Digital marketing may seem a difficult task for many small and medium sized businesses (SMB’s), but with the right tools and knowledge, SMB's can execute successful and engaging marketing campaigns.
Tradition Meets Innovation
Traditional forms of marketing seem to cater to those who have more resources and larger marketing budgets. The result -- large companies tend to create more interesting and engaging marketing campaigns that are more likely to draw in consumers while smaller businesses that attempt to infiltrate the market, often fail or produce substandard campaigns. As examples: print ad's done by SMB's tend to be smaller while television commercials are produced with a much lower budget, appearing tacky compared to those produced with more funds.
In many ways, digital marketing is merely an extension of these traditional practices, as many of the previously mentioned mediums have transferred to the digital platform. Many video sites, such as YouTube, have ads that can play before or during a video. The videos act like television commercials, promoting a product or service to the viewer. Other sites, such as LinkedIn, have created video tools that give users the chance to turn seemingly regular advertisements into playable video ads. Text and photo advertisements have also made the transition, as they usually appear as banner and block ads.
While only larger businesses seemed to excel in traditional marketing, the digital age comes with a collection of new tools, many of which can be used successfully by SMB's.
Social Media: The Secret Weapon
Since almost everything has some digital component nowadays, SMB's have to embrace a larger palette of tools, like social media, to propel their business and improve their consumer base.
At first glance, it appears that social media would only be useful to large businesses, as it would give them an bigger edge against their small business counterparts because they can attract more followers -- this isn't the case.
Unlike other forms of consumer engagement, such as television advertisements, social media is primarily free. A user can, among other things, create a Facebook fan page, Twitter account or Pinterest page to highlight a company or specific product and find people who will like what's offered, no matter how small their operation is. According to a recent report, many big name retail businesses, such as American Eagle and Radioshack, have social media pages but don’t know how to use them. Therefore, if SMB's can learn how to use social media as a marketing tool, they'll not only garner consumer support, but also improve their overall appeal.
Facebook: The Complete Package
Making a Facebook fan page is one of the easiest things a business can do; as even businesses with little or no marketing budget can create and use this feature. Users don't need a lot of design or computer knowledge to create a page, which is beneficial to those who don't know HTML code. Example applications, include Pagemodo, offer design templates that companies can use to customize their fan pages, Survey Monkey lets users create a survey to see what fans think of an idea or product, Post Planner, allows users to schedule text, video or photo updates and iFrapp lets users design their own custom page applications.
Although these design and engagement applications are useful, they aren't the only way that marketers can utilize social networks. It isn't enough to create a page and hope that people will notice it, marketers have to find a way to attract fans. Recently, Facebook launched the graph search feature, where by typing in a specific keyword, users are directed to certain pages. For example, a restaurant could not only have their name as a keyword, but the type of food they serve, the city or town they're in and some of their menu items. Another Facebook tool that could help marketers is targeted posting, where marketers can target posts to users based on, among other criteria their age, gender, location and language.
Here are a few more great tips for advertising on Facebook that anyone can benefit from.
The Twitter Machine
Although Twitter may seem limited in what it can do to help markets with product promotion, it is a formidable conversational tool and can also be used to gather customer support by keyword and promotional advertising techniques.
As a conversation tool, Twitter can be used to answer consumer questions and promote new product releases, while using certain hashtags can increase the amount of users who come across a businesses page. In turn, this can help with customer conversion rates. For example, if a company is selling jewellery, they can use the type of material used for the product as a hashtag, as well as more specific tags, such as #wedding and #anniversary to cater to a specific audience.
Recently Twitter has also launched tools that cater specifically to helping marketers improve their campaigns. With Tweather, which projects possible trending topics, marketers can tailor their tweets to these trends. Another service that can help marketers is promoted tweets. By enabling this feature these tweets appear in news feeds, trends and search results, based on a user's interests and search queries. In having these tools, marketers can increase their chances of reaching a larger audience than they would by just posting information and using generic hashtags.
LinkedIn and all the Rest
Despite being two of the most popular social media sites, Twitter and Facebook aren't the only way SMBs can improve their digital marketing platform.
As was mentioned, LinkedIn offers video marketing to its users, but this tool is just a small part of the LinkedIn Advertising platform. On a pay-per-click basis, this platform gives marketers the chance to target LinkedIn members based on certain factors, such as their job and age. In choosing LinkedIn, marketers not only get a cost-effective method of promoting their product, but can create a company page feature, where like Facebook, users can promote their products and services with updates and links to contests and promotions.
Pinterest, although being relatively new, is making impact in the social world. Users can create pages and pin content, which can, as with Twitter and its re-tweeting function, be shared from one user to another. Users can also see the impact content is making by being able to see who shares or re-pins their posts and what categories these users assign to the posts.
Keeping Track of it All
Merely using social media isn't the only thing that marketers have to do to improve the effect of their marketing campaigns. Many business have more than one social media presence and they need to adopt tools to help manage this information. This is where an analytics tool or monitoring dashboard comes in. Based on the reported numbers that an analytics platform provides, a company can see where it needs to improve its marketing campaigns.
Some social media sites, like Pinterest and Facebook have had tools created for them or created their own data tracking platforms. After Pinterest's public launch last August, Science Today introduced HelloInsights, an analytics tool for tracking content that's shared through the site, which is similar to other Pinterest analytic tools, such as Pinfluencer. On the other hand, Facebook has its own data monitoring platform which includes Facebook Insights, a tool that monitors individual posts.
Other companies are providing more well-rounded tools that can provide data on any number of social media sites. These analytics tools include Adobe, with Adobe Social and Webtrends Streams. You can also use platforms like Hootsuite and any number of social media monitoring tools (some paid, some free).
Depending on their needs, SMB marketers should carefully select their data monitoring platform, as are a lot of different analytics tools to choose from that are both generic and specific to certain social media sites
By keeping focused and utilizing the available tools, small and medium sized businesses will be able to make a sizable impact in their market.
Are you an SMB working on a social media platform? What is working best for you? What tools do you like?