07 Oct Social Media Marketing for BC Businesses
Social media marketing means many things to many people but its main goal is quite simple: drive traffic to a website to get conversions (however you define a conversion). Traffic, however, is not the only benefit of social media marketing.
The other side of the coin is what your activity on social media sites can do for your Vancouver BC business website, or, more specifically, your business website’s presence on Google and other search engines. “Ya, ya, sure…blah. It’s not for me,” you may be thinking. Please let me at least try to dissuade you from writing me off as a bandwagoneer. I spend a lot of time describing the the benefits of social media—often an inadequate nutshell description over phone or email—so I thought I’d write an article attempting to describe in detail the why and how for those small business owners who roll their eyes when they hear a Web dude or dudestress blather on about social media marketing.
If you are a small business owner in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland, or Timbuktu for that matter, social media marketing is most definitely for you. You just need to think differently about it, know how and why you would benefit from it, and then find a way to implement a social media marketing strategy that works for your particular business. If you have any questions, you can always contact Websessive Media Design.
The old-school networking metaphor
Before the Internet, businesses relied upon word of mouth marketing and maybe a Yellow Pages ad. Treat your customers right, they’d tell a friend, who told a friend and so on and so on. Very social marketing. Back then, business owners, particularly small business owners without Pepsi’s ad budget, would hit the bricks to spread the word about their awesome product or service.
They attended tradeshows, went to boring conferences, played golf in plaid pants and two-toned black and white shoes adorned with kilty fringe, joined the Rotary Club or Elks Club and wore funny hats and learned secret handshakes, and occasionally met at cocktail hour to kvetch and salve away the irritations of that day or that week. They shook hands and traded stories, got to know people, made friends, became active members of a community, identified the go-to people in their small biz world, and learned from other business owners. They were social networking long before social networks.
The relationships they forged in the real world helped build their reputations (good or bad), established trust amongst vendors and consumers, established business owners as authorities in their particular niche, put a face to a name, personalizing their brand, and brought referrals; real time, people-walking-into-their-shop-to-buy-a-widget traffic. What’s old is new again.
Old-school social networking is far from dead, but the Internet has cranked up the velocity and reach. When businesses use social media to market, they are doing what old-timers did to get business, they’re just doing it bigger and faster. Your website is your Yellow Pages ad, and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and even your blog, are the tradeshow, convention, Elks Club and cocktail hour. Like the old-timers, smart business owners know that social media marketing is an integral and ongoing part of a marketing plan.
Why did social media marketing become so important?
Let me translate the old-world networking metaphor into Internet-age terms. Social media marketing does all of the aforementioned things: establishes trust, authority, brand, business relationships, increases consumer confidence, attracts traffic, brings referral business and increases customers. Why is this important? One word: Google.
Back in the dark ages of the Internet, long before the age of social networking, getting your site ranked in Google search results was achieved by two widely-used and now arcane techniques: bad SEO and boatloads of backlinks (backlinks increased ranking). To get your site found back when, many SEO folks wrote content heavily laden with keywords and lengthy meta keywords tags and sometimes teeny-weeny repetitive text and links or God forbid, hidden links. Then they’d buy links, join link farms, and publish volumes of badly written articles to get backlinks.
It worked for some time, so people did it, and abused it. Then Uncle Google caught on and began filtering these horrid sites from the results pages, or at least tried to. The last two major Google algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin sought to devalue the Web pages of those that attempt to manipulate ranking.
How social media marketing benefits businesses
In the process of filtering low value content, Google began using the social sphere as one of many indicators of website content value. Sure, your website might just have that boatload of backlinks pointing to it, but, if it does, and there are no other signals or other external evidence of your website’s value, then can it really be trusted, or, are you manipulating ranking by spamming the Internet and buying visibility?
Google gave the social sphere a vote. Social signals have become a sign of trust, authority and relevance. If people are talking about you, sharing content, if you are responding to people socially, then your brand (and therefore your website) must have greater value than the website down the street. And now the heart to the matter: Google wants to serve relevant, trustworthy, authoritative content to Googlers. You see the connection. If you increase all the signals that Google relies on to separate the wheat the chaff, then you tend to become more visible in Google’s results.
Isn’t social media marketing just hype?
There is definitely some hype in the value of social media marketing services, and in all the hype there is the truth. Although there is no proof that your participation on social networks will increase ranking, there is a correlation. SearchMetrics and other number crunchers have done studies (PDF) that reveal those factors that seem to correlate to ranking. Social signals, according to SearchMetrics, MOZ, and other trusted sources, are increasingly becoming a salient ranking factor.
How do I implement a social media marketing strategy?
Now that you have an understanding of the why of social media marketing and social networking for business, here’s the rough guide to how. There are many social networks you could use, but what is tried and true, is a quartet that seems to work well: a blog for your website, a Facebook business page, a Twitter account, and a Google+ page. If you have content that may work well in video format, then add YouTube video marketing or self-hosted video to the social media marketing mix and make it a quintet. It’s impossible in a short-ish article to write a comprehensively about using all of these networks, but here are some examples of how you might use the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Your blog will be central to your efforts. Blogs draw traffic, can target long tail keywords that static Web pages cannot, and, if well written, gain a following, even if only a silent following. Know how to use blog. Do write valuable articles that are of interest to your customers or peers. Do invite customers to ask questions or make comments on the blog. Do answer customer questions. Do make announcements about sales, events and new opportunities. Don’t write salesy ad-copy (the number one mistake of would-be social media marketers). That’s not particular helpful to customers, nor is going to draw much traffic. The only thing that will increase writing advertorials is the bounce-rate of the post page.
Get a Facebook page for your business. Complete your profile. Add Facebook notes that outline your services. Link to those services sections of your website. Invite people to like your page. Reach out within Facebook and comment on other businesses pages if you find their posts interesting. Test the Facebook adscape by targeting different demographics within the community. Gain a following by networking personally and professionally, have a like button very visible on each and every page of your website and blog. Run a like campaign on Facebook targeting an appropriate demographic to gain followers. Write posts that follow the same guidelines as your blog: interesting, valuable, not salesy. Invite discussion and respond to questions and comments. Every time you write a blog post on your website, summarize it and link to it in a Facebook post. Create events and announce them. Treat your Facebook followers as preferred customers. Provide them with sneak peaks, special discount offerings, invite them to closed Facebookers only sales.
Create a Twitter account for your business. Follow the same guidelines as for blogging or Facebooking. Do share valuable content. Do follow businesses or people. Do comment. Do retweet. Do tweet valuable information. Do treat your follows as an exclusive club and offer them something special for being connected to you on Twitter. Don’t tweet overly promotional tweets. Each time you post an interesting article on your blog, tweet a summary and include a link. Shorten the link with bitly.com if it has too many characters.
To get a Google+ Local business page first you need to create a Google+ profile. After doing so, complete your Google+ profile, connect your profile to your blog (establishing authorship). After completing your personal Google+ profile, create a local Google+ page for your business.
Social media marketing sounds like work
Social media marketing is work and some businesses don’t have the time to dedicate to it, nor the money to hire a full-time (or even part-time) in-house social media marketer. Don’t despair, that is where this article becomes a small pitch for Websessive’s social media marketing service for Vancouver businesses. We’ll provide you a free consultation and talk a little more about how exactly we can help your website and your brand become more visible. Then, we can create a monthly package, implementing the social media marketing quartet discussed previously (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+). It’s not as costly as you might think.