It was hard leaving sunny San Diego, but we’re back from Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) 2014, an annual conference hosted by Social Media Examiner. It’s amazing to see where social media has come over the past few years. It may have started as a personal platform, but social media has evolved tremendously to become a powerful business tool as well. When you hear “social media,” you may think of teenagers hunched over their smartphones or an unending stream of celebrity tweets. However, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the business benefits of being social. If you have yet to take advantage of social media for your MSP business – now’s the time to get started. Here are some tips directly from the SMMW 2014 experts.
The Stats – Why MSPs Should Be On Social Media
We learned some awesome stats at SMMW14 that show how important it is to be social. According to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, in the last year…
- 92% of companies using social media felt that it increased brand exposure (up from 89% last year)
- 80% of companies using social media felt it increased website traffic (up from 75% last year)
Clearly, social media has become a more and more important tool for companies. Here are some more numbers from a recent survey conducted by LinkedIn:
- 90% of businesses in hyper-growth mode say that advertising efforts on social media are responsible for the increased awareness of their product, service or company
- 73% of hyper-growth organizations increased spending on social media over the previous year
- 82% say they’ve found social media to be effective for new lead generation
Among SMBs that enjoy typical business growth, the numbers are slightly different, yet no less convincing:
- Over 80% of SMBs drive their business development using social media
- 60% of SMBs gain new customers via their social media following
- 94% of SMBs include social media platforms as part of their marketing efforts
Social Media: Not Just for Sales
No matter how much success SMBs can connect to their social media efforts, sales numbers aren’t the only reason to increase your MSP's social media following:
- Over half of small and mid-size businesses learn new industry insights from social media.
- Across all social media platforms, SMBs most commonly view posts about marketing and/or business leadership.
- 79% of SMB owners state that industry-specific articles and news are the most valuable resources available via social media, followed by customer reviews and testimonials.
How MSPs Can Take Advantage of Social Media
The general takeaway from the conference is that social media is not one size fits all. You must establish which channels your audience uses, then find the right way to engage with them on each. Sounds easy enough, right? Well if you've forayed into social media at all, you've probably seen that having a social presence goes beyond starting a Facebook page.
In order to be successful on social media, you need to be social.
Getting Started: To get started, create a why for each channel.
- Why are you on Facebook, or Twitter or LinkedIn?
- What do you hope to gain from it?
- What kinds of content do you want to share on it?
- What goals should I set and how do I reach them?
You can't engage people if you don't know why you're there. Create a mission statement for each channel and stick to it. This can change over time, but it’s important to have a purpose for each channel.
Make sure to focus on the channels that are relevant for you. Don't just build a Facebook page because other people have Facebook pages. Make sure your audience will benefit from your social activity before dumping time and resources into it.
Ramping Up: To be successful on social, you really need to be consistent and be active. That's easier said than done, but make sure that you have someone who can own and run your social channels.
Outsourcing may be the best option for you. There are plenty of small agencies or freelancers that will build and manage your social media channels. Or you could hire a social media intern for 20 hours per week, who will be cheap for you but give social the attention it needs.
Additionally, make sure your posts receive company-wide support! In Jay Baer’s session, How to Turn Your Employees into Your Best Social Media Advocates, the notable social media influencer stressed that a company’s employees are its brand’s greatest advocates. At Dell, for instance, 58% of certified employees engage with weekly company social media posts. Ultimately, “your power is in your people.” Your audience is more likely to trust and interact with a post submitted by an individual rather than a corporate account.
Again, it's hard to be successful on social media if you are not active. Make sure you have someone in place who can effectively manage it and spread their messaging around!
Want to learn more from Jay? Get a copy of his book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype!
Grow Your Following: Ok, so you have an account for each channel. Now what? You can’t simply exist on social media. You must post frequently and consistently. While the strategy may change for each business and industry, the key to success is creating a channel that your target audience wants to follow.
Don’t just talk about yourself – but rather make it fun, make it engaging, make it useful and applicable to your audience. Presenter Ted Rubin claims that in order to do this, you need to “look people in the eye digitally.” What does that mean? Let clients know you’re there to serve their needs – not promote yourself. How do you use social media to build or strengthen relationships?
- Respond to customer inquiries. If they tweet you, tweet them back or even follow them!
- If you see a customer mention your handle, don’t just click the “retweet” button, but quote the tweet and thank them. Let them know you appreciate their support!
- Create and manage LinkedIn groups for your customers to discuss industry best practices.
- Share content that they might find useful – even if it’s not your content.
- Don’t be afraid to share images or photos of employees as it helps put a face (or faces) to your company name. A picture is worth 1,000 words (which is way more than 140 characters).
- Most importantly, post content that is relevant to THEM! You want to optimize your social media presence around the customer, thus establishing a reputation for being trustworthy.
Remember: “Social is a facilitator of relationships, not the relationship itself.”
Hungry for more? Read Ted's book, Return on Relationship!
Test and Optimize: If there’s one topic that came up in every session at SMMW14, it’s that measuring social media ROI is a necessity for businesses of all sizes. We understand that navigating these waters can be overwhelming for your SMB, but the great thing is that it doesn’t have to be! In Nichole Kelly’s How to Become a Social Media ROI Rock Star session, we learned helpful tips, like the importance of comparing revenue, conversion rates, and retention rates between social and non-social users. Similarly, Kelly insisted marketers use the following to ease the measurement burden:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform: a tool that stores customer and prospect information, accounts, leads, sales, and revenue in one central location. Use the CRM to store customers and prospects social media information as a way to further engage them.
- Web Analytics: measures what actions users take on your website when they come from social (and from other sources as well). If you don’t have any analytics system, Google Analytics is a great place to start.
- Marketing Automation: software that allows you to target users on their behaviors and run campaigns to better tailor your messaging to individual customer and prospect needs. This will allow you to run social campaigns targeted to specific users and measure these campaigns.
Need more info on social media ROI? Purchase Nichole's book, How to Measure Social Media!
For some, social media may feel like a foreign language. However, it’s become increasingly important to use – as it’s proven to increase web traffic, generate leads and deepen customer relationships. It’s never too late to learn and get started, and the business impacts can be enormous. Don’t be afraid to take the leap! You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about your customers and your business by doing so.