Social media is an important part of small and medium sized business (SMB) marketing strategies and these organizations should be making sure that content and knowledge come first.
Social media is a cost effective tool that can boast a high return on investment for SMB’s, but many of these businesses still struggle with it.
Ed Abrams is the Vice President of Marketing for Midmarket at IBM. He spoke with CMSWire about this and other issues, and how SMB’s can improve their approach to content marketing and social media.
A Benefit and a Curse
Even though social media is an important part of marketing for all types of business, it is especially useful for those companies that are classified as small or medium. Social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest give these businesses a way to improve their brand’s reach by interacting more thoroughly with customers and potential customers in a real-time capacity. Businesses are also instantly able to, among other things, share product and store updates, run contests and promote sales, quickly answer customer concerns and connect with customers outside of a local demographic -- although this is where problems can develop.
According to Abrams many SMB businesses will either create social media accounts and think that’s all they need to do, or don’t know or think about of the type of content they should post before attempting to post it. SMB's need to realize that these steps are just a small part of a long, content focused journey of social engagement, understanding and insight.
It’s [social media] a wonderful vehicle for conversation, but without content for conversation it's useless,” he says. “In content marketing, your point of view and things you care about are absolutely the critical elements that have to be determined before you can think about leveraging social effectively.”
With this in mind, there are a few things that SMB marketers should do before even filling in their company's name on an account sign-up form.
A Multi-Step, Customer Focused Process
Before a SMB can even begin developing a good content and social media strategy they have to understand the role the customer plays.
Customers are now in control of the conversation, so by using the right data analytics tools and listening strategies and using them to pull insight out of that information a company can ensure that they are able to address the needs of the customers they are dealing with,” said Abrams.
After that, the first step is to listen to what these customers, fans or followers are saying. Customers are always saying something about a company, brand or product so a SMB has to make sure they are moderating these conversations while also tracking influential users and looking at the types of products and services its audience are looking for. This is done by moderating social channels like Facebook and other channels, such as a website message board.
Once a business knows a bit more about its customer base, it can then develop a proper social identity. To do this a business has to separate each of its social media accounts by looking type of content that is most popular on that site and develop a separate marketing strategy for it. For example, Twitter would have a different strategy than one that is used for Pinterest or Facebook.
The last step is simple: engagement and conversation. Once a company has a complete customer profile and understands social media, they can then start to post content and have meaningful and knowledgeable conversations with customers, fan and followers.
This is the idea of really making sure you are taking the insights of listening tools and communication vehicles you created and being thoughtful and scheduled in how you want to deliver a message to the marketplace,” said Abrams.
As this conversation develops, a SMB will eventually have a good content marketing strategy and begin to post better content while building its brand and company on a social media scale.
Content marketing is about the getting the right message out into the right vehicles in order to help businesses learn about their customers, influence the market and ultimately drive demand,” said Abrams. “It gives them the tools to listen to the market and see what their customers are interested in, are saying about them and are saying about competition.”
Social media is good marketing tool. SMB’s can and have made a huge impact within this interconnected, content driven, social world, but they first have to make sure they understand everything about social media before they begin.