I was recently asked by a friend to do an interview on social media marketing as a career and for personal use, as required for a project. I ended up putting a lot of time into it and I wrote a lot, so I thought I’d share with you all! Enjoy!
How beneficial is social media to businesses and why?
There are countless reasons to why social media is beneficial to businesses, but I’ll focus on the two primary reasons. By now, nearly everyone on earth has at least heard of a social network, and the majority understand what it is, have seen one, and/or belongs to at least one. Social Media has created enormous online communities, billions deep across the net. When a business decides to market themselves via social media, they are accessing the world’s largest group of users, that can be targeted via demo/geo/psychographics… for FREE! Free usually has an associated caveat, but not when it comes to social media. Twitter and Facebook are completely free services, and as a part of their culture, they will remain that way.
The next, and arguably most important reason as to why social media has (so rapidly) become the leading force in marketing goods and services in this day and age is the ability to LISTEN! We live in an age where social networks have bred total transparency. People want to share everything about themselves with their social graph, and in turn, they expect the same level of openness and honesty. This was, up until four or five years ago, an unprecedented level of honesty between brands and their consumers. Nowadays, people will consciously decide to purchase from your competitor if they find that you are not maintaining an open line of communication via a variety of social networks; or worse even, not participating in social media discussion at all. You used to be able to purchase ad-space on TV and Radio Stations, basically announcing from your “soap box” that your product trumps the others and we should all consume it. Nowadays, that is considered support media. If you are not communicating directly with your current/potential customers, you’re in trouble. It’s not just beneficial anymore; if you want your business to be around five years from now, social media engagement is a must.
Can you use Social Media as a tool for selling your brand/company? Why?
Social Media is a tool that I believe you can do almost anything with. Including selling products and services, also including selling your actual brand or company. I have never sold a business using social media, so I have no personal experience on the subject. Having said that, I will break it down in the simplest way I can think of. Imagine selling a business through person to person communication. You want to draw the consumer to your product, keep in touch with them afterwards for follow-up, convert them from inquiry to purchase and then measure how well it’s all working. Well, social media gives you the creative ability to do this outside of the confines of an office. If I had to use social media to sell a business, I would use Twitter to draw attention to the business up for sale (Attraction); I would then keep relevant and non-relevant conversation lines open with that user on twitter to maintain their interest and attention (Retention); I would then try to arrange a Google Places hangout, so that a handful of potential buyers could show up for a live video presentation by you, ideally earning a buyer (Conversion); and then pour myself a drink and go “Well that worked well” (Measurement)! That’s just an idea off the top of my head… imagine you had a team of four and two months to plan a campaign. Social Media is fuelled by the people, and it can move mountains!
What are the top 3 best Social media sites for businesses to use? Why?
Generally speaking, you want a mix of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Facebook, well, because its Facebook. With twitter, you have the ability to form asymmetrical relationships with your followers (no friendship; following is one sided), which seems like far less of a commitment and will allow for your following to grow, organically faster than on some other social networks. Also, twitter gives you the ability to access your individual followers to ask questions, follow up, receive feedback etc. With other networks such as Facebook Pages, when you make an update, you’re speaking to the entire group, whereas on twitter you can segment groups into lists or contact individuals directly, and vice versa. YouTube Channels are a brilliant marketing tool for a variety of reasons. Primary because of the sheer volume of content that is watched on a regular basis (over 2 billion video views per DAY), but also because since YouTube was purchased by Google, they have implemented their SEO algorithms and as a result, your YouTube channel will drive serious traffic to your website. Most of all, engaging with your customers via video media is documented to be the most effective way to engage your audience.
Having said all of that, I strongly believe that every business needs to do a needs analysis before choosing which social networks will most effectively allow them to engage their customers. Some businesses may strongly benefit from a Foursquare account so that friends can check-in to their physical location. Others may prefer Pinterest to create a culture around their brand. Social media is not Childs-play, it is a marketing force in the world, and adequate planning and research must go into its implementation, just the same as any other form of marketing/advertising.
What are a few negative aspects of social media for businesses?
I don’t know about a few things, as I’m a strong advocate for social media. One major issue comes to mind immediately that can be viewed as a negative, or as an opportunity. A lot of businesses has experienced some real struggles as a result of opening themselves up to scrutiny on social networks. Big brands like Blackberry, Dominoes, Air Canada and many more have been torn to shreds by the public (customers, and non-customers) because of the ability for opinions to flare up and spread like wildfire. Some companies are perhaps not ready to manage negative situations, as they are used to hiding from them in the past. Big businesses used to have ways of brushing important information under the rug, in the name of sparing themselves the questioning. Now, they don’t have such luxuries. When notable news occurs, the word will spread whether you want it or not. And whether its negative or positive, whether you are aware of it or not, people are talking about your business online in various capacities, with many different sentiments. The reason why this can be viewed also as an opportunity is simple. People just want to be heard! Social media is still new and exciting to people; we have yet to take it for advantage. When you tweet a business, and they respond to you, you feel special! It’s nice knowing that this big, ‘scary’ brand actually cares enough to listen to little old me, and respond accordingly. 99% of the time, people will be happy to know that you have heard them out. Whether or not you give them a gift card or some other compensation is up to you, but you have a golden opportunity to hear your customers’ cries, and make things better with a response.
How do you effectively use Social media for Earls?
At Earls we use a variety of social media channels to achieve our goals. We engage with fans via our Blog, Corporate and Individual Earls Location Facebook Pages, Corporate and Individual Earls Location Twitters, Corporate YouTube Channel, Corporate and Individual Foursquare Pages, Facebook application, mobile website, and very soon, on Pinterest. We use social media as a way to open up lines of communication with those who dine with us, and those who aspire to try us out. The end goal is to create a strong affinity for the brand, ideally breeding a set of brand evangelists who will protect the Earls name like it’s their own. We have seen great successes in handling customer feedback on twitter, which is probably the number 1 use of social media marketing for the restaurant industry. Positive or negative, people are speaking about us, we need to respond! The role of a social media marketer within an organization the size of Earls is a lot more serious and detailed than many think. I don’t just “Facebook and Tweet” all day long… contrary to popular belief! At Earls, when our in-store collateral changes from month to month or seasonally (i.e. bathroom posters, billfold inserts, table talkers, menu pages, etc.) we send a Marketing Rollout to the locations to ensure they know when and where to insert their new collateral. We have taken the same approach on social media; I create a Social Media Marketing Rollout, which includes all of the necessary graphics for our locations to update their individual Facebook Pages and Twitters. The rollout also outlines a variety of topics to cover over the month/period, holidays, goals, new menu items, photos, videos, tips and lots more. After sending out the rollout, I also post it to our MyEarls.ca Internal Social Community, where our locations can access. This is just one example of how we have systemized social media into our day to day marketing calendar. The best piece of advice I can give companies is to hire the right person for the job, and to take social media seriously and incorporate it into existing systems. No social media buy-in means no social media success.
Do you find that it is beneficial and how is it beneficial to those two companies?
Social media is a tough thing to measure, but more and more tools for measurement are becoming available to us every day. Put it this way, I wouldn’t have a full time job managing social media marketing initiatives for a reputable company if it wasn’t beneficial! The amount of engagement and growth we’ve seen through our various social networks has been absolutely amazing, and in only three years. To give you an idea of the traction we’ve received in social media in the past year: over 60,000 foursquare check-ins, over 20,000 facebook fans, over 10,000 twitter followers, 44,400 YouTube Video Views and 53,723 blog visits. If you consider the amount of man-hours spent watching earls videos, photos, reading updates, checking into locations, reading blog posts, leaving comments, and liking things that has occurred over the past three years, it equated to a lot of time spent reinforcing the Earls brand in our customers’. Particularly when they aren’t actually AT the restaurant! Imagine if you could be on your customer’s mind while they’re at home watching TV and browsing the web… the benefits of exposing your brand to a community as engaged as on social media networks are infinite. It’s a matter of how you harvest the community; the possibilities for creative growth within your industry have reached new levels.
Social media is used as a self-branding tool, how do you use it and what are some things to stay away from using?
I have created a rather strong personal brand for myself online. I’m considered an influencer and a pundit, according to various social presence trackers, such as Klout.com. I think it’s important to have direction and purpose to your online engagement. Perhaps not as much as a brand might have, but at least a bit. Why? A few reasons… primarily because social engagement is becoming as important as face to face communication these days. But also because your social media channels are an extension of yourself. If you wouldn’t run around town preaching your religion to others on the street, why would you do it on twitter? The best advice I can give is to just be yourself. If people don’t like it, too bad. I totally disagree with companies digging up information about potential employees on their social networks, but the fact remains that it’s going to happen. I wouldn’t change who I am for a job, and similarly I don’t intend on changing my social networks for a job. Having said that, proceed with caution. I would generally stay away from getting too heated and argumentative online, refrain from mocking police and other public figures, have an opinion but don’t be rude or condescending, don’t talk negatively about your workplace or school, try to un-tag yourself from a few keg-stand photos, and maybe don’t swear every third word. Also, if you’re trying to get your personal social networks ready in case a particular employer looks you up, try to spend some time sharing relevant media, discussing topics that surround that industry, share some excitement about your interview with them and expand on other subjects that tie in. This will help your odds greatly!
Have you personally dealt with a negative situation through using a Social networking site?
I have dealt with a couple of situations that have sort of ticked me off… but I’ll focus on one incident, as I believe there is a lesson to be learned within it. I had left a question on the Facebook Page for a local bar in North Van, inquiring about their Halloween party, which was coming up within three or four days. I heard no response for two days, leaving only one or two days left until the event… then, I noticed a status update from the page, and they had yet to respond to me. Well… needless to say, I was frustrated. My friends were going to this event, and I wanted to get my hands on a ticket. Now I’m being ignored by a brand that I frequent, and generally have nothing but good things to say about. I commented again, expressing my frustration. Moments later, my entire post was deleted from the wall. Not only had I been ignored, I had been kicked out essentially! This didn’t bode well with me. Generally, I’m the guy who writes in positive comments to businesses after receiving great service. Having worked in the service industry for a decade, I know how frustrating complaints are. Having said that, I couldn’t hold back. I wrote to the restaurant’s customer service site, and escalated the matter to the powers that be. This led to me being offered comp tickets, receiving a few apologies from a few different people, including the actual community manager, and at the end of it all, a rectification. I was very happy with the way it turned out, but in all honesty, it should not have gone to that point. They should have just replied my message! Lesson learned, never ignore your fans!
Do you think everyone should effectively and properly use the numerous sites out there for social networking?
We live in an exciting time. I call it the social media revolution, and it applies to more than just businesses and marketing. It applies to life. Everything is in iCloud, everybody is purchasing online, everyone leaves peer reviews about products that they own/use… the planet is coming together online, to share ideas, concepts, stories, news, inspiration, products, classifieds, media and so, so, so much more. I think that there are some best practices for social media use… ways to use it better… but I think it’s still so fresh and young, that nobody can really say that you’re ‘doing it wrong’. I think everybody is individual, and so is their social media use. Everyone’s frequency of updates is different, their shared content is different, their music taste is different, the amount of comments/likes they give out varies… everyone is different. Use it how you get the most enjoyment out of it. After all, this is a tool to connect. As long as you’re connecting, you’re ‘doing it right’!
What impact, negative/positive, do you think being a part of the numerous Social networking sites out there has on future employment for individuals?
I know I touched on this briefly earlier, but I think it’s important to pose it as a question on its own. The beauty of social networks is that due to tremendous pressure from governments, policy makers and the people, most of the notable ones have great privacy features. Because of these privacy settings, the fate of your future employment is truly in your own hands. I think if you’re going to be a responsible web user, you need to ensure that your social networks are protected as safely as your online banking. For some of us (myself included), we don’t mind the public seeing our posts. So I’ve opened up certain information to the public, but hidden certain other things. When you hear about somebody getting fired because their latest (public) Facebook post is of them cursing their employer out… well… you kind of brought it upon yourself. To answer your questions directly, I think that being part of numerous social networking sites should have no negative bearing on your future employment. You could use social media strategically to position yourself as the perfect candidate for the job, or you could be careless and have an accident. Generally speaking, you’re safer than you think.