While more and more companies adopt social marketing strategies to lower costs and improve the quality of their outreach, even more companies are completely missing the opportunity. I read a want ad recently placed by a continuing care facility, and it motivated me to write the following response. The ad made no mention at all that candidates for the advertised position should be familiar with web sites let alone with social media. My response applies as well to nearly every business looking for a marketing specialist:
You have advertised a marketing position for a continuing care community. You’re looking for someone who is personable, creative, and flexible and who can represent your organization well. You ask for candidates having computer skills so they can produce advertising materials such as brochures, newsletters, and press releases. Wouldn’t you like to do better than that?
While traditional marketing approaches are still important, particularly for reaching a local audience, companies that are not developing on-line social marketing strategies are losing to their competitors. With 418 people joining Facebookevery minute, people are getting to know companies through social networking before doing business with them. We’re quickly reaching a time when a company will not be effective at attracting customers if it doesn’t have a strong presence in online social media.
But, you object, people looking for continuing care facilities aren’t so computer-savvy; they’re not shopping on-line for a business like ours. This objection reflects your bias, but it doesn’t reflect reality. According to a recent Pew survey, the fastest-growing segment of Twitter users over a nine-month period was people aged 55 to 64. As you’re already aware, many aging Americans involve their offspring in making major life decisions… and those offspring rely increasingly on the Internet and their social networks for guidance.
From your ad, it seems as though on-line social marketing strategies are not in your thinking. That’s a shame. The continuing care facilities that hire social marketing strategists and get started on-line are going to thrive. Continuing care facilities who do not adopt social marketing strategies will struggle to understand why they can’t compete.
In central Pennsylvania, I’ve seen IT professionals, government representatives, and technology policy-makers express disinterest in social media. This troubles me because these leaders of local business and industry are the people who should be encouraging businesses to employ social marketing strategies.
Social media are very rapidly transforming the business world. To appreciate why this matters, consider one dramatic difference between business today and business ten years ago: Google.
Some Useful Information about Google
Ten years ago, when you lacked information on a subject of import, how did you acquire the information? Well… you might have checked Google, but chances are you didn’t find what you wanted; the Internet wasn’t particularly evolved ten year ago. It’s more likely you assigned someone the task of getting the information for you, and they made phone calls or visited the library to consult reference materials.
Today (and by today I mean on the day you read this), Google answered more than 300 million requests for information (I know this because I Googled it). Google has become the default starting point for finding information, and with a little practice nearly anyone can solve problems quickly if they have access to the Internet.
What Google has to do With Social Marketing Strategies
Of the 300 million Google searches requested today, how many of the results led to your company’s name or web site? Here’s where social marketing strategies enter the picture.
A Google search is not a social activity and it does not exploit social media. However, if you leverage social media properly, you’ll increase the frequency that Google searches lead to your company. That alone should matter to anyone wanting to succeed in business.
When you employ social media in a coordinated and responsible fashion, you extend your company’s representation throughout the Internet. Your company emerges as an industry expert, it develops a reputation as a problem-solver, and it encourages customers and prospective customers to become involved with your company’s products and services: to participate in your company’s mission.
Participating in social media may not be enough in itself to increase your visibility on Google. However, when you coordinate your social marketing strategies properly, you encourage Google to boost the ranking of your company web site. If you’re going to compete effectively in a world where Google fields 300 million questions a day, you need to make sure Google knows your company is the answer to some of those questions.