Change is never easy, especially when change comes around so rapidly. Technology is a powerful governing force over how we do practically everything these days, and it is in a constant state of evolution and change.
The world has changed a bit in the last couple decades, and the way we do business – particularly in how we advertise our businesses – is changing with it. There was a time when businesses had to purchase expensive airtime on radio or TV or buy newspaper ads to reach their customers. Those were the three options most had, but not anymore.
Did you know that traditional means of advertising (print, radio, and television) are now secondary in impact and importance to what you do online? This is true whether yours is a 100 percent online business or one that exists and operates in the “real world,” touching the communities it serves directly.
Even if a large percentage of your interactions with customers is live and in real time, don’t think that’s enough to sustain a healthy marketing environment around your business. People constantly drift in and out of your target demographic. They move away, they get older, you name it.
If you want to keep the balance between existing customers and those new to your business, you need to be willing to meet the customer on his or her own turf. These days, that is largely not the Yellow Pages, FM radio, or TV.
Know the Facts
The world and how we do business in it is changing; that is fact number one. It is also important to understand a few things about traditional advertising mediums.
For starters, TV and radio are on their way out. Terrestrial radio is slowly but surely giving way to the likes of Spotify and other music streaming services, and the trend is never going to shift back in favor of FM. Streaming services like Netflix are also slowly choking the life out of traditional TV networks.
Here’s one more uncomfortable fact: Fewer people are hearing or seeing your ads every single day if you are still relying on radio, TV, and print. Even a completely brilliant ad can go largely unnoticed and most certainly tuned out by a huge chunk of your potential customers if you only ever reach out to them through these channels.
Weighing the Alternatives
So what would our other options be?
There are more than a few online avenues to advertising our businesses, but some are more effective than others.
There’s Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising where you pay to have your ads listed on a specific network and pay a small fee each time someone clicks on your link.
There are free traffic sites that offer things like backlinks and banner ads on sites with which you exchange ad space on your site.
There are other sites that are more geared toward content marketing than your business is likely to be, so we won’t spend much time on that. The problem with the other two is that they both tend to leave out a key element to a successful Internet/smart phone-age marketing initiative.
Specifically, they don’t provide the benefit of reaching as highly-targeted an audience as a local business would need or the ability to interact with, as well as engage with, that audience.
The only advertising medium out there today that can do that is social media.
I’m sorry. Don’t get mad at me. Just keep reading. I promise it gets better.
What is it about social media that bothers you so much? It’s been my experience that local, small business owners are the most resistant to adopting this particular platform even though it has potential to bust their doors wide open.
Seriously, what is the issue? What is your major concern?
Today, I want to see if I can tackle a few of the perceived myths revolving around social media marketing and offer a few counter-perspectives I think you will find helpful.
Myth #1 – “None of my customers are on social media.”
If you’ve convinced yourself that not enough of your customers or potential customers are on social media, think again. Yes, there are networks that are geared toward specific audiences and their target demos may be a bit younger (or in certain niche cases, older) than the one you want to reach, but don’t paint all of them with a broad brush.
I’ll bet it would surprise you to learn that more than half of the people in America who are of retirement age use Facebook every day. Every year, the numbers start to catch up with each other, between those who are in the younger brackets and those who are in the older ones, and older users are catching up rapidly to their millennial counterparts.
In short, there is no demographic that you can logically exclude from the equation when deciding whether or not to market to its members via social media. They are out there; You are not. That’s the real problem. Get out in front of them and you will be amazed how many of them there are and how easy it is to engage with them online.
Myth #2 – “I can’t afford to advertise on social media.”
Are you aware that you can advertise on Facebook for as little as a dollar a day? Did you also know that most Facebook marketers test new campaigns by buying just $5 a day in advertising? Do that for the course of about 5 days and you will have all the information you need about how to fine-tune your audience.
Since this isn’t an article about how to use Facebook ads, I’ll just let you know that there are more than few good resources that can teach you how to develop an entire marketing plan around Facebook for any demographic you wish.
Also, when compared to other advertising platforms, you cannot beat the price of advertising on social media when factoring in all the added benefits the platform brings with it.
I mentioned how social media provides the added benefit of interaction as well as engagement, but that’s just part of its appeal. On most of the major social networks, you can advertise and distribute content all on a single platform.
That means that you can post or tweet or pin anything and promote it from within the same network to your friends and contacts as well as anyone else you designate who has a specific interest in the products or services you sell.
When you consider how highly-targeted an audience you can reach on social media, the cost when compared to other options is an absolute steal. You can attract a massive audience and increase your ROI significantly by simply posting well-presented, original content and promoting it from within.
Myth #3 – “I’m just a small neighborhood business. Social media is just too big a platform for me.”
If you are afraid that you will wind up throwing away money advertising your local business but only getting traffic from people in Guam, stop. Even if you do nothing to attract a local audience, they will find you on social media.
Again, the point of this article is not to teach you how to set up pages and ads, but getting some help with realizing that that would be a good idea. I’ll have more to say about that in a minute. For now, let’s just assume that everything is set up right.
Facebook’s search algorithm alone has gone through a total transformation over the past few years. It is intelligent enough to put people in front of pages based on their search criteria that will actually benefit them. Even if you simply provide a few key pieces of information on your page and do nothing else, you’re going to get some traffic – not much, but some.
The point is that getting that all-important traffic takes effort on both yours and your customers’ parts. The customer needs to be able to find you quickly and with minimal effort. It’s not that the platform is too big. It’s that your voice is too small.
Want to create a big voice on a big network? It begins with just one critical element: content (and lots of it).
The Beast with 10 Heads
Blog posts and articles, videos, podcasts, special reports, emails…It’s easy to start feeling buried under the weight of all the types of content you’re “supposed” to maintain. It’s so daunting, in fact, that this is the point where the conversation about using social media all-too-often comes to an abrupt halt.
Many small businesses feel that they lack the resources to generate good content in-house and are equally edgy about hiring outside contractors to do it for them.
This is where you as a responsible businessperson need to make a few responsible business decisions.
How much money did you spend last year on traditional advertising? How many hours did you spend at local trade shows or making appearances at local events just trying to do a little quality networking?
What if I told you that all those efforts (while, quite possibly, necessary in a small business environment) could be falling flat because you aren’t maintaining the balance between your real world and online presences the modern consumer demands?
If you need to resort to a “Borrowing from Peter” situation to shift that balance, do it. Spend less on print, radio, and TV, and funnel some of those funds into online content creation.
Think about it: If you are producing TV ads, you’re already spending money on content creation. What if you could reach more people by putting that same ad on Instagram? You don’t know until you try.
What I do know is that if you don’t try it, you will be missing out on at least some very good leads. I also know that the ROI on any online advertising platform has potential to outstrip FM radio, the local paper, or local TV markets by a considerable margin.
Here is another uncomfortable fact: The number of people who consume their news and other local media content via mobile devices is rapidly catching up with those who do by traditional means. Within the next five years, the former is likely to finally exceed the latter.
In a nutshell, what that means is that the time to start making that transition in your marketing strategy is now.
Putting It All Together
Now that I hopefully have your attention regarding using social media to grow your business, I have some advice for you on how to use it effectively.
As a primary action, I strongly recommend at least looking into a social media management service and getting its opinion on how you should proceed. It can help you set up your pages correctly and make recommendations about what to post where, when, and how often. From there, you can start generating content based on the advice you get.
You can start small, test the waters, and see what kind of content goes over best with your audience. When you have a better idea of where to spend the money, you will wind up spending less of it and getting greater returns on it. Some key areas (besides a management team) to consider spending some of that money include:
- Copywriting Services
- Video and Audio Production Services
- Custom Imaging, Photography, and Photo Editing Services
- Virtual Private Assistant(s) for content management and distribution
Now, I’m not talking about adding these people and groups to your staff. There are loads of reputable outsourcing agencies that handle all of the above and much more, and many do it for a lot less money than you would think too. In fact, it will ultimately cost you a fraction of what it would to employ these people in-house.
I hope I got you at least thinking about the benefits of integrating social media into your marketing strategy. Along those lines, here are three quick parting shots:
- Social media is a much more forgiving marketing platform than any other, and it provides benefits that other online or offline options just don’t. It allows you to get to know your audience on a number of crucial levels and develop relationships that reinforce the message in your content without murdering your marketing budget in the process.
- Do not underestimate the power of a global social network on a local market. Remember that these huge networks are made up of millions of smaller, close-knit ones, and those smaller, local groups of people are out there waiting for you to reach out to them.
- Get the help you need to send your message loud and clear and in the strongest voice possible. Once you get a taste of the kinds of results social media is capable of delivering (both through quality content and ads), you will wonder why you ever shied away from it in the first place.
With that, I bid you the best of luck and encourage you to boldly go into this exciting frontier for your business. Your customers are already waiting to meet you there!
Did you give it a try? Please share your experiences with our community either by leaving a comment below or in our closed Facebook group. Thanks in advance! 🙂