Is Social Media Marketing Right for You?

Social media can no longer be ignored, even by traditional marketing agencies and old-school businesses. But before you make the plunge into this powerful but often misunderstood marketing tactic, ask yourself these 7 important questions.

Can you have a conversation? I recently saw a wall comment posted to a major clothing retail chain’s Facebook page, questioning whether the company was going out of business. As of today, the comment still has not been responded to. Obviously, they are not interested in having a conversation or managing their brand reputation for that matter. If you want to do social media, make sure you have the time to listen and respond, not just push out content.

Do you have the time? Managing a Twitter or Facebook account can easily suck hours of productivity from an aimless employee charged with the task of managing it. Are you willing to invest the necessary time but able to limit fruitless, unproductive chatter? Are you able to commit to the long haul? Social media is more of a commitment than a campaign. If you start, expect to finish and stick with it for the long run.

Are you saying anything worth listening to? If you’re thinking of using Facebook updates as another channel for press releases or pure advertising, think again. Your friends and followers will quickly see through this sham. The key is to strive for interactions. If your updates contain only push content (e.g. “Come buy our new widgets!”), your followers will quickly tire. Much can be accomplished by transforming push into pull content (e.g. “Please comment with your opinion on our new widget!”)

Can you stomach the negative? A certain openness is required for social media marketing to work. If the thought of an irate customer posting a negative comment on your Facebook wall scares you to tears, SMM might not be for you. In my experience, though, nearly every time I’ve witnessed negative comments on a company profile page, the true fans jump in and defend the organization, sometimes before even the company does.

What role will customer service play? Once customers know they can reach you through social media, you will undoubtedly need to get customer service involved. How will you handle the inevitable customer service issues that surface? In my experience, giving at least a few senior customer service representatives the ability to interact instils a sense of ownership, ensuring that customer service will view social media with the same importance as they view a phone call or email.

Are you joining the right conversations? You don’t have to be everywhere. Consider first polling your customers and finding out what social media sites they use. Only join those that have a critical mass, there’s no point in talking to no one.

Can you accept a fuzzy ROI? Social media ROI can’t and shouldn’t be tracked in the same way as other online marketing venues. Say goodbye to the CPMs and CPCs from typical online marketing channels. Tangible revenue can be tracked in some ways, but much like traditional offline advertising, you’ll never really see the full picture of brand awareness benefits. Make sure your company management sees some of the more subjective ROI indicators, such as positive comments and the extent of conversations.

Social media is surely worth the time and effort, as long as you understand the cost. SMM isn’t free, it takes a serious investment. Before you get into social media, make sure you truly get it.