Free Marketing Tools Are Great! Who Doesn’t Love “Free”?
Social Media is a free marketing tool, isn’t it? In the very basic sense of examining it, yes “social media” can be seen as a free marketing tool because there’s very little to no outlay of monetary funds. Participating in social media, if you are a community member, 9 times out of 10, is at no cost to you from the perspective of joining and engaging. The only time these social media communities charge a fee is if you are upgrading to some sort of premium or pro account. Think about Flickr in this case, if you don’t want to be limited on your daily uploads or want the analytics, you have to upgrade to the professional account.
From the community participant’s end, this is wonderful! I get to share and connect with people who have the same interests as me without having to pay a fee, who doesn’t like that concept? That’s why social media communities have been around long before the term “social media” had ever been coined.
Companies stepping into the idea of marketing in these social media communities with the mistaken idea that marketing within social media communities is “free” are a lot of times sadly mistaken at the end of their campaign’s run. They find it’s failed, or rather they are under the impression that their marketing attempt failed and they also find there’s a lot more involved than they ever realized. At the end of the day it isn’t free. There’s a whole lot of investment that needs to go on in both resources and technology.
It really makes me curious why companies think they can just put up a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page and think “this is going to work” immediately. A “Field of Dreams” Social Media is not, unfortunately if you build it, most likely they won’t come. Companies spend millions developing new logos, planning public relations (PR) Events, doing keyword research for SEO and PPC, why should the concepts around social media marketing be any different? The “free” barrier to entry is a huge misnomer and misleads a lot of marketing departments down the wrong path.
So what should a company plan to invest in when looking at a social media strategy? Well that really depends a lot on what the company hopes to establish in the medium. Is it increased buzz or brand lift? How about increased sales or traffic to the site? Could you want people to sign up for your email list, blog RSS or coupon distribution? Become part of your own community? Different goals require different strategies in social media, and they all require different levels and types of resource investment.
Here’s a quick list to keep in mind of what you’ll be investing in when you decide that social media is the next medium your company should become actively involved in.
Investing in Understanding: “Where Are We Now” in the Whole Social Media Sphere
Do people even know who you are? Is there any buzz about you? Do they know the products you sell or the services you offer?
Invest in Finding Your Audience
Where are the conversations happening? Who’s doing the talking about you?
Invest in the Approach
How do I interact with the social media communities that are talking about me, my industry, products or services? How do I add value to their lives and not just be another “noise channel”
Goals & Measurement Need Investment
Free tools verses Paid Tools? Free buzz monitoring tools give you limited data, can your strategy work with that limited data, or do you need more robust information? What about your analytics, are the free tools going to give you enough information to connect the dots of traffic to buzz & engagement to conversions? Have you even taken the time to plan what goals will make you successful?
Employees are as Social Media Investment in their own right
You pay your employees a salary or an hourly wage to preform tasks for you. If one of their tasks has to do with social media, that’s definitely an investment that isn’t free by any means. However, it isn’t just their time engaging you should be planning for, it’s their time researching, setting goals, training, developing and ultimately fortifying relationships with your audience that you really need to plan for investing in.
With investment in research, strategy and measurement companies can see return, or at least if there isn’t a return they can figure out why. The investment of time and resources from the onset is likely the biggest factor of whether a company is going to succeed or fail. Don’t you want the money and time you’ve invested to grow your social media strategy into a success rather than just having spaghetti being thrown at the wall?
Scrabble Letters Photo Credit: Flickr User WonderWebby
Tree & Coins Photo Credit: Flickr User Pfala