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Why bother with social media marketing
At a time when everyone seems to talk about the importance of Social Media, it seems that there are questions that some venue owners and event promoters don’t dare to ask for fear of sounding ignorant, instead they blindly follow the crowd and set up their social media presence without any real thought into what they are doing or how appropriate it may be for their business.
The wiser managers are not afraid to ask probing questions and will not make any investment in their social media presence until they have had a satisfactory answer. Here’s a selection of questions I’ve been asked in the past 3 months.
- "Why should my business bother with a Facebook Page or a Twitter account, we already have a very nice website?"
- "Why would I want to engage with the kind of person that bothers to 'checks-in' at my venue on FourSquare?"
- “I don’t believe in responding to people that post negative reviews of my business, they’re usually just trying it on for a refund. So why should I be aware of what reviews are out there?"
- “Why on earth would my customers want to engage in a conversation with my business, they come here for a meal not for a chat?”
- “My customers don’t do Twitter or Facebook, they’re a bit older and quite frankly most of them have barely heard of Twitter, so why should we bother?”
Asking such questions is the first stage to setting up a social media presence. Social Media is not free, it costs time and effort to be done well. A business must know if the time and effort that will be required will produce the desired effect. And what is the desired effect? Should it be just financial or are there other considerations that should be taken into account?
The ‘Social Media Eco System’ diagram below should help explain the reasons for nurturing your fan base. There are then four strategic insights that can be used in framing your social media strategy and hopefully go some way to answering the questions above.
Feedback and Insight
To be successful, businesses must continuously strive to improve their product and their customer’s satisfaction. Short of asking each customer a questionnaire as they leave the premises, it is difficult to obtain more feedback than a polite ‘thank you very much’ or ‘it was delicious’ etc.
For multi venue businesses that have a centralized marketing team, it is even harder to learn what matters most to customers or respond to the changing fashions and market trends. Yet, a business that is monitoring chatter around its brand on social media networks such as Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, will learn a great deal about what their customers think of them.
If there was a review of your business in a local newspaper, would you go and find a copy to read it? Of course you would. Why then do so few businesses actively listen to what their customers are saying about them on review sites such as Yelp & Qype or read tips and comments left on Foursquare and Facebook. If you’re not listening, how can you improve or respond?
Word of mouth recommendation from people that you know and trust is without doubt the most effective form of promotion known to man. How many times have you visited a restaurant, hotel or club on the simple recommendation of a friend? With the advent of Google & Facebook Places, not to mention Foursquare and Glowala, this type of friend recommendation now comes with a megaphone attached. Facebook and Twitter have a number of built in tools that make sharing recommendations about a business as easy as pushing a button. So with the average Facebook user having 130 friends , that’s an awful lot more people hearing positive or negative things about your business.
Until recently most forms of advertising were a one way conversation: Websites, emails, banners ads, flyers and posters do not invite the consumer to interact, on the whole they merely inform.
The growth of social media sites has, for the first time, made it possible for the average person to make their own unique commentary on the brands that they interact with. Well before Marmite created its Facebook presence, marmite fans were sharing their recipes and marmite tips. Walkers actively involved their fans by asking them to dream up their next crisp’s flavour, creating an online hub for submitting and discussing ideas and creating the resulting winners as a real product.
Such fan involvement does not require a big brand behind it, it merely requires customers that love your business and want to help you make it even better. There are many ways this could be achieved with a little imagination and a small budget. A cocktail bar could start a competition to find a new signature cocktail, inviting customers to submit their own recipes via a custom Facebook Page. The winning cocktail could be chosen through a Facebook poll after a number of tasting events. The winning entry could be unveiled at an award ceremony and named after its creator.
By asking people to go one step further and interact with your brand, you can strengthen their affinity with your business and generate a truck load of new awareness of your business through their friend networks.
Big brands have already caught onto the power of social media to create connections with customers and instil a powerful sense of belonging around a brand. Take for example the Mini’s online Owner’s Lounge http://www.facebook.com/MINI with special functionality for drivers of their cars. Customers on the whole enjoy their interactions with leisure businesses and given half a chance would like to share their thoughts and memories with others. If a car brand can create such a strong community, so too can a hotel, a restaurant, night club or holiday complex.
A hotel could use social media as a way of building a loyalty club for past customers. A holiday villas company could use their Facebook Page as a way for guests to pass on their tips about the area and feedback on their stay. A night club could use Facebook as a way for customers to discuss music or even as a way to help clubbers meet one another before or after a night.
Social media could also be used to help support a worthy cause and in doing so help promote the business itself. For example, a fish restaurant could throw its weight behind a campaign for a more ethical fishing practise such as Hugh's Fish Fight
By encouraging this kind of community to grow, a business can actively engage with its customers, help shape the conversation and adapt to the changing needs of its target audience.
Now plan your strategy
Social media is still a relatively new tool for marketers and as such there is always a temptation to jump right in. Whilst trying something new is never a bad idea, just like you wouldn’t bungy jump without appropriate training and preparation, neither should you leap headlong into social media marketing without a carefully considered approach. Spend time to think about what you want to achieve by using the following four step plan:
- Define: understand your customers, define your market, and what will constitute success.
- Market: set clear messaging, create value that is viral, and push your brand.
- Grow: measure analytics & demographics, advertise, and analyze results.
- Refine: learn from the past and apply this to the future.
With a bit of luck and effort, this will help you build your social media strategy, whose investment you can justify, should you be called to do so.
Social media is merely a marketing tool, which if used well can substantially increase the number of people that your business can reach out to and entice back. As with any marketing, it requires real creativity and imagination to be effective. Having a presence on Facebook or Twitter will not in itself bring returns, but if used as an integral part of a business’s marketing strategy in combination with its website, newsletter, leaflets, posters and even mobile, then its effect on the bottom line can be dramatic.