Social Media as a Part of Market Engagement

Social Media as a Part of Market Engagement

Social media tends to provoke one of two widely different reactions from business people – they either embrace it wholeheartedly and devote enormous amounts of time to it at the expense of other activities or they avoid it either out of fear or out of belief that it is just a fad which is a waste of time for them. This is particularly true of small businesses who do not have the luxury of appointing a person, still less a whole department, to manage their interactions with social media.

The reality is that social media can be valuable for all businesses but it is not a panacea to be pursued to the detriment of other tasks, and even other marketing. I have mentioned this before in a previous blog –
Social media has tremendous potential as part, but not all, of your marketing engagement. To understand this, we must first understand what marketing engagement is.
For much of my marketing career, one major element of marketing was called marketing communication (marcom) but this was in the days when companies told customers and prospects what was on offer and the only communication back from most of them might be a negotiation on price, possibly a purchase and after that maybe one or two requests for service. Feedback on new ideas, new offers or even new marketing campaigns was done at best with a focus group or small survey.
But now customers and prospects not only expect more involvement and dialogue with companies but also are willing to be your advocates if they like your product or service and the way you treat them. So now one-way marketing communication has evolved to two-way communication with the aim of going beyond simple expressions of “Here’s what we have to offer” and “Yes I’ll take it / No, I do not want that” to engaging the attention of the market. Now it is about discussing how the offer and its message can be adapted to the needs of the prospects and how they can be enthused to tell others about their experience.
Social media is a great tool for this because
  • you can find and address communities with particular interests, and build your own communities
  • conversations can be rich in structure and include short messages, links to detailed material, photos, videos, podcasts, slideshows and webinars
  • feedback is quick and direct
  • the means for passing on the message about your product is built into social media software
But social media is not the only way to engage with the market. Customers still appreciate face to face meetings, go to conferences and events, read newspapers, listen to the radio and watch TV. So your market engagement mix should include all types of communication that are relevant and affordable.

In thinking about the effort you should spend on social media, you should first decide on the amount of time. effort and money (and the number of people) to devote to market engagement as a whole. Then you must decide how to divide this up into five different activities that make up market engagement:
  1. Building and maintaining a shopfront: for most people this is not physical but a website or set of Facebook pages where the market can see who you are and what you have to offer.
  2. Meetings and events: face to face time where you have direct contact with prospects, customers, suppliers and partners. You might also include video conferences or even phone calls in this activity as long as you obtaining a rich feedback from people’s expressions, manners and voices to help build personal relationships.
  3. Listening and joining in relevant conversations: this is done on sites such LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+,Twitter, popular blogs, and discussion forums. To succeed you need to be interested in your customers, so it is vital to listen to them and comment on what they say rather than hogging the conversation with your own opinions. People are going to engage with you and Like/Follow/Link with you if you are interested in them as well as if you have something interesting of your own to say.
  4. Starting conversations yourself: when you have something to say, or even better when you want market opinion on a particular subject, then you can start a conversation, be it a Tweet, a post on Facebook or a topic on a LinkedIn group.
  5. Publishing detailed information that shows your expertise in a particular area (whitepaper, blog posts, slideshow, how-to video, etc) or that explains your product and service in detail.

Decide how much time you have to do all these tasks and then set realistic goals for how often you can do each of them and stick to it. Better to follow one or two of the most relevant groups and comment every few days than follow dozens but comment so infrequently that you do not leave a lasting impression.

Marketing engagement is a vital part of your business. Nowadays it can often perform the bulk, if not all, of the task of selling. Social media is a necessary and fantastically useful element of this engagement, but it is not the only element so you have to balance the time you spend on it.