Marketing communication is shifting. No longer is it just a one-sided communication: your business talking at your clients and prospects. No longer will traditional media-based promotion alone (banner ads, print, TV, radio, email, outdoor media, direct mail, etc.) build your brand and bring the results you need to be successful.
Marketing is now a two-lane highway where we not only speak to our audience, but also, more importantly, we listen to what they have to say. Your company needs to interact and stand out from the “noise” by incorporating social media into your overall brand and business strategies. When it comes down to it, your business is no longer holding the branding megaphone. Those who have a relationship with your brand (good or bad) are the main brand communicators. Are you listening to what they are saying?
HOW YOU CAN MAKE YOUR MARKETING MORE SOCIAL
People have always been social beings. Aristotle famously stated, “Man is by nature a social animal.” We feel safer in communities, from the days of the cave dweller until the present. Our communications styles have changed over time, of course. Instead of posting a letter in the village square, we have Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Pinterest, YouTube and Flicker, just to name a few methods of sending and receiving information about our messages.
These social media outlets have allowed us to change the way we communicate. For instance, nobody would pick up the phone to call a friend about what Gatorade flavor he or she likes. Instead, people now find it acceptable to post this information on a news feed. Which news feed does not matter, just the fact that people are communicating this way is what is important.
When someone is stuck in traffic because of a highway construction project, that person may vent his or her frustrations on Facebook or Twitter instead of calling a friend to complain. By using a social media platform, the reach has extended to acquaintances this person has not seen in years. Or, if he or she is using Twitter, he or she could be communicating with people he or she has never met before. If your logo is attached to this project, your firm may be getting unfavorable publicity to thousands of people. If you are not paying attention to these outlets to find out what people are saying about you, there is no way for you to respond appropriately.
When Twitter started in 2006, we all thought, why would anyone be interested in this? Who cares what I have to say or what my firm is doing right now? However, it is not always about you talking — when others start talking about your company, other people are listening. If you are paying attention to what others are saying about you, it is a perfect opportunity to leverage that information. You do not need to tweet to get value from Twitter. By simply listening, you gain access to real-time market intelligence and feedback. However, by participating in the online community, you have the chance to build relationships with customers, potential clients and industry influencers.
By making your marketing more social, you are essentially taking your company from a nonhuman entity to a human one. What does it mean to humanize your brand? You give your business a voice using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog, etc., which allows people to relate to your company. Determine the tone for your company’s voice. The majority of us change our own tone of voice depending on the environment we are in. For example, in the boardroom, we are professional and all business. But when talking with our friends, we change our tone. We let our guard down; we are more relaxed and friendly. The same goes for your corporate voice. When engaging your audience in a social atmosphere, think about how your tone should change.
SOCIAL MARKETING IS NO LONGER A WASTE OF TIME
Word of mouth dramatically carries further than it ever did before, now that we have social media. One blog post or Facebook comment can reach thousands, if not millions, of people.
Some view social media as a recreational way of communication, and so it gains a stigma of being unreliable and unprofessional. How can we take Facebook seriously as a business tool when we use it to share photos of our vacations and praise our favorite sports team? This may be the reason that we tend to question the value of social media more so than other business-related initiatives.
HOW YOUR FIRM CAN MARKET SOCIALLY
Content is King. Develop strong content to push out through your social media channels. The content you produce needs to be timely and relevant. In 2010 Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairperson, announced that we are creating the same amount of content in just 48 hours that we created from the beginning of time through 2002 worldwide (http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/04/schmidt-data/). We are living in a world where everyone has a voice. Yours needs to stand out from the noise and brand your firm as a thought leader and influencer.
Develop Your Voice.
Engage in communities, blogs and LinkedIn discussions where people are discussing the industry’s “hot” topics, such as the latest construction software, Building Information Modeling (BIM), upcoming talent shortages, design-build, etc. By participating on a regular basis, you keep your name and expertise in front of potential clients.
Connect with Other Communities.
Fostering connections with industry bloggers, LinkedIn groups and publications will promote your firm and your expertise. These communities can introduce you to an audience to which you may not have otherwise had access. For example, your LinkedIn network can help you pursue potential clients and help others find you for possible business opportunities. Furthermore, commenting on industry blog posts or even guest blogging can mark your firm as an industry expert.
Share Your Expertise.
Start a company blog to announce new products, communicate successes, showcase your work, discuss new trends and how they help the construction industry, and announce industry events you are hosting or attending. Do not forget to promote these posts in your social media network: Tweet about the post; Start a discussion on LinkedIn; Share the post on your Facebook wall. Did you just finish an extensive project your firm is proud of? Share photos on Flicker or create a video about the project and upload it to YouTube. These tools help you to display your company portfolio to a wide audience.
Improve Your SEO.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the number of visitors to your website by getting a high ranking on search results pages such as Google. Now that you have a voice and content to share with the industry, draw all that effort back to your website. One of the main benefits of social media is that it directs traffic back to your company’s website. Your website can showcase even more of your work and provide details about your services and products. And you are now on your way to creating lead generations and improving your bottom line.
If you still are not sold on the benefits of social media, consider this. Do you want to:
- Answer questions about your product or service?
- Educate your clients and/or potential clients?
- Follow up after a project is complete?
- Conduct market research?
- Discuss industry best practices?
Excellent! Then you are ready to jump on the social-media bandwagon. While all these items relate to traditional marketing strategies, they are also used in social marketing strategies. You do not need to throw your current marketing plan out the window; just amend the plan to include social strategies that complement your business objectives.
WHAT IS THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) OF SOCIAL MEDIA?
This is the question that every business leader wants to know. We live in a world where every minute counts, and if we cannot attribute a rise or fall in sales to something tangible, we assume it does not work. But any savvy businessperson should question the value or ROI that potentially takes time and money from your business.
In today’s business environment, companies are sprinting to the finish line; they are worried about short-term goals and want quick results. Let’s face it, social media will not do anything to your bottom line in a six- to 12-month period. Companies still need to wine and dine the audience before it will commit. You have to nurture the relationship. Marketing your brand in social circles does not provide immediate ROI; but over time, it can be a very valuable way to connect and nurture current and potential client relationships.
ROI has become an excuse for many companies to delay incorporating social media into their overall strategies. However, consider the ROI of the following common business practices:
Meetings. Especially the ones where you leave wondering, what was the point? How much time do you and your staff sit through discussions that go nowhere? That time could have been devoted to following up with leads and connecting with clients.
Giveaways. If you are getting sales because someone picked up a pen with your logo on it, fantastic. However, were you able to track that lead? What is the ROI of all the logoed mugs that are sitting in your storage closet right now?
Yellow Pages Ads, Direct Mail Pieces and Tradeshow Booths. If you are designing these pieces effectively, a call to action will direct the audience to a measurable target, for example, a landing page on your website. Unfortunately, these call-to-actions cannot always be traced back to these marketing tactics, and so ROI remains undetermined.
What we can track from social media will not correlate necessarily to a monetary value, but it will determine how your company is perceived in the market, and how well you are connecting with your clients and potential clients. As social humans, we love to share good things as well as bad experiences. Find out what people are saying about you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. When you start to monitor these conversations, you can use this information to determine how to position your brand going forward. Consider humanizing your brand so it has personal appeal that resonates with your market, and start sharing helpful information in social media channels. Most importantly, do not forget to listen.
GARY VAYNERCHUK, KEYNOTE SPEECH AT INC. 500 SEMINAR 2011
Gary Vaynerchuk is cofounder and CEO of VaynerMedia, a social media brand consulting agency. He is also an author and public speaker on the subjects of social media, brand building and e-commerce (http://www.garyvaynerchuk.com).
The Inc. 500|5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual three-day event that brings the nation’s brightest, most successful business minds together to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the companies that appear on Inc. magazine’s prestigious ranking of America’s fastest-growing privately held companies (http://www.inc.com/events).
Here are some excerpts from Vaynerchuk’s session:
“Brands need to remember that social media is a customer service tool first and a sales tool second. People are marketing like they are planning a wedding. They put all their effort into planning and then no time at all working on the marriage. For the first time ever, we are living in a push (not pull) economy. Brands are not in control anymore. Customers are. But we need to return to “small town rules.” Big brands acting like local businesses that care. Like 50 years ago in small town communities. Because most businesses are missing the point. Social media is not about talking. It’s about listening. It’s about creating word of mouth at scale. Because as humans, we love to share good things. But we don’t want to be sold to. Big retailers need to start acting like small start-ups. And become obsessed responding to every. Single. Comment. Post. Tweet. Request. Because the people who want to talk to you are the people who want to buy from you. And whichever brand cares the most. Wins.” 1
Sarah Avallone is a marketing manager at FMI Corporation. She may be reached at 919.785.9221 or via email at email@example.com.
1 Retrieved from: http://www.slideshare.net/jeremywaite/60-30-10