Social media hype has hit epic proportions. The promise of its ability to make a success of even the shabbiest business model is everywhere. Business owners are no longer asking, “Should I run an ad in the newspaper or on Google?” They want to know, “Should I be on Facebook or LinkedIn?”
Of course there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, but knowing what to ask is central to finding the right solution to most marketing problems. The aforementioned questions are simply jumping the gun. Most small businesses don’t have the time, money or energy to promote to everyone, so better to start with, “Who is most likely to buy my product (or service)?” You need to target a specific audience, so you’re not wasting your valuable resources on people who aren’t interested. I’m not saying that other people couldn’t be persuaded to buy your product or service, but that effort translates into higher marketing costs. That’s why it makes sense to go after the people who are already part way there. In other words, it’s a lot easier to sell bacon to a meat lover than a vegetarian.
To find your best prospects, start by examining your current customers. Where are they located? What are their demographics? What do they care about and when do they buy products or services like yours? If you don’t have customers yet, try researching trade associations or industry publications for answers.
You’re also trying to figure out, “Where are they looking for information?” And, “What do they want to know?” It may seem obvious, but you shouldn’t be focusing much of your energy on social sites if your potential customers aren’t using them, because they’ll never see your information. A bakery client of mine sells most of her coffee and pastries to working people in the area, so her most important promotional tool is her display window, not Facebook.
You could spend a lot of time posting, Tweeting and updating, but see little for all your efforts. That’s time spent you could be using to source less expensive products, create live relationships, service customers or any other marketing activity that’s either going to save you money or win you more business.
If they are using social sites, determine how much of your resources to devote to it and match the audience with the site. To find out who is using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any of the hundreds of other social sites, try researching the free information at Quantast.com, Compete.com or Alexa.com.
Defining who and where your target market is, what they care about and how they make purchase decisions is key to selecting where to promote. In the end it’s up to you to determine what is going to work for your business. So go ahead. Read the latest social media hype, but be sure to wear some protective goggles to filter out the glare.