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About Merlyn on Media

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County. Merlyn’s blog focuses on all-things media, with an emphasis on how community-based media can make our county a better place to live, work and play.... Read more

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Is Social Media a Waste of Money?

If you’re an organization of any size, the use of social media to market your products or services is just part of doing business these days.

Yet a recent study by the research firm NextStage Evolution of more than 1,700 North American companies showed that MORE THAN HALF of them are so dissatisfied with their social marketing activities that they’ve decided not to do anything else except wait.

That’s right… they’ve looked at their 2014 social marketing plans and put ‘em on a shelf.

As one social media manager put it, “We’ve gone through tools and models and consultants, and anybody coming in the door who tells you they’ve got the answers should be shown the way out before they take a seat. We’ve lost money and I know lots of businesses that have lost money on hippos with spam-in-a-can solutions.”

Image for Social Media Class at Montgomery Community MediaOf course, we’ve all seen and heard of businesses that are rocking social media campaigns, attracting thousands of Followers and Likes and Pins and Tweets and blah blah blah. But the VAST majority of these efforts are not providing the Return on Investment that a disciplined and well-run company should require of its marketing efforts.

The fact is this: social marketing is still MARKETING, which has at its core the same fundamentals as any effort to promote sales.

I have never forgotten the maxim from sales guru Zig Ziglar: “If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.”

Yes, we all like boasting about our Likes and Followers. But what good are they if they don’t translate to your bottom line?

In the frenzy of today’s social media, we need to keep in mind three keys to marketing success:

FIRST, is the ‘voice’ you use in ALL your social media & marketing efforts both credible and authentic? Are you enhancing the reputation of your business by posting selfies to Instagram from your office party? Do your random late-night tweets on Twitter match the persona and character of your company? The message you put out on whatever platform… print, broadcast, web, events or social media… all must generate a consistent persona that will attract customers.

SECOND, are your efforts really building better relationships with your current and potential customers? The use of new media and social media platforms have allowed for two-way communications between companies and customers as never before. Even the most basic of websites provide ‘self-care’ for individuals to ask and get answers about your products/services. Higher-level platforms like Instagram promote ‘user-generated content’ where the public can post images and provide feedback on your company. But with any effort, you need to ask the question “how does this approach enhance my relationships with those who would buy from me?” Making it easier for the public to know what you offer in a frictionless-free manner will help move your constituents from the Like zone to the Trust space.

And THIRD, choose the right content for the right platform. If your offerings are very visual, put together some high-quality photos and set up boards on Pinterest. If your company thrives on being a reputable resource in your industry, look to LinkedIn to further establish your image and brand (BTW, MCM has a great training program if you want to rock LinkedIn: Sure, some companies do well producing fun six-second videos for Vine. But what makes sense for YOUR company?

And if I could add a FOURTH element, it would be the notion of making your marketing holistic. Build elements into your offerings that are tailor-made for marketing. For example, if you run a restaurant and you create wonderful special dishes each day that you want to promote, why not shoot a 15-second video of you putting together your creation and posting it to Instagram (and its compatriot Facebook) before lunchtime each day, when people are hungry and thinking about where to eat that day. Don’t just make social marketing some separate sidecar… include it in the product or service. If it feels connected to your offerings with that authentic voice, then the audience will connect with it.

So for those 50%+ of companies ready to pull the plug on social marketing, don’t be too hasty. Work smarter and incorporate your efforts into things you’re already doing.

Social is here to stay… just be smart about it.

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About Merlyn Reineke

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County.


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