September 9, 2012

Rachel Strella

The Small is Beautiful Approach to Social Media

By Joel Don 

Moore’s law is a truly great thing.  It makes your Wi-Fi connection super-speedy, enables smartphones to work as fast as desktop PCs and delivers TVs that are larger, yet thinner, lighter and jam-packed with all kinds of cool features.  If you apply the law to social media marketing, it’s not necessarily so fun for everybody.

Small business owners looking to leverage social media to boost visibility and sales undoubtedly face a daily barrage of new social platforms, channels and tools.  On top of that, small businesses are grappling with the emergence of mobile apps and demands to market to customers who now carry their conversion decisions in their pockets.

If you are sitting on the fence or trying to figure out where to begin, one approach might be to incorporate social media tools on a piecemeal basis. Call it the Small is Beautiful approach.  In other words, you don’t have to do everything all at once.  Instead, build your social media marketing program organically, incorporating new channels and tools on an incremental, as-needed basis.  Ultimately it’s true that the ideal social business scenario leverages multiple tools that enhance each other as an integrated solution.  For example, Twitter is an ideal broadcast vehicle for blog and Facebook posts.  Pinterest (assuming you have stunning visuals) and StumbleUpon can drive inbound traffic to websites, which is a key step in generating sales, signups, downloads or other marketing objectives.

Maybe you don’t have a blog, or have only dabbled with Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.  You’re probably not alone, despite a digital marketplace that seems like everyone plugged in 24/7.

Recently, a manufacturing industry marketing executive explained that, thought he appreciates the value proposition of social media, his company is still out of step because he doesn’t know where to start.  My diagnosis: a classic case of platform and tool overload.  The prescription: start somewhere, start small and “socialize” an already existing marketing vehicle.  In this case, we selected a monthly customer newsletter.  Since social media ROI is one of the current hot topics among business owners (i.e. does social media really generate revenue?), measurement would be part of the newsletter makeover.

Here are the steps to turning a conventional customer mailer into a social media tool:

1)   If you are printing and mailing your company newsletter, stop.  The money would be better spent on a commercial email marketing provider, such as Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, MailChimp or Vertical Response.  The commercial providers also offer something that ink on paper just can’t match: tracking and monitoring tools essential to calculating ROI.  That’s also why your local email client just won’t cut it anymore.  Save Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, et al for your one-to-one business and personal correspondence.

2)   Since you expect your new “socialized” email marketing to deliver tangible results, use trackable links, promo/coupon codes, special phone numbers and other traceable content elements unique to each newsletter edition.  The links and codes are your primary means of evaluating what works and what misses the mark for each and every mailing.  In addition to marketing intelligence, trackable elements offer a way to adjust your marketing strategy and achieve even better results.  The links and codes also are used to compute ROI.  That’s your revenue, the bottom line.

3)   Pull out Excel and a calculator.  With each mailing assess how your customers are engaging with your marketing content.  Track time spent and track repeat visits to the newsletter.  Which links get clicked? Which are ignored? Rank your primary and secondary readers.  Analyze the tracking data and segment your customers.  You can also trace links that drive inbound traffic to your website.  Google Analytics can provide further customer intelligence at this point; if your company has invested in CRM software, you will have even more actionable customer intelligence data to add to the mix.

So we started small, yet there’s plenty of room for growth.  You could promote the newsletter on your company’s existing Facebook business page or use the newsletter to drive traffic (Likes) to a newly created Facebook page, and then tap into Facebook’s analytical tools for additional metrics.  Alternatively, your next move might be Twitter, driving potential customers to subscribe to the newsletter or visit your site.  With time and a regular schedule of fresh, new content, the organic approach works.  And when something is not working, you’ll be the first to know so that quick adjustments can lead to improved outcomes. 

Joel is principal of Comm Strategies, a consultancy that leverages public relations strategies, reputation enhancement tactics and social media tools to maximize business success.  Joel has worked for several PR and marketing agencies, and previously served as a public information officer at UCLA and UC Irvine. He also directed business and financial communications at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturer. Formally trained as a journalist, he has written for daily newspapers and national magazines throughout the country. In addition, Joel developed a digital solution for measuring the readership of company news prior to the advent of today’s link-tracking systems.

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2 comments on “The Small is Beautiful Approach to Social Media”

  1. Very insightful post, Joel - thanks. Would love to get your views on a blog strategy for small business just like the one you proposed for newsletters.


    1. Hi Suchitra,

      Glad to see you! I have never met a small business without plenty of ideas. The trick is to churn that creative energy into topics, an editorial calendar and a commitment to stick to it. A great source: the customer. Every customer question, input, suggestion should be logged and considered for the blog editorial calendar (a wealth of potential, highly relevant content). The next step is content creation, and there are many options for busy people (think voice recording and low-cost transcription services).


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