Social Media Marketing…From “Word-of-Mouth” to “Word-of-Mouse”

What is Social Media?

It is the collaboration and sharing between the sender and receiver of online content—the brand and the consumer. Social media can include social networks, blogs, podcasts, forums, and online videos.

Something business owners may or may not know about is how to effectively develop a social media strategy to help build customer relationships (increase LTV…Lifetime Value) and augment their brand. In this day and age consumers are turning to the Internet and their friends to find out the facts for themselves. They search for the best and highest number of reviews, good online presence, and for companies recommended the most by fellow consumers. This is not very different from the old days of having a verbal conversation with your neighbor to see what company they used. The only change is that now people are talking to their neighbors and the world online to get this same feedback.

Some Benefits of a Social Media Campaign:

1)      As mentioned in a previous blog, about 90% of people go to the Internet to find what they need.

2)      Social media allows consumers to ask their friends about what company they should use for a service or buy a product from through quick and easy online communication.

3)      Social media also gives consumers a comfortable and convenient way to learn about your company and your brand (who you are, what you do, what you stand for, etc.) without having to speak to a salesperson or meet face-to-face.

4)      Social media pages can have a link that will connect viewers to your company’s website; this draws more traffic to your website and boosts your SEO.

5)      Remember that social media is a type of viral marketing/buzz marketing. This means that you can reach several other branches/groups of people through one person. Let social media work for you by maximizing your company’s online exposure!

The “How” of Social Media Marketing:

When working with social media marketing you can either target customers directly using social media display ads. This helps build up short-term results and quick return but does produce long-term results. You can also grow brand recognition by building up fans or “likes” on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and so on.  This latter way, is the approach to take to invest in long-term results for your company and brand value.

Where to Start:

Work with a social media expert and/or a marketing agency to help create an effective social media strategy for your business.   A social media specialist or social media manager can make blog posts, interact with people to gain awareness and much more, depending on your specific needs.  The goal is to get as many people as possible to know what you are talking about (whether tips, a contest with a fun give-away or what’s new in your industry…) and share it with others.

The Overall Goal:

It is all about the relationship and by using social media you help network your business…and often, you the business owner.  People want to know the real you and what you and your company stand for. Having an online presence and engaging consumers through online interaction can help build credibility, trust, and ultimately results in more profit for your bottom line. The overall goal is to use social media to attract more fans and visitors to your social media profile pages, build credibility, brand identity, create awareness, and grow your business!  Social Media represents a new way that people search and can find products and services online. Don’t miss out and get left behind – jump on the Social Media Bandwagon. It’s here to stay!

The Importance of Brand Fans

In 2002, I spent two months working for a client in Australia. I was based in Sydney, but traveled to Brisbane and Adelaide as well. I elected to stay in corporate apartments, which allowed me to cook some of my own meals.

I settled into my new apartment and walked to the nearest shopping center to stock up on groceries. What I didn’t know was how hard it was going to be. The shopping knowledge I developed in the USA was worthless to me in a different country.

Not only were the brand names different, the products were different. There was no skim milk. In Australia, skim milk is called “lite milk.” And to make it that much more confusing, “lite beer” down under refers to alcoholic content, not calorie count. It was going to take some getting used to — and I needed to learn, quickly.

In the grocery store I read every label and tried to figure out the difference between each brand. About halfway through my shopping trip, I realized that I hadn’t been exposed to necessary product education: marketing and branding advertising.

I couldn’t sing or hum the ad jingles; I didn’t know one brand of peanut butter from the other. I didn’t know that Sanitarium was Australia’s biggest brand of cereal and not a kind of hospital. After finishing my first Australian shopping trip, I went back to the apartment and turned on the radio. I began listening to the commercials. There were commercials touting Australia’s favorite coffee, the creamiest yogurt, the freshest tasting milk and the best brand of dishwashing liquid. Those commercials helped…. But wait until you read what happened next.

The next week,  I related my grocery shopping adventure to the people who worked with me and they immediately started telling me about the brands they buy. I found out that the blue-label peanut butter was ok, but the green-label peanut butter was made from Australian peanuts, so it was fresher tasting. These people had been exposed to years and years of branding and marketing advertising, and from their personal experience, they trumpeted their favorite brands to me, a “newbie.”

After two weeks of living and working in Australia, I began to shape my shopping lists around brands that people told me about. I found these “brand fans’ to be a very helpful in shaping my shopping list. Is there something that you can learn from my experience? Absolutely!

The Consumer’s Choice of Atlanta team members are strong believers in the consistent use of branding campaigns, with mediums like radio, TV and billboards, to help improve your top-of-mind position with the Atlanta consumer. In addition to top-of-mind awareness, how your customers describe your business and service to their friends is paramount to your business’ success. Before the days of Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Kudzu and others, this was accomplished by simply sharing a tip over a cup of coffee with your neighbor. Now that the whole world is connected via Social Media, the importance of managing your reputation after your sales execution is as important as your imaging and branding campaign. All aspects of your contact with the customer, before, during and after the sale have to be constantly managed.

The Consumer’s Choice of Atlanta team can help you navigate your brand building and the follow-up so that your business can obtain a large number of brand fans. Simply put, this is what we do every day for all of our clients.

Why Brand Your Local Business with Radio, T.V. and/or Billboards?

Many locally owned and operated business owners do not even consider branding their business with radio, t.v. or billboards. Why? They think it’s too darn expensive…they figure they just can’t afford it.

Well, after decades of working with locally owned and operated businesses, we have seen many business owners, who thought they couldn’t afford branding, learn otherwise. You may be thinking, “I do quite well…I don’t really need branding.” If you are one of the lucky, rare birds who, as a business owner, you have reached your ultimate business objectives through very little marketing (especially in the economy we’ve had over the past handful of years), then don’t worry about reading on. For the rest of you…here’s why you should consider branding. If you have felt the following you may be a candidate for the branding path:

  • You are tired of months with high sales and then months with really low sales.
  • You feel like you are constantly competing on price because of the fierce competition in the market.
  • You do a bunch of marketing like print, some internet marketing, etc. and yet, you aren’t sure that’s going to be enough to enable you to reach your ultimate business and personal goals (whether it be doubling your annual revenue, selling the business in the next decade for a healthy profit or simply being able to retire and pass a thriving business down to a relative).

In short, branding allows businesses to propel themselves to a different level all together. Yes, it costs money, but, there are ways to do it strategically and effectively – while being affordable. It also takes time. You have to be the kind of business owner that can afford to do this kind of marketing (on top of your call-to-action marketing that creates leads right away) and have the patience to let it work for six months to a year without pulling it. Otherwise, don’t even start. You’ll end up wasting your money. Consistency is the key to marketing in general. But, it’s particularly important when it comes to implementing a branding campaign on radio, t.v. or billboards.

It is our experience across the board that branding does the following:

  • It levels out the peaks and valleys of sales throughout each month, over the course of the fiscal year.
  • It helps companies maintain or even increase their margins (people tend to trust branded companies and often are willing to pay a little more).
  • It boosts traffic on websites and positively impacts internet marketing campaigns, print campaigns and word-of-mouth.
  • It allows companies to experience growth like never before.

Again, it does take time…but, in the end, if you plan to be around for another five to ten years plus, then, you have a year to allow something to take root. After that year, you’ll never look back, if the branding campaign is done with a consistent, effective message and with the right mediums that reach your targeted customer. Get some help (a seasoned marketing firm or person) and be prepared to spend some money (but it should and can be affordable). Think of your branding investment like a 401K plan…just put it in and trust it will grow over time…because it will!

How to Start Marketing Your Local Business…

One of the questions I am asked most by business owners, especially those who do not have any marketing in place, is: “What can I do to bring in leads right away?” They explain to me the need to see a return on investment in whatever marketing they do.

In businesses where I have met owners and asked what works best for them with regards to their marketing, internet marketing is the top source for lead generation, outside of word-of-mouth, of course. This is also true for most of our clients as well (there’s always one or two exceptions). Studies I have read, show around 90% of people go to the internet when they have a need for a product or service.

Where to begin? You want to make sure you have a website that is optimized well/effectively with:

  • current, relevant information
  • clean, easy to navigate look and feel
  • good coding
  • someone/a company doing your SEO (search engine optimization)
  • someone/a company doing your SEM (search engine marketing)

If you do not have these things in place, you are missing opportunities…business. While SEM can be costly, especially if you are in a competitive industry, we liken it to a B12 shot…you feel it right away. It can propel you to the top (or side) of searches. But, it also depends on your spend each month and who you hire (their skill level).

SEO is effective but takes a bit more time. In addition to hiring an SEO expert, you can also do a lot to optimize your site on your own. Consider uploading “how to” or informational videos, blogging and/or making sure as many customer/clients post reviews wherever they can about you (that’s if they were pleased of course!).

A business typically cannot survive on word-of-mouth alone. It is very normal (not necessarily fun though, of course) to fluctuate with a great month and then a not-so-good month in sales when you aren’t doing ANY marketing. It’s just a fact of life and what is. So, if you want to know where you money is best invested (at least for the majority of local businesses out there)…internet marketing! Get on it!