Social media is essential for every business. And not because it's trendy or popular. But because it has introduced new ways to either help, or hurt your bottom line in the long run. In fact, you don't even need to see a direct ROI right now to know that every professional needs to use it. Here are 3 reasons why avoiding social media will hurt your business.
You don't like people talking about you behind your back? You don't like being open and transparent? You just want to go back to "business as usual"? Like overly-aggressive policies and yellow page ads? Sorry... it's too late.
Social media hasn't changed the principles of marketing, but it's connected the world in a profound way that sheds light on every business practice imaginable.
For example, marketing for doctors is now a necessary evil. Because you can now see individual ratings of doctors online -- on Yelp, Zagat, and more -- in each hospital or office. And it doesn't stop at their professional record. Under Zagat's rating system, you can also see reviews of their bedside manner and how beautiful their waiting room is (or isn't).
Look up any business, in any industry, in any location, and you'll see the same thing happening. If you can't run from it, then you might as well embrace it.
Doing business online is a little different than offline. You can't see who you're dealing with, or potentially buying from. (And you may have never heard of them before.)
So it creates a huge gap -- trust -- that you need to get over in order to increase conversions (and sell more services and products). The only way to build trust and overcome that gap is through engagement.
But you can't wait around, hoping and wishing for engagement. You need to go out there and create it -- proactively. And this is where social media shines. Every status update you send should be carefully crafted to elicit a response. So don't stop at "telling people what you're doing". But use a specific call-to-action every single time. Maybe you want someone to "Like" or "Retweet." Or maybe it's open-ended and you're looking for a simple response or story.
You should also mix it up, and take it to the next level of engagement by using promotions. These can break the everyday monotony, act as an incentive to lure people's interest, and then include viral hooks to draw more people in.
So use interactive contests (instead of basic sweepstakes) that require people to share a story, picture or video. This community interaction and social proof is one of the easiest ways to quickly build trust increase engagement with new prospects. And it sets the stage for your other campaigns.
The best promotional strategies and campaigns COMBINE earned, owned and paid media. This is has been true in advertising for years.
And online, you're seeing these three components blend together. Which is a great news, because it means you'll get better results (for less cost overall). But it also means that your individual tactics can't exist on their own.
For example, today you can't use the same bad tactics or make the same SEO mistakes and expect good results. The best SEO strategies today need interesting, engaging content that people will naturally link to. And it needs social media to make connections, and help spread or distribute your content (that's the "Earned" part we discussed a second ago).
You also need to create a brand, so people search for you by name. And you need to align your SEO tactics (like the keyphrases you pick) to real business objectives (like increasing leads or sales).
This is true no matter which tactic you rely on. You'll always see the best business results if you combine content creation, SEO, social media, advertising, conversion optimization and email marketing. Because you don't just want "traffic", "rankings", or "followers". But you need to move people through your marketing funnel that takes strangers and transforms them into loyal customers. And social media has a significant impact on every step of that process.