Does your marketing plan include social media? It should if you want to engage your audience.
You hear about social media constantly, and maybe you have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. But do you ever wonder what the social media buzz is all about? PPB posed this question to a woman who knows—Carrie Kerpen, who calls herself the queen bee at theKbuzz, a strategic word-of-mouth and social media marketing firm. We gleaned some useful nuggets about social media, but if you want the full scoop, catch Kerpen at PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference next month. (See the sidebar for details.)
Why should businesses use social media to market themselves?
“Social media allows you to market your business and really engage. It used to be that you would place an advertisement and really push a message on people. With social media, you have a tremendous opportunity to form a relationship and engage with potential customers rather than pushing your product out there. You can determine what they need and then bring them a better product. This, in turn, will really increase sales for businesses.”
How should they get started?
“Really listen and take the pulse of the marketplace. Look at what people are saying about you, your industry, your competitors, the products you sell. There are simple search tools to do that—going out and looking at a conversation on Twitter or looking at really dynamic Facebook fan pages, for example. Also, determine what you like, what businesses are doing it right and how you could take it one step further and do it better.”
How much time should be invested in social media each day?
“It depends on what you want to do. There are lots of time management tools that make things easier for you, so if you wanted to schedule your tweets or Facebook status updates, you can do that. But really you should plan to engage and have a human approach at least once per day. It really doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time—it just takes developing a strategy that makes sense. It takes a commitment to be regular about it, whether or not you’re posting several times a day. That’s nowhere near as important as really making a commitment to be consistent with social media because that’s how you’ll see growth.”
Any advice for businesses that are on the fence about participating in social media?
“Ninety-three percent of Americans are using some form of social media. Of those, 83 percent expect companies to be able to engage with them on social sites. It’s really no longer a question of if you should be in social media—it’s a question of when. As people become more averse to advertising and more resistant to these traditional advertising messages, and as people’s lives become more cluttered, the opportunity to engage in social media is incredible. Also, there are a lot of ways to hyper-target your audience. Using traditional advertising media, you couldn’t really target a 23-year-old woman who loves using a particular kind of hairspray. You couldn’t find that—there would be no way to target that set. In social media, you can. And not only can you find that woman, but you can engage with her in a way that is unobtrusive.”
So all businesses should be involved in social media in some way?
“Yes, and if it’s too scary for them today and they haven’t built that infrastructure, they will see that they will be there tomorrow. It’s not a time where every single person and every single company is involved, but that time will be here soon. Imagine you spend a lot of money trying to get people to your website. Instead of bringing people to a place that’s starting with little to no traffic, imagine going to a place where there are more than 400 million users and engaging there. It’s just so much more natural of a transition to be on sites like Facebook and to have a presence where people already are. You’re putting so much work into driving people to you; consider going to where people already are.”
Do you recommend starting with one type of social media, then diving into the others? Or does it matter?
“It does matter where you start, but they’re all tools. The most important thing is to realize your strategy: What are you trying to do and what are you trying to achieve? Once you accept the strategy, different tools are good for different things. It depends on how many people you have working on your social media. Twitter might be best or Facebook might be best. At the conference, we’ll examine all the different tools and when they’re most appropriate. It doesn’t make sense to just kind of jump in before you set the strategy and vision for your business and what you want to do.”
What’s the biggest pitfall a company can make when using social media?
“There are lots of pitfalls—the biggest one is jumping in without a strategy. Maybe you start out updating things all the time and then you leave it completely dormant. Another pitfall is going in and making it like a billboard for your company rather than engaging. Maybe you’re using it to just push out press releases and messages. That’s not the best way to use social media because it won’t work. You have to really engage with the audience. Build an audience of targeted individuals who are most likely to buy your product. Engage with them and find out what they’re looking for.”
What does the future of social media look like?
“I think you’re going to see a huge transition to mobile and geo tagging, where people will update their location. This is a big opportunity for small-business marketers. The big thing is that people will be accessing their social media from everywhere. As mobile platforms develop and as phones get smarter, you will see people doing social media on-the-go constantly. For businesses, this means you can hear instant reviews when people are at a location. They can really get instant feedback on what they’re doing. The need to be a better business will increase as people begin more mobile updating.”
What do you hope attendees will take away from your sessions at the Women’s Leadership Conference?
“They’ll have a lot of fun and I hope they’ll come out of it with a practical understanding of how to set social media strategies and follow through using some of the best tools available to them. I don’t want it to be a high-level strategy session—I want it to feel like they’ve come out of that session like they’ve just had a personal consulting session about their business.”
Meet Kerpen At PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference
Want to learn more about social media and word-of-mouth marketing? Make plans to attend the sixth annual PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference in Las Colinas, Texas, July 26-29, where Kerpen will lead three education sessions on the topic. Go to www.ppai.org/wlc for details and to register for the event.