Social media for small businesses
May 04 2012, 10:39 | By SME Mentor
Mithun Kidambi is a social media strategy consultant.
Image: SME Mentor
The terms 'social media' and its affiliates 'social network', 'social graph', etc have gone through a transition; from being jargon to cliches. Also, social media marketing has shed its tag of being 'snake oil sales' to becoming an integral part of any organisation's marketing and customer reach strategy.
Considering any small- or medium-sized enterprise would have limited marketing and PR spends, it becomes imperative to define a strategy that allows you to leverage all of social media at a minimal cost. To arrive at your social media campaign or activation you need to understand what social media is and what each platform on this media can deliver. You also need to set your goals with respect to each of these platforms, all of them aligning with your over-arching marketing, PR and/or CRM strategy, of course.
While Facebook and Twitter are the more famous social networks around, you have to be sure where and how and (and to shake things up here a bit) if at all, they fit into your activations. More often than not you will find a fit for at least one of these networks.
Twitter makes for a great customer response platform and can also act as the main network where you would build your community. Take the example of Gostana, a burger and salad cafe located in Mumbai. They use Twitter as their primary network as well as branding platform. Their Twitter handle, @Gostana, regularly tweets what is new on their menu, interesting food and recipes and of any events happening at the cafe. They also accept orders via Twitter (which of course have to be confirmed by phone). This high level of engagement has helped them build a community that patronizes their cafe and has also helped create a brand exclusively through what we will call Free and Earned Media.
Now, media per se can be broadly classified as Free media, Bought or Paid media and Earned media aka 'word-of-mouth'. Free Media would mean PR releases, your Facebook page and Twitter handle, presence on any other social network in any form, your website, blogs that your organisation owns. However, we need to add a rider here. The term 'Free Media' may give an impression that it is at no cost, which is a tad misleading. There is a content creation and management cost involved.
Paid media is made up of advertisements, advertorials and so on, while Earned media is the community's chatter about your brand. This would include mentions on social platforms about your business or brand, articles in the press, traditional and otherwise, and any other content created independently by your consumers with your brand as a peg, for example, a photo gallery or video centered around your brand. Conventional wisdom suggests that Earned media would be the most difficult to obtain and only large, iconic brands would have independent communities formed around them. While the former is true the latter is not. Any brand/business can have media created by their consumers. For example, if your company manufactures electronic components, your community would be your buyers and suppliers. Now, the media they create would be in the form of forum threads, independent product validation, reviews on B2B product marketplace such as Alibaba.com and so on. At this point, you are thinking: Is that even social media?
The answer is yes. Any medium that allows for content to be propagated through a built-in network is classified as being social in nature. Suddenly you see your landscape of social media opening up. Your social media strategy must thus be comprehensive and it should define how you leverage user reviews, threads from forums, comments and responses on your social network, and posts and content by users in addition to the content you put out through official channels like your Facebook page, company blog, Twitter handle etc.
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