How can small businesses get results from social media? What time investment is needed for those results to start flowing? Is it realistic for businesses to do this themselves? Are they missing a trick by focusing so heavily on LinkedIn? And what does success look like?
In preparing slides for a webinar I’m running to help small business owners, I’ve had cause to reflect on all of the above. I thought it'd be helpful to share some headlines with you in case you’re unable to make the webinar:
In my mind there are two really distinct ways of effectively selling your company through social media. The first involves using social sites to run highly targeted advertising campaigns, seen just by people who fit your ideal customer demographics. Then there's the second angle, which is attracting customers by having a compelling social media presence and tapping into the pool of people who may not have even considered or been exposed to your business. Depending on the type of results you’re primarily hoping to see, you'll need to have one or both of these angles covered.
Whichever route you go down, to be successful you'll need to turn your social media presence into a sales funnel for your business - the end outcome of which being whatever you want your social media strategy to deliver for the team (sales, website visits, demo requests, calls booked… or just creating a buzz about your business). There are 4 key steps to achieving this which you can learn about on the webinar.
In what timescales should you promise the business that the fruits of this social media presence will be felt? Clearly this is a function of how much resource you invest in building your social media presence. But you shouldn't be thinking about this as producing overnight results. Initial business results being seen within 3 months is achievable if you have an expert working on this. 6 months if not. Then you're looking at 12-24 months to really build an unassailable lead in your market and be a company that everyone knows and wants to interact with. Running some social media advertising can significantly accelerate results, but will of course require budget – the more you can afford, the greater the impact will be.
The answer here is yes and no. Success requires you to have a consistent presence on social media - and to be doing a multitude of things that are all needed to generate success. It also requires you to be expert at running social media advertising campaigns if you are going to invest in that side of things. Within a small business, it's inconceivable that team members could do this adequately; they’re unlikely to have the necessary expertise and are likely to struggle to devote the the time needed to be successful.
To this day I've never seen this type of social selling strategy be successfully undertaken in-house, unless the business has gone all out and hired a social media marketing manager with explicit responsibility for making this happen. More common is for companies to try and have an admin person or intern take this on – and then the results simply don’t flow owing to a lack of skills and experience on social media.
Without question! Consider for a moment that a significant portion of all LinkedIn users only return to the site once a month. Now consider that many of those same users are logging into Facebook multiple times per week, or are active on Twitter several times a day. If you are entirely focused on researching potential hires or potential customers, then LinkedIn has a lot to offer. But if you're also wanting to build your brand and attract people to your business then it's the other social sites that will give you the frequent touch points and immediacy of interaction necessary to generate results. The under-utilisation of the more personal social media platforms is undoubtedly cutting you off from a huge section of your target audience, meaning you’re not generating the number of new customers you’d be looking for.
Just as with the question of the timescales necessary for results to be achieved, clearly the results you will see in your business are going to be a function of the time and resource you invest into your social media presence. But to help you quantify what could be achieved in your business, I do share in these webinars insights into the types of results you can expect to achieve - be that visits to your website, purchases of your products or services, or active online conversation about your company.... What's key, though, is that by turning your social media presence into a sales funnel, you get to the point where there's a clear end result being achieved for any given level of investment in social media advertising. And that everything has been turned into a lead generation or sales process that is scalable and repeatable without being reliant on the Founder or key sales people in the business.