If you haven’t heard of at least Facebook & Twitter, you are perhaps living in a cave or in the mountains where the “digital” world hasn’t intruded. The Internet has leveled the playing field for small business owners who can compete with bigger brands without spending an arm and a leg. Social media websites have leveled the playing field even further by providing national and international reach.
Impact of Social Media on our daily lives
Our daily lingo has changed to include cryptic phrases like "tweet me", "hit me up online", and "skype me". If you haven't succumbed to this cryptic phraseology, Congratulations! But then again, don't get too happy, you're going to start talking in the same weird lingo very, very soon!
As if the weird lingo (including short forms such as LOL, ROFL, BTW, L8TR, etc.) isn't enough of a shock to deal with, almost on a daily basis our emails are bombarded with invitations to join this social network or that. Yes, I know right! There's barely enough time in the day to do our work, never mind join yet another network!
And did you ever think a day would come when the Government would need to implement new rules to ensure public safety by not "tweeting while driving" or "texting while driving"?
The Business Owner Dilemma
To go online or not! To engage on Social Media platforms or not? How to find the time? How to determine how much time to spend online? Who to assign to do the online marketing? Hire an outsider or give it to the admin to do it as part of her job? Do it themselves or hire an intern? How to calculate ROI (return on investment) of their online investment?
And so on and on and on. You get the point!
Social Media is just another channel!
As a business owner, you must look at Internet Marketing as “just another channel", not to mention the MOST cost-effective channel” to promote your business.
If we could all afford to place an ad on a billboard that is on the most popular highway in town, we’d all do it, right? Similarly if as business owners we could afford radio and television advertisement, we’d all be there in a jiffy. But those media are all expensive and not really cost-effective for most of us. Social media websites on the other hand are free to use. (More about free later in this write-up.)
Social Media for Lead Generation!
You go to networking events to meet people in person to help showcase your business. The more you meet them the more you learn about them and their business. Over a period of time, this becomes your trusted network for leads and new business opportunities.
Similarly, social media websites allow business owners to conduct networking except it is online so it provides ease of use and allows you to reach a wider reach. The purpose however remains the same as face to face networking: build relationships with others, create a trusted network, find new referral sources, and influence buying decisions. Social media websites are where people are flocking to search, recommend, discuss, and influence buying decisions. So you need to be there to influence their buying decision in your favor.
Traditional Marketing versus New Media
Internet Marketing doesn’t replace the need for traditional marketing activities that still do work. There are traditional marketing methods that do work such as email marketing (Yes, I call it traditional), radio, television, and yes even bill boards and direct mail. These traditional marketing methods can complement your social media activity or vice versa.
Social Media Marketing is free but is it really?
Yes, social media websites are mostly free to use. But although the “medium” or “channel” is free, the actual activity of social media marketing is time consuming. And time spent is money spent! It may appear free if you do it yourself but if you tweet and Facebook all day, what about the time you aren’t spending building your business?
The case for Internet Marketing for Business Owners
Internet Marketing is the new channel to gain branding, visibility, and leads. Internet Marketing is also cost-effective. Do it yourself is certainly an option even though we don't recommend it because you need to work "on" the business not "in" the business.
But also remember that Internet marketing is not the only way to market a business. It is also not a pill that will work overnight and begin generating leads for you. It requires watering in the form of content and fertilization in the form of daily interactions and engagement with others. And it will take a considerable amount of time and creativity to build the follower and fan base that will drive sales.
Internet Marketing will not replace face-to-face networking, phone conversations and other business development strategies used by most of us. However Internet Marketing provides tremendous reach and is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels available to businesses small and large. By using social networks to research prospects and identify the correct individual to contact, you may find that your business development cycle is cut down in half or more.
So whether you are selling a special widget or whether your only client is General Motors or even if you are a mortician (morbid eh?) or an accountant, social media marketing is still highly recommended for you. That’s because unless you are no longer looking for new clients, your business needs to be out there attracting attention.
Social media websites provide visibility, branding, and lead generation. Leverage them because they are the way consumers seek to engage with you, the product or service provider.
So yes, Social Media is even for you, and you, and you, no matter how specialized, localized, or vertical market focused you may be!