Is Social Media Relevant to Your Business?

social media

To hammer home the point that content is king, Kelly cited the following statistics:

  • 23% of all social media communications include links to content.
  • 72 hours of video is uploaded YouTube every minute.
  • 250 million photos are posted to Facebook daily.
  • 42% of all tweets link to content, which is logical in that you can’t say much in 140 characters alone so linking to relevant content is essential.

Don’t Be a Robot

Long-time journalist Halah Touryalai said that social media has changed the way journalists relate to their readers.

“It’s no longer just a reporter feeding information to the readers, Touryalai said. “Now, journalists can now hear immediately from readers—it’s so much more public and immediate,” she said.

Touryalai reminds advisors to “engage—you are not a robot. Be human; use your voice. Don’t be so static online,” she encouraged.

I agree with Touryalai. People like an authentic voice. Being a three-dimensional professional can pay huge dividends. Leave the sterile content to others. You want people to come back and hear what you are saying. Don’t just share a link share some sort of comment or analysis—people want to know what you think.

Like Touryalai, I always suggest that firm-based communications on social media adopt a business casual tone. Mix it up. Show your human interests, passions and motivations—especially on Facebook. Another good idea from Touryalai, when there are a number of people posting on a social site that is representing the company’s brand versus an individual professional: have each person sign off on each post with their initials.

Don’t Just Create More Noise

Kelly reminded the audience to think about what is creating noise, and to strive to ensure that their content was relevant and meaningful to the circles of people following them on any specific social media platform. Kelly emphasized that each of the social sites has a slightly different focus, tone and use. For instance, LinkedIn is a business professional networking site, Facebook tends to be more visual and more personal, Twitter is a great way to consume a lot of content in a short amount of time (especially if you are following thoughtful people who are interested in the same type of information or industry trend).

Social Media on the Rise

Social media is all about building trust and reputation. According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, Trust in social media is on the rise—from 8% in 2011 to 14% in 2012. Compare those trust-numbers to traditional news, which shows a smaller increase—29% in 2011 to 32% in 2012.

“We are seeing a diversification of media and trust in information sources,” Kelly said as he reminded us that reputation is based on past behavior. “63% need to see something 3-5 times before they begin to believe something; overcoming skepticism requires repetition. Social media is great way to build trust.”

More and more, social media is also driving search engine results. When you look at a keyword search for financial planners in any given location, the paid items will come up at the tops and sides of the page. Next on the page will be the items that are “owned” by relevant firms (such as websites and blogs). We are also now seeing social (e.g., LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook) and location-based listings (e.g., Google Profiles, Google ) come up on the first search page, along with articles published on traditional news sites and search-engine-optimized news releases.

I’ve written a lot about these strategies right here on Financial-Planning.com and I invite you to visit the Marketing Maven article archive to learn more there.

“What people see when they search can impact trust,” Kelly said. “So make sure to register your locations, set up a Google Profile, leverage Google and use relevant keywords on all of your online profiles, articles, blog posts, and so forth.”

Sixty percent of search results contain video, according to Kelly, and video can play a big part not just in search but also in how we influence perception. YouTube is still the second most popular search tool (next to Google), so producing and posting short videos to YouTube—along with the transcript of the video—is important.

Have a theme and stick to it, Kelly urged.

Beware the Sloppy Post

Touryalai shared a couple social media horror stories and reminded the audience that posts are not only public but can also be permanent.

“If you pitch me or I’m interested in learning more about you after a meeting at, say, a conference, the first thing I do is do a search online for you,” Touryalai said. “Be smart about what you post; your reputation depends on it. Think twice before posting—especially when posting from your mobile devices and when you are away from your normal office. Have fun but remember that there is still a line,” she cautioned. “Would you want everyone you work with to see this?”

Getting an Edge on Facebook

Facebook is all about the news feed. The algorithm determines what you see on your news feed. While the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm changes over time, the trick to being more visible is to get people interacting with your content.

“Engagement changes with who you interact with,” Kelly said. “15-20% of your content is seen based on the engagement—if they engage with your content, share it, like it, comment on it, then that improves the likelihood that your content will be seen in future news feeds. When you are putting content out there and it is not engaged with, but simply posted, the ranking goes down.”

Social Media Strategy

It’s important to think about your social media strategy, Kelly said. One sample approach:

  • Use Twitter to engage with influencers and thought leaders in your space.
  • Use LinkedIn to build relationships and offer or ask for introductions.
  • Use Facebook to build your brand by leveraging your existing clients on Facebook—get people to share your content with their friends.
  • Use YouTube to tell a visual story. Record webinars and videos for the story and the value of the content—but optimize the posts for search. Remember that YouTube is the second most popular search tool next to Google. It’s easy to use Flip cams, iPhones and webcams to record events—not everything has to have high production value. It’s easy to use the video editing tools.
  • Don’t forget about Google as it is important as a search strategy.

Creating/Curating Good Content

Few create content. Most curate and share someone else’s content with others. So you can set yourself apart by actually creating and sharing original content.

But serving as a content curator is also a good strategy to embrace. Be a resource; curate content worth sharing. Only 9% curate, leverage and share information; 90% simply consume it.

“If you have the content, you can drive the engagement,” Kelly said. “Content is the fuel that powers our stories and creates the most impact.”

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5 Benefits of Social Media Business Owners Need to Understand

Pretty Businesses

() While the importance of social media marketing is generally accepted, the fact that people don’t question its value is all the more reason to think about exactly what its value is. The goals of social media marketing can’t be just to gain likes, fans, and retweets. These things are not ends, but means to an end. Social media marketing is far more than an online popularity contest, and the better business owners understand that, the better they can use it for their companies. Here are five benefits to social media that business owners need to understand.

1. Increase brand awareness
One of the main benefits of social media marketing is the easiest to recognize: Social media is an excellent way to introduce people to a brand. Despite the Field of Dreams notion some business owners have that “if you build it, they will come,” if people are unaware of a business or a website’s existence, they can’t shop there (Kevin Costner was dealing with ghosts, who have a lot of free time to meander around cornfields). Because social networks are used by more than two-thirds of the country, and given the way content spreads virally to others, social media is the perfect channel to promote a brand to potential customers. Relevanza reported that 78 percent of small businesses attract new customers through social media.

Research shows just how valuable this brand awareness can be. According to Adroit Digital, 75 percent of online Americans said product information found on social media influences their shopping behavior and enhances brand loyalty. They also report that social media is the second most likely way U.S. Millennials will learn about a new product (26 percent of respondents), just 3 percentage points behind TV advertising (29 percent). In the future, social media may be even more important than TV ads for introducing new products to consumers. Similarly, research from eMarketer has shown that 33 percent of consumers cite social networks as the way they discover new brands, products, and services.

2. Legitimize a brand
Another way social media marketing helps with customer acquisition is by establishing a brand as legitimate. When Internet consumers discover a business or retailer they want to use but know little about, they often check their social media page to learn more about it. Many small businesses have static websites that change little, if at all, after being initially set up by the designer. Social media pages, on the other hand, should be constantly updated with new posts, comments, etc. A website establishes that a brand exists, but a social media page establishes that the brand is active. Similarly, the number of fans shows how popular a brand is and Facebook reviews can reassure buyers by showing them that other consumers like a business. Research from Ballihoo found that 63 percent of consumers who search for local businesses online are more likely to use businesses with information on social media sites.

It’s worth noting that poor social media marketing can also delegitimize a brand. If a new customer goes to a business’s social media page and finds that a post hasn’t been made in a few months, that customer may assume the business is defunct. If customers are asking for help in the comments and they’re being ignored, they may assume the company has poor customer service.

3. Increase sales
In the end, social media marketing needs to help increase sales and revenue. That’s why it’s called social media marketing and not simply social media public relations. To be fair, improving brand awareness and legitimizing a brand should, by themselves, help increase sales. But there are ways to use social media to directly steer consumers toward the sales funnel. For fans of the business, business owners can write posts that link to products, sales, etc. Marketers can also use promoted content and advertisements to sell products to target audiences who haven’t become fans of a brand yet. The ability to target particular audiences is one of the greatest benefits of social media marketing. Social networks know a lot about consumer interests and demographics, so even though there are hundreds of millions of fans, marketers can accurately target the right people with the right message.

There are also a lot of ways that retailers can sell products directly from social networks. On Facebook, business owners can set up a Facebook store with apps like Ecwid or Beetailer. On Twitter, retailers with Amazon.com pages can allow Twitter users to add products to their Amazon checkout straight from their Twitter feed. There are also ways to sell products on Pinterest, YouTube, and other social networks.

4. Improve customer service
Another benefit of social media that’s easy to overlook is customer service. Even if a business has a dedicated customer service department, telephone number, or email, it’s important to handle issues via the method of communication the consumer prefers. The fact that people use social media to ask customer service questions is reason enough for businesses to ensure their ability to help customers through social media. This also goes back to establishing a brand. One of the key concerns of consumers when they shop online is the responsiveness of customer service. People want to be assured that if they have a problem, they can easily find help. By being receptive to customer needs, business owners can increase customer loyalty to a brand.

5. Distribute content
Social media should be a part of any content marketing distribution system. Social media accounts for a huge portion of referral traffic on the web. People are looking for content that interests them and they want to share it online. A joint study by AOL and Nielsen found that people spend more than 50 percent of their time online with content and an additional 30 percent of their time on social channels where content can be shared. Business owners who want to gain customers through content marketing need to use social media and promoted content to make that happen.

All of these points and data show that social media marketing is a huge benefit for business owners, and exactly what the benefits are. Besides increasing brand awareness and establishing the legitimacy of the brand, social media marketing can affect the bottom line of a business by increasing sales. Learning about the importance of social media for marketing should also underscore why these efforts need to be continuous and the harm it does when social media marketing isn’t up to consumer expectations. Long story short, social media marketing is something that every business needs to do and needs to do well.