Social media is a buzz-worthy communications tool that is piquing the interest of businesses across the globe. I’ve worked with dozens of clients and have learned that, in order for the social media hype to successfully meet their expectations, there are some fundamental factors that need to be in place. In fact, these three elements are so important that we are including them in a checklist of pre-requisites that must be met before we form a working relationship with a new client. Here are the factors that we believe align a business for social media success.
A Strong Operation
Before we can determine if social media is a viable option for a business, we need to look at the business itself. A start-up business may struggle with this step simply because they lack the experience and feedback to know if their business is sustainable. For this reason, we often avoid working with businesses that are less than a year old.
For everyone else, we consider the following: Does their product or service align with current market needs? How do they compare to their competitors? Have they maintained a stable revenue stream? What do the customers say about the business? What’s the company culture like; are the employees, managers, or partners engaged in the work they do? If these questions are satisfactory, we can move onto the next element: marketing.
We take time to evaluate other areas of marketing and determine the best way to integrate social media into the overall plan. We start with the heart of online marketing – a company website. If a business does not have a website, they need to get one. If they have a website and it’s not well-built, they need to re-build it or make necessary modifications. This is especially relevant for companies who want to incorporate blogging and search engine optimization into their efforts.
Social media works also best when it’s integrated with other forms of marketing – both online and traditional. And while this is optimal, if a business is seeing leads based on word-of-mouth or referrals alone, we may want to simply incorporate another element to help move the needle. Sometimes it’s as easy as adding their social media icons or links to their email signature, business card, or website. Other times, we may decide to run a direct mail campaign, a print advertisement, or pay-per-click ad to help attract an audience or strengthen the marketing strategy.
Social media is a relationship-building tool - a utility for establishing new relationships or enhancing current relationships. A business will be hard-pressed to find a way to accelerate – or even skip – the ‘know/like/trust’ process. I urge all businesses to give relationship marketing at least one year before anticipating a steady stream of qualified leads.
While the majority of our clients start to see leads within three to six months, we find that those businesses that commit to social media for a year or longer, are the ones that achieve more in the end. They understand that relationships cannot be rushed. They also know that offering value – helpful, relevant information – to their audience will often trump a sales-or-lead-focused mentality when it comes to social media.
Can someone succeed on social media without these elements? It’s possible. I see businesses that ignore these things and decide to roll the dice. But, most aren’t working with us any longer. And while there are times when our customers or prospects don’t want hear it, I know we would be doing them a disservice if we did not evaluate these areas before embarking on a social media plan.