Social media offers unprecedented capabilities to communicate and connect with prospects and customers. However, it will only benefit your company if you first decide where it is your current communications activities need assistance to meet your mar-com goals.
Clearly, this last statement is true for all communications tools: print advertising, direct mail, e-mail newsletters, TV and radio advertising, event sponsorships, trade show attendance, speaking engagements, etc. What makes answering this question for social media so acute today is the massive hard-sell going on among the ever growing list of social media vendors.
People buy using the same model they have always used. What was important to buyers 30 or 50 years ago is still important. What has changed is the variety of information and communication sources that exist and the ease with which they can be accessed.
For my money, social media can make major contributions to answering a number of buyer questions. Specifically, which vendors:
- Have the offerings and capabilities that meet my specific needs?
- Are credible?
- Have a track record?
- Have customers?
- Are experts about the industry issues and problems they purport to solve?
- Can be trusted to deliver on their promises and stand behind their products?
- Have a vision for and commitment to future product improvements?
- Have customers who are happy to be their customers?
Social media affords you the potential of getting your answers to these questions in front of your prospects. I say ‘potential’ because what has to be true is that your prospective buyers have to first be engaged in using social media for this to happen. If you’re talking in places where they’re not listening, you’re wasting your money.
So the first step in your social media activities is to first uncover if and how your customers are using social media to stay informed about the industry in which you operate and the solutions and capabilities you offer. How do you do that? Well, as simple as it sounds, you ask them. This will provide you with the information you need to direct your social media efforts and bear fruit from your investment of time and money. Once found, then you need to decide what combination of awareness, credibility, trust, etc. needs form the majority of your social media content.
If collecting information from your customers and prospects about their use of social media is not the first step proposed by a prospective social media supplier, be very suspicious. And if they don’t ask what communication goals YOU want to accomplish with social media, start looking for a new vendor.