How free is social media as a marketing tool?

Social media is on the moveWithout a doubt there has been a large marketing spend over recent years for many professional advice firms to re-develop their websites and integrate social media into their marketing activity. It’s important to note that the social media over that time has also changed – and the social media providers haven’t been upfront about the changes they are making behind the scenes.

In the early days, social media providers were keen to build their online communities. Businesses were invited to join their networks, post interesting content and build their audiences. This was an appealing channel to businesses. Zero to low cost, able to connect with clients and prospects in a way not previously available and the ability to refer friends and others who had been satisfied with the services you’d provided. Businesses themselves started promoting they were on facebook and invited their clients to connect there and many clients did. Over time, the social networks grew, largely because of the people on them.

What business perhaps didn’t expect was the social media reality they find themselves in today. Using facebook as an example, your posts once might have reached a large majority of your audience, now it might be less than 5%, and if you want to reach your audience on that network, you’re invited to pay to boost a post or post an advertisement to reach the other 95%. This is something that has caught many business owners unaware or by surprise. Sure, the logo might look the same but there’s been a few behind the scenes changes that the providers haven’t really talked about.

So today social media isn’t and shouldn’t be referred to as a free marketing tool.

Before taking the plunge, as with all marketing activities, consider the cost and effort involved.

Here are some questions to get you started.

  • Have you defined your target audiences?
  • Which social media platforms will you use to reach them?
  • What kind of content will you post for them?
  • Who will create, co-ordinate and post that content?
  • Who will monitor your social media?
  • Who will respond to negative comments or a crisis?
  • How do you define success of this activity?
  • What’s your budget for reaching your audience and undertaking this activity?

I’m not suggesting you don’t make social media part of your marketing activity. I am suggesting you think about what you’re committing to, before you jump in head first.

photo credit: Man using Windows Mobile device keypad outside via photopin (license)

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