Free marketing always appeals, and it is often said that “any publicity is good publicity”? That’s an exaggeration of course as not all publicity is actually good – some can cripple a business or brand. However, any publicity (or marketing) that is free AND where you can control the content has to be good.
Talking with advisers about the topic inevitably leads to the question:
“which social media platforms should I use?”.
The answer (as it often is), is “it depends”. In order to work out the right answer you need to understand the evolving trends, the broad differences between the most popular platforms, and then match that with your own skillset and target market.
Social media has progressed well beyond just being a convenient way of seeing the latest photo’s of your overseas relatives, and the explosive growth of business and end-consumer users is phenomenal. Twitter grew from 6,000,000 to over 250,000,000 in just 3 years. Facebook has over 800,000,000 users now. Little old Trademe in New Zealand has over 700,000 posts per month on its message boards.
That’s a lot of traffic and users engaging in the social media world. It’s where you are most likely to find, and engage, likely future prospects for your business in a non-threatening and collaborative way.
The greatest benefit though for the business owner is the ability to grow your personal and professional network and reputation – which is valuable over the medium to long term. The connections you make, and the conversations you have with them, will provide good marketing opportunities. You will have an opportunity to engage with, and get to be known and trusted by, people you would not otherwise come into contact with.
Social media as a method of marketing is not totally free of cost of course – though it doesn’t cost hard cash generally. It does however take some time and commitment from you. There are an array of really useful platforms and tools to help you manage multiple social media marketing efforts fairly rapidly and efficiently however – and many of them even have good free versions (e.g. Hootsuite), meaning you can manage the time commitments pretty well on a day to day basis.
For New Zealand businesses the 5 social media channels well worth considering are:
1. LinkedIn. For business to business connectivity this platform is without peer. If you want to be talking to business owners or executives/management then you need to be here. It is professional in its approach, there are interest groups for any market niche it seems, and there is a wealth of intelligence to gather. Linkedin appears to have the highest success rate of the social media platforms for generating new business.
2. Facebook. More than 2,000,000 users in NZ alone, it is without doubt the largest and best known social media channel. Particularly useful for engaging with consumers (as opposed to other businesses), and with an ability to provide quite a variety of content (images, links, video’s, blog’s). There is an abundance of evidence that consumers who engage with your business (or “like” you) on Facebook are far more likely to purchase from you.
3. Twitter. Still a little “wild west” in social media terms, as there is very little content control, and everything is short and sharp. It is essentially the internet in 140 characters or less…that is, there is an abundance of useful and interesting content on virtually any topic you can think of. It is extremely useful as a resource – communications, content sourcing, becoming a thought leader – or following thought leaders. An often under-estimated element is that it is often humorous and a little light-hearted, which is in itself excellent for a social channel.
4. TradeMe. Often under-estimated by NZ businesses as a marketing platform, beyond the obvious use as a place to sell the old office furniture. It truly is the social channel that Kiwi’s flock to, and apart from the core auction-focus, there are advertisements, message/bulletin boards & market intelligence in abundance. Distinctly useful for any business aiming at retail consumers – they are here in their thousands by the minute.
5. You Tube. This ones surprises business owners when you talk about it, but it is the second most popular search engine in the world (after Google). This is a place where consumers go looking for things, so if you are looking for consumers…..here they are. Interestingly there is strong evidence indicating that businesses that use video in their marketing (via website, YouTube, etc) have far greater consumer engagement and dramatically increase the chances of obtaining new business. Most consumers seem to prefer watching a video rather than reading a detailed article.
Whatever social media platform appeals to you in your marketing, it is important to look at it as an element of the overall marketing strategy for your business. The more marketing tactics that are interwoven, the more effective the overall marketing strategy will be. It is smart business to create content for your own website, and then share it via social media channels (plural!) and extend the reach of your message. The social media platforms can extend the reach and knowledge of your brand beyond the passive “billboard” that many business websites are.
So; 2 big tips for being effective in your use of social media:
* Be Relevant. It is social – so remember to engage with people, communicate, inject fresh ideas into the mix, and above all – be interesting.
* Don’t blatantly (and boringly) self-promote. Nobody wants to be bombarded with advertising, and people will switch off to your brand entirely if their only experience is being directly marketed to constantly. By all means let people know what you do – but no more than a third of the time in your communications. Make the rest interesting, engaging, entertaining, informative and so on. It has to be worth their while to continue following you.
Final thought: don’t expect overnight dividends. It may take many months of actively engaging with the market before you have established the credibility and authority for your target market to decide you are worth hiring. But hang in there, with relevant and useful content being delivered to your target market via multiple mediums, you will become a trusted expert, and logical person to turn to for their business needs.
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