Social Media Marketing: You're Not There Yet?

elements of a social media marketing program
Social media marketing has many moving parts
Social media marketing can be an amorphous and vexing subject for many small business operators. After all, it's probably not your trade, along with tuba playing. You have specific skills which, combined with an avid pursuit of success and your own secret business sauce, move your business forward, day after day. Staying current within the business environment is important, as you do not want to be branded as a paleolithic company, flogging away with methods and means long abandoned by other market or industry participants.

For perspective, some clarification about my target audience. This article, while useful in a general sense to all interested in social media marketing, is directed at smaller firms that engage in technical sales. Technical sales is not merely the sale of technical products, though that may be part of it. It is the art and practice of selling products requiring consultation between buyer and seller to assure that the delivered product or service will meet the requirements and expectations of the buyer.
How does this impact the applicability or focus of the article?
My viewpoint reflects that of a typical technical sales professional or firm. Many firms and individuals engaged in technical sales are small and localized, often acting as representatives or distributors for larger national or global brands. The goal for the technical seller's social media activities is to create lasting business connections on a one-to-one basis. This differs from what many larger or non-technical selling companies desire. Their objective is to create a one-to-many connection that is generally of an anonymous nature and without much desire to forge a lasting beneficial business relationship. In a non-technical sales instance, customers can obtain all information necessary to make a purchase without any personal contact with the seller. Technical sales pros, because of their size, localized focus, and method for delivering value, benefit from social media activities in a manner that can differ from the more conventionally accepted thought. As the reader, keep this viewpoint in mind.

Technical sales pros should recognize two overarching things about social media marketing.

Social media presence will be an increasingly important element of business success.

Resources that may not currently exist in your organization will be required to implement an effective social media strategy.

For a business owner or operator, the first statement raises the question of whether theirs will be a business of the future, or one of the past. No longer are social media and internet based marketing cutting edge. They are now the plain vanilla mainstream standard. Your aging customer base is already being replaced by individuals with little to no experience dealing with printed promotional materials, supplier directories, and other bygone methods for gaining brand recognition, including static billboard-like websites. If your company is not actively pursuing the creation and maintenance of an effective web presence, let this be your final warning.
Get with the program or face brand oblivion.

"Resources that may not currently exist in your organization will be required to implement an effective social media strategy." Let's break that down some, as there are still many of you technical sales pros out there who have yet to fully digest the social media marketing concept.

To be effective, a social media marketing endeavor requires continuous nurturing. New and interesting content must be located or created. Analytics should be gathered and assessed for their applicability and usefulness. There are innumerable small tasks and considerations that combine to make a successful program.

Two basic resources are needed to launch and maintain a useful social media presence. One is time, the other is money. It is possible to execute a useful strategy with any mix of these two resources. A candid and careful evaluation of the skills available within your organization, as well as the available budget for marketing, will move you toward the best resource allocation. 

clock showing various activities in a social media marketing program
Marketing activities are time sensitive
An obvious solution for the social media marketing challenge is to outsource the whole program and let someone else handle it. Your function would be to select an appropriate vendor and evaluate the general results, assuring your company's brand is being promoted well and that a solid social media presence is maintained. A distinct advantage of outsourcing is that it will detract little from the revenue generating activities of those currently on staff. Outsourcing is less disruptive and allows you to move forward quickly.

For most small organizations, the decision to save on direct expenditure and run the social media operations using existing staff is a perilous one. 
Effective social media plans are developed and executed by marketers. 
It is essential that social media be done well and done continuously. Otherwise, results are likely to be minimal to negative. Yes, it is conceivable to get negative promotional results from poorly conceived or executed social media activities. Turning over the day to day social media marketing activities to the only person at the firm with a Twitter account does not qualify as good decision making. Rigorous scheduling discipline is needed to maintain the quality and currency of the content, and to complete tasks at times that will produce good promotional results. Creativity, along with a marketing skill set, are also traits of a successful candidate for this position. Selecting a staff member to accomplish all that is necessary, without assuring they have the proper skill set and available time, sets the probability for failure higher than that for success.
get started crossword
Get your social media marketing going in the right direction

If you have not yet started a serious social media promotional effort, or feel your program is lacking in impact, it may be time to create a new effort. Learn from what you have already done and make your next social media marketing campaign more successful. If you are starting from ground zero, proceed slowly and gain knowledge as you progress. Avoid making big moves until you gain some experience.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small operators build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Social Media Marketing DIY Tip - Do You Ever Look at Yourself?

symbol of social network for social media marketing
Social media allows you to "touch" your network
I had cause to conduct some business with a real estate agent recently and stumbled upon some social media phenomena that gave rise to this article. My experience with Molly (not her real name, of course) was entirely positive. I would recommend her highly to anyone and hold her in high professional esteem. You need to keep this in mind as I break down a few elements of social media presence for your benefit and self-improvement, using Molly's presence as illustration.

I came to know Molly in a decidedly old school fashion, by coincidence. I did not "discover" her through social media, Google, or an advertisement. It was only after I had committed to doing business with her that I decided to take a tour of her social media presence as an academic exercise related to my marketing work. One point stood out in my mind as I threaded my way through Molly's social media pages.
Your social media presence leaves a more lasting impression than a face to face meeting.
Think about this a minute, as it struck me initially as counterintuitive. However, while face to face interaction remains a most powerful means of communication and impact, it is a non-repetitive occurrence. Even if you meet with someone multiple times, they appear and act originally each time. On the other hand, every time someone views your profile picture you look the same (at least until you change it). Those repetitive identical impressions can have the effect of etching that image into memory.

In addition to the profile picture's visual aspect, consider the profile summary or bio. It sinks deeper into a reader's mind than many may suspect. The presentation of the summary, its writing style, subject matter, grammar, and spelling, all have impact on the reader. Note also that spelling mistakes, improper grammar, and awkward style may leave a stronger impression than the positive attributes of the summary. The reader expects a positive commentary and views negative attributes as extraordinary, possibly creating an indelible impression.
Once you make an impression on someone, it is difficult to "unimpress" that remembrance. It follows that keeping your social media presence brightly polished is an important component of your professional success, the success of your business. Here are some points to stimulate your own consideration of how well you are maintaining your social media presence.

Any image of you should be perfect in every possible way.

The importance of your visual presentation cannot be overstated. When a prospective customer, employer, friend, date, or whatever finds you on social media, they cannot hear you, smell you, touch you, or be impacted by your body language. All they have, initially, is your picture. Make it count.

If you are not sufficiently skilled at producing high quality images to use on your pages, pay someone to do it for you (outsource). Image attributes that you should pay attention to include...

  • Dimensions - Edit images to match the size requirements of each site with which you are working. Spend enough time on this to get it perfect, not just good.
  • Definition - Avoid all but the sharpest, most in focus, images. 
  • Color - Distinct and vibrant color rendition will make a photo stand out. I suggest avoiding black and white unless there is a compelling reason to use it. 
  • Facial Expression - Present a facial expression that is appropriate for the target audience and will be perceived as neutral or positive by the greatest number of viewers.
  • Clothing and Appearance - Dress and adorn yourself appropriately for the type of work at which you are representing yourself as a competent professional. Keep the target audience in mind. If you catch yourself trying to standout from the crowd by appearing "individual", you may want to reassess. 

Know what you look like.

After you post any image of yourself, review it using more than one device. Make sure it appears the way in which you intended and delivers a positive impact. It is not a bad idea to get a few confidants, those who tell you the truth even when it hurts, to provide a critique of your image.

Check your social media pages periodically, making sure your image appears as you intended. The providers of our social media environment, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others are continuously tinkering with the applications and may make changes that impact your online image.

Below is a screenshot of one of Molly's two Google+ landing pages. Do you think she intended to use her torso as the background photo for her landing page? If so, what was the plan, the intent, the rationale behind its deployment. I cannot get this out of my mind and will likely forever remember Molly as the perpetrator of this faux pas. I did some research and discovered that it was not Molly's intent. Google released a new version of Google+ that sort of "re-cropped" Molly's original image. The screenshot below shows what the image looks like with the new Google+ app. If you view the same page with the old version of Google+, which is still in use, Molly looks just fine with a head and shoulders shot. The lesson is to check all the different ways in which your target audience might view your image, making sure that all are presentable and deliver the impact you desire.

social media profile picture improperly cropped
Was this intentional?

Edit for success

Most are familiar with the expression "dress for success". Your social media images are important because they are your appearance and that online image of you will likely be what is remembered. Potential customers or employers will make decisions based upon your images, making them worthy of your valuable time spent producing perfect pictures. 

Your social media presence is not a "set it and forget it" proposition.

I have heard social media sites compared to billboards along the highway. In some cases this may be true, but it should not be that way for you. Remember the purpose of  your social media endeavor. You can watch a short video about it in a previous article. Here are some valuable goals for your personal or small business social media activities.

  • Get discovered by individuals and organizations important to your business
  • Develop a presence in your field
  • Demonstrate your involvement in relevant activities
  • Show you are knowledgeable and current
  • Present yourself as someone that can provide value in a business encounter
You will not achieve these goals with a static social media presence. Look at your social media pages. If your last post or share was a year ago, a month ago, you are not following a social media plan that will lead to success. Learn about how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites that appeal to you. Develop a plan that has you devoting the necessary time to find or produce relevant and useful content and share it on your sites. If you cannot execute a useful plan on your own, outsource it, or reduce the number of sites to a level you can manage. My friend Molly had more than eight profiles on various sites, in some instances more than one on the same service. A look at the posts reveals that she only maintains two of them regularly. Some of the sites had not been updated in more than two years. These stagnant sites can provide negative impressions. They are not harmless.

Your social media sites that do not appear current and active are more likely to make a negative impression than one that is positive or even neutral.

Social media marketing, done right, is no trivial undertaking. It takes time and effort to develop proficiency at producing and locating useful content, then sharing it in a manner that will get the exposure and results you deserve.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.