can benefit your business? The last few years have seen blogs grow into powerful marketing tools. eMarketer’s study shows that the percentage of US companies that are poised to use blogs for marketing will increase from 34% in 2010 to 43% in 2012.
A well written blog can:
- Increase your website traffic & sales by attracting visitors and redirecting them to your company website through links and offers.
- Give a human voice to your business: For customers, the fact that there is a ‘real’ person answering their queries can be reassuring. When IBM decided to start using blogs, they did not simply create one blog, but managed to create an entire network. Through the blog, IBM gave customers an insight into what happens behind the scenes, thus highlighting ‘the people’ behind their products.
- Give you increased presence on major search engines: For instance, by using Google’s blogging tool, every post created in turn creates a new page on Google. This way you can have a lot of pages pointing to your site, bringing in a lot of visitors.
- Establish you as an Industry expert: posting relevant and valuable information regularly will establish you as an expert in your subject area. This gives your brand credibility, earning customer trust. General Mills’ strategy to establish itself as a health and nutrition expert in the food space saw the company target mommy bloggers. The company’s Mommy Club blog features nutrition tips, calorie charts and general information on how to eat better and live healthy.
The Importance of Videos
The current YouTube crazy generation is proof enough that video marketing is poised for a huge growth in the years to come. Forrester Research shows that videos are 50 times more likely to receive organic first page ranking then traditional text pages. The equation is simple:
- More videos on more sites= increased results.
- More results= more clicks, which translates into more sales.
- Increased sales= Increase in ROI.
Although there are several digital marketing tools to choose from, videos engage people in a way that static text and images cannot. If you’re considering including videos in your marketing mix, we suggest tying videos with important keywords to increase the likelihood of your content showing up on the first page of search engine results. According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report:
- Larger Businesses are more likely to use videos (including YouTube) when compared to SMBs.
- Besides other social media marketing tools, nearly all marketers with +3 years of social media experience use videos.
- Marketers investing 40+ hours per week in social media are much more focused on videos (and blogs to an extent) when compared to those investing a few hours a week.
- When compared to B2C companies, B2B companies are more focused on videos. For instance, Thompson Reuters expanded its social media mix to include videos to satisfy the changing needs of corporate customers and reach out to prospects.
- 77% marketers have indicated that YouTube/video is a top area where they plan to increase their social media efforts in the future.
Most marketers know that videos help a) boost customer interaction b) drive sales c) encourage viral sharing d) and build brand awareness. Although, it is not necessary that every viral campaign will end up being the next Old Spice Ad, here are some reasons why you should use videos and how they can add value to your business:
- Spice Up your Website: by using YouTube or other available alternatives you can embed videos on your website. Ensuring that the videos uploaded are easy to share can be done by adding a ‘share this’ button. This enables viewers to pass them along via other social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter etc).
- Using videos in Online Ads: Online video ads are highly effective in driving sales. Viewers of online video ads are most likely to visit the advertiser’s website or look for additional product information, thus increasing the possibility of sales.
- Keep it Simple: Creating a video is easy; however, the golden rule of digital marketing is to keep in short, simple and to-the-point. Time-strapped viewers may not have patience with lengthy videos. Creating 30-second to 2 minute videos will ensure your audience stays interested by avoiding information overload.
- Getting Exposure: Videos that feature valuable content pull traffic and increase brand exposure. Also, displaying your company’s website address by adding a text box to your video is an excellent way to get noticed.
Marketing videos are great to drive home a point to potential customers and contribute to your business’ success. By incorporating creative and interesting marketing videos on your website you can not only make sales pitches, but also introduce new products. We recommend using videos as an integral part of your marketing mix as they are fairly inexpensive, highly accessible and simple to create.
With so many social media platforms to choose from, each with its own advantages and limitations, it’s easy for marketers to try and fit in everything in an attempt to harness maximum benefits. This can often be confusing as social media is a crowded place. Twitter, on one hand, is perfect for sharing information and engaging with customers; however, it becomes necessary to sync Twitter with other tools if you want to get the most out of your social media marketing plan. Selecting the right social media mix is centered on the purpose of your marketing plan and the company type. The smart approach here would firstly involve figuring this out and then integrating two or more social media platforms.
While Facebook continues to be the undisputed leader of social networking, with Twitter and LinkedIn the hot favorites, blogs and videos are poised to make their presence felt as well. In fact, the versatility offered by videos and blogs makes them flexible enough to be used in tandem with other tools. Facebook, for instance, can feature company videos, whist LinkedIn can be used to share links to your blog(s) and company website(s); the possibilities are endless.
Social media is dynamic and presents unprecedented marketing opportunity. With nearly 90% of marketers and brands placing high value on social media, we recommend marketers to move beyond experimenting and focus on a social media mix that works best for them.