|I have something to say.|
There is something that bugs me to no end when a client requests me to run a social media campaign.
“What’s your existing target audience, both online and off?” I first ask. This is the foundation.
Sheepish glances around.
“We don’t know / we’re not sure / we never thought of it / can you do that for us.”
“How can you not know the people you say you want to reach?”
“We just want to do something online and get people to like our business. We haven't really thought of marketing so much, we're letting it work itself out.”
Oh, heck no! They lost me at that last sentence.
Unless I'm doing pro-bono work, in this situation I usually try to provide some help for the duration of the meeting and eventually bow out. Let me explain.
A business without an understanding of its own broader marketing situation and goals is usually a headache and half to deal with. If it is difficult to convince a confused business what its current audience is, convincing it of who the projected audience should be can be is excruciating. I find that being asked for help that a client should know is generally a waste of time.
It’s one thing to not have a strategy or know how to execute. It’s a completely different thing when clients are either paralyzed or don't have an eager desire to narrow their sights on a viable target market.
That’s not even something as focused as “social media marketing”. That is just plain old marketing. If a person cannot answer either what is the target audience, online and off, they have bigger problems. Social media marketing just happens to be a part of marketing, if even marketing is not given importance than social media teams are going to be limited.
|Finding gaps in social is our job, but we do it far better with support.|
Marketing is a very simple concept. Let me boil down my studying at Northwestern to explain it for a second: Where is there a gap in the consumer market that others have not found? Ok, now that we found the gap, what are we going to it with to get customers.
This is what marketing is all about. And it is so very important. You don't need to go to Northwestern to learn and dominate with this concept, just discipline and constant learning.
Social media just does marketing in a way that touches people and launches a two-way stream of communication, hopefully steering it to stay under the banner of the business’ marketing goals.
Marketing goes hand in hand with social media. Social media marketing and broader marketing augment each other, they do not fully replace one another.
The importance of marketing applies to social media in general as well, whether targeting consumers or people in the press (this is social media PR).
I’ve heard business people claim that social media marketing isn’t important, yet they’re some of the first people who want to show that they’re doing it. When they show up at first meetings you might be surprised by how little they they know about social media, and they act surprised that the social team would want information about marketing.
I might be wrong here, but I cannot understand why clients who don't know enough about their business, or at least remember at meetings, care about social. Perhaps they're doing it out of a vague sense that social media is the cool thing to do and will make them money. Unfortunately it does not work that way. Social media marketers themselves do not make such claims.
Because social media marketing is a form of communications, that means it’s less about revenue than it is about brand building and raising consumer sentiment, even though it falls under communications. The goal is to encourage users to go out and convince others that the product is good. That’s where the company makes its money.
|Social media: improving consumer sentiment with happy dogs.|
Social media marketers still need to know who who they’re talking to before they can convince consumers that the business is worth talking about to their friends. Of course there is listening software and analytics, which social media marketers can use to derive valuable insights, but the business needs to do its own homework and take an active stance in its social media progress first and foremost.
Which brings us back to the original point: how can a business use social media marketing without knowing who wants your products/services or having a flexible, realistic and, paradoxically, committed idea about what it wants?
Answer: it can’t.
Social media marketers can look for trends and present them back to the business, but they cannot decide for the business what it should stand for. That is at best a mutual decision, not one that can be foisted upon social media marketers.
Mutual, as in, business clients should not cling to enforcing offline business ideas if the data that the social team brings back shows gaps in their online market analysis that could be filled. For example, if you’re targeting suburban audiences and the social team thinks that targeting urban audiences is possible, then business owners should consider doing so, not just shoot it down because "that's not us". The social team is part of the broader marketing effort, not either extreme of having all marketing pressure on its shoulders or not having any marketing role whatsoever.
Relationships work best when there are degrees of collaboration, and areas where there is a clear delineation of power, not one or the other. Collaboration is in the business' favor, so long as social team also understand that they are being trusted and clients ultimately have the final say. Everyone, including clients, needs to be ready at meetings, not just the social team.
When the social media team find market gaps that are potentially lucrative, what should business owners do? They have a choice. They can stick with an old business plan or jump into something new. All I'm saying is that they should make that choice based upon an understanding of who their business naturally reaches, both online and off, and dumping all responsibility on social professionals is not only an unwise decision, but a bad one.
If you’re not used to giving your social media teams clear information about your business and who you want targeted, you might want to think over whether you’re sending your social media team into a gun fight to represent you with just a switchblade.