Social Media Marketing Matters

Image result for social media icons mediumTechnology can be like that classic Dickens’ novel: the worst of times and the best of times, all at the same time. Take social media. Depending on who’s talking, social media is either transforming the planet in all sorts of positive ways, from social organizing and crowd sourcing, or causing a drastic decline in literacy and civility.

The truth – like most things – probably can be found somewhere in the middle.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to social media and business marketing. An interesting piece in Harvard Business Review by Douglas Holt makes the case that “companies have sunk billions of dollars into producing content on social media, hoping to build audiences around their brands. But consumers haven’t shown up.”

Holt is the founder and president of the Cultural Strategy Group and a former Harvard Business School and University of Oxford professor. He believes that social media “has transformed how culture works and that digital crowds have become powerful cultural innovators.” He calls this “crowdculture” and while it makes it difficult for companies to compete for eyeballs online, Holt says the way forward is for companies to collaborate with crowdcultures.

He cites successful examples of “cultural branding,” including Chipotle, Dove and Axe. Why? Each of these brands tapped into a larger cultural trend and then provided online content to piggyback on existing psychological trends. These companies, of course, enjoy the luxury of multi-million dollar marketing budgets. If you work for a mega company doing marketing on that scale, I strongly urge you to read Holt’s HBR article, “Branding in the age of social media.”

If you’re like smaller and growing companies, a more down-to-earth approach to social media makes marketing (and financial) sense. For Intertech, this has meant growing our online presence by providing content that offers business value. We give away our expertise online but we gain by building trust in our brand. From blogs and white papers to webinars and participation in technical chat rooms, Intertech lets people know we’re here and we have something valuable to share. That’s invaluable!

Having a solid and predictable online presence also lets potential customers know you’re real and you’re here for the long-term. Even something as seemingly trivial as how many Facebook likes your page garners speaks volumes about how your company is perceived in the marketplace of your peers. Let’s face it, a thousand or more “likes” beats 50 any day of the week!

Building a respectable online presence takes time and effort. I recommend some advice that I believe originated with Winston Churchill, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” If you’re a small shop or solo consultant, maybe your best strategy is to write one blog post each month and to comment on other blogs related to your industry or area of expertise.

It’s better to start slowly and remain consistent over time rather than to burst onto the scene with all social guns blazing only to peter out a few months later (it happens!). But if you do decide to tackle multiple social media platforms simultaneously, be sure to provide different, fresh and valuable content for each platform.

Listen Up – Your Customers are Talking!

Anyone with responsibility for making a company successful—from the CEO to the front desk receptionist—already knows who really decides an organization’s fate: the customers. That’s why most of us pay attention and actively solicit customer input on our current work and future product developments.

As a smaller company, Intertech regularly engages with our customers in informal ways. Why? We all know it’s more economical and productive to extend existing customer relationships than to build new ones from scratch (we also genuinely like our customers!).

But what about medium-to-large companies where regular informal customer contact is difficult to encourage? It’s not uncommon in larger companies for customer relationships to be completely controlled by a single sales rep. That’s not a healthy situation for your company, especially if your sales rep decides to work elsewhere – taking all of those precious customer relationships with him or her.

A couple of smart and connection-minded local entrepreneurs, Eric Lopez and Loring Kaveney, decided to do something about this. They developed a secure community platform called WorkOutLoud to facilitate ongoing conversations between companies and their customers. This cool new platform also provides the tools to drive collaborative activities through online registration, surveys, email notifications, blogs, files storage, forums, analytics and the like. It’s especially helpful for developing case studies, and facilitating product enhancement requests that drives customer engagements before, during and after events such as webinars, conferences, blog posts and announcements.

Loring Kaveney, who also serves as the Minneapolis Director of StartUp Grind (a national networking group for tech entrepreneurs), explained it to me this way:

“There is a natural increase in collaboration when a community platform is provided to share information from thought leaders in their industry, especially when it supports rich content to solve challenges. Customer communities will lower churn while focusing on the satisfaction of the customer’s thoughts around services and products provided by your company.”

In other words, every company needs a customer community to clearly understand what drives their customers and to encourage collaboration. Your bottom line depends on it. I’m impressed with WorkOutLoud and suggest you check it out at www.workoutloud.com.

EO Rally Minnesota

EO-Rally

If you’re an early-stage entrepreneur, check out EO Rally.

The event brings together established entrepreneurs and early-stage entrepreneurs for a no-holds-barred speed-dating style of mentoring. It has proven to be a dramatic success for both the mentors and mentees that have participated each of the past years. 

Bring your questions, challenges, ideas and a healthy supply of business cards.  Leave with answers and contacts.