Making the Case for Social Media

Every week I talk to business people about social media, from entrepreneurs and start ups to corporate types in medium to large businesses. Most either have a limited SM presence or are timid about its use for their business purposes - yet they are intrigued about all the buzz. Their questions and concerns are legitimate, so I decided to write this article to address their most common concerns.

1. "Our target market isn't using social media"

Some variations of this concern include social media is only for young people, investors don't use SM, or we don't sell to consumers.

My response is they couldn't be more misinformed. Statistics bear out that social media is a worldwide phenomenon and people of all walks of life are using several social networks to obtain or share information, and as a primary vehicle of communication and self-expression. Facebook is over 500 million users, Twitter over 100 million, LinkedIn has 75 million and YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world.

2. "Social Media doesn't influence buying decisions"

Today, people are less influenced with traditional advertising. TIVo and channel surfing have reduced the impact from TV commercials. Newspapers are suffering or closing throughout the country. Radio is still viable as a communication vehicle but the 18-35 demographic are more into music than talk radio. All ages are turning to the Internet for their purchasing influencers and product or service information. People prefer to do their own research and control their decision making process.

Cyber Monday is the ultimate example of how online marketing will drive sales. Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday following Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). It is virtually the biggest online shopping day of the year, with online coupons and promotions rampant on online marketing sites.

3. "Social Media is too time consuming"

Actually, having sales people go out and call on customers, using telemarketing or cold calling is very time and resource intensive. There is a lot of lost productivity and potential customers are "too busy" to see you. The perception in the workplace is more inward as our viewing and interacting habits on the Internet have rapidly changed our work mindset. Social Media is about building relationships, answering queries and connecting with people. Once you create relationships online, prospects are more receptive to a phone dialogue, face-to-face meeting or video conferencing. Plus, you can reach more of your potential customers through Online Marketing than through traditional avenues.

4. "I don't have the resources to deal with Social Media"

There is an old saying, "You always have time to do it right a second time." SM is a business reality. Allocating resources and budgeting for an effective Social Media strategy is an important tool in your marketing efforts. Ignoring it will only help your competition. You can be certain that your competitors are using it to promote their business. A communicator or marketer's goal is to reach the right people with the right messages at the right frequency. Online Marketing can do this and much more.

5. "Social Media costs is not a good Return on Investment"

Let's do some simple math. How much does an ad in your local newspaper cost? Thousands of dollars for one day exposure? Cable TV ad (much less than network) but still expensive. How about a direct mail campaign. What's the cost of buying a list, creating, printing and mailing the piece? Now factor in your cost per lead or sale. The numbers are eye-popping.

Now let's do some fuzzy math. It is true that SM is often times hard to measure, but its intrinsic value is that you are reaching your target demographic with messages that you control. Whether it is a promotion on Facebook or a contest on Twitter, you are engaging your customers and creating a relationship with them. You are also driving traffic to your website and enticing visitors to browse your products and services. Not every marketing tactic is quantifiable. But if you want proven numbers for effort, Social Media marketers can build up your Facebook fan page or Twitter following in one to two months, adding thousands of qualified fans or followers. And remember, these new fans have networks and if done correctly, your Social Media presence can go viral and spider out to your fan networks as well.

"Do it right the first time!"

I always advise clients to get in the game the right way. Interns are good resources and can save money in the long run, but they are no substitute for the savvy Social Media marketer. Hiring a consultant or marketing team to develop a Social Media strategy and implement it for 3 months is an excellent way to add Social Media to your sales and marketing efforts. The trend toward Social Media is clear. Take Pepsi for example who took $24 million out of the Super Bowl and put it into Social Media to maximize impressions and save money.

So when your 2011 budget comes up for discussion, seriously consider adding a Social Media component. I predict you will be compelled do it eventually, why not make the case for it now!