Do I Need Social Media if I Have Word of Mouth?

If you’ve built a successful business, chances are many of your leads come from the referrals of satisfied clients or customers. Some businesses have done very well with little or no advertising.

Every now and then I’ll hear a business owner express doubts about investing in social media, or even marketing altogether because most of their business comes from word-of-mouth. There is then a resistance to putting money toward marketing, which is totally understandable. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

However, the success that comes from word-of-mouth can also lull you into a false sense of complacency and prevent you from growth, which leads to stagnation and long-term business failure. And even if the customer-base is loyal enough to keep the company in business, the business risks leaving a lot of money on the table by refusing to market. Good can always become great and great can always become better.

The most important thing for today’s business owner to understand about social media is that social media marketing is word-of-mouth marketing. Social media simply magnifies and amplifies your word-of-mouth, harnessing its full potential.

Traditional advertising attempts to pitch products and services to the audience. It’s a one-way, broadcast style of communication. Social media, by contrast, allows a brand the opportunity to meaningfully engage in two-way communication with its audience. Social media helps you not only attract new clients and customers but also stay in touch with current ones.

By consistently providing value on social platforms where your audience is already spending their time and attention, you can make a genuine connection with them, converting prospects into fans, fans into customers, and customers into loyalists.

Word-of-mouth has long been the strongest form of marketing. Most people will be far more inclined to try a product or a service that has been vetted and recommended by a trusted source, such as a friend or a third-party expert over an advertisement.

When a brand speaks highly of itself, you think: “Duh, of course, they say that.” When a friend of yours has had a good experience with a brand and tells you about it or when an individual whom you trust, such as an influencer, recommends it, you’ll be much more likely to choose that brand over a competitor.

According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report published in 2015, 83 percent of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family over advertisements. And, according to data from Musefind, an influencer marketing platform, published in 2016, 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or a traditional celebrity endorsement.

Creating a community on social media may not provide immediate or directly traceable ROI in the short-term, but over the long-term, it will get your brand in front of more people and build brand equity, which you can leverage in powerful ways, reducing your new customer acquisition costs and receiving more repeat business.

Social media allows you to see your friends’ likes and interests as well as which brands they follow. Friends see posts from brands that their friends of engaged with, allowing branded content to spread virally throughout the Internet. Friends who see that their friends like, follow, and trust a brand, will be more positively inclined to try the product or service for themselves.

Social media is not a replacement for word-of-mouth. Social media has simply restored word-of-mouth to its rightful and lofty place in the marketing universe. With over 47% of customers using AdBlock technology and tuning out or fast-forwarding advertisements, word-of-mouth has become more important than ever before.

Social media channels are places where brands can seamlessly mix into the conversation. Remembering that social media marketing is a conversation is key. The number one mistake most brands make on social media is treating these new channels as one-way broadcasting platforms where they attempt to push out their marketing messages, much in the same way they do on TV, radio, or in print.

Social media is where people go to converse, catch up, get information, or find entertainment. Users don’t want to be interrupted with ads and sales pitches. By creating content that blends in natively to each channel and respects the nuances of each platform and provides value to the audience, brands will delight current customers and fans who will engage with the content and spread it to others.

Furthermore, people are going to talk about your business regardless of whether or not you have a strong social media presence. Social media is a valuable team player that helps your business win on both offense and defense. By having an engaged fan-base on social media, you’ll spend less time and energy on reputation management, deflecting negative comments or poor reviews. Instead, you’ll have an army of loyal and passionate brand advocates who will step in, engage, and help spread your message for you.

Responding to both negative and positive comments on social media makes your audience members feel valued. It feels special to be recognized, especially when so many businesses seem to take customers for granted and are slow to respond to questions and comments. Engaging with your audience makes your brand more human, relatable, and trustworthy. Additionally, most millennials, in particular, value transparency and are wary of brands that do not put themselves out there on social media and authentically engage.

So, if you were hesitant to invest more into social media, now you understand that social media will provide an added boost to your word-of-mouth and allow your business to grow and reach new milestones.

And, don’t get hung up on worrying about what kind of content to create and share on social media. With each piece of content, simply keep in mind how you can provide more value to your audience. This approach to content will help you create an inspired, engaged community of people who share your values, passions, and vision. Of course, if you’re still having trouble, feel free to reach out to me in the comments below.

Did you experience positive word-of-mouth as a result of your social media marketing efforts? If so, how did you do it? What could you have done differently? 

 

 

 

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Don’t Underestimate the Value of Attention

“Isn’t there a way to narrowly target only the people who will buy from me without our content being seen by anybody else?”

This is a question I’ve received several times in my role as a social media marketer.

The answer is no, but it’s interesting to analyze what lies behind the question. Often, the asker simply doesn’t understand how social media works or doesn’t fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the Internet as a whole. More importantly, this question reflects a lack of appreciation for the value of attention. It also reveals a misunderstanding of how marketing and sales work together to drive prospects from brand awareness to purchase.

Now, it’s true that smart marketers aim to target their efforts toward a specific and well-defined audience. This helps them determine their strategy, tone, style, and which channels and tactics to use. Marketing for “everybody” is marketing for nobody.

However, while an overly broad approach is counterproductive, so is an approach that is overly narrow.

Attention is a very precious commodity. With so much competing for our attention spans, it’s more precious than it ever was before. Attention is also extremely valuable. If you don’t have it, you stand little chance of becoming known or found by your target audience. However, if you do have people’s attention, then you can leverage it for greater opportunities.

Many people question the ROI of social media marketing. How does building a following or getting likes, comments, and shares boost my bottom line? And yet, most of those same people completely see the value of appearing on a popular talk show, running a television advertisement during prime time, or appearing in a prestigious or widely read magazine. Social media doesn’t deserve to be judged with an unfair double-standard, especially when it has a unique ability to target effectively and provide data analytics reporting in real time — things traditional channels cannot do.

Getting the exposure, the eyeballs, the attention is the first step. Even the most targeted digital marketing campaign can’t and shouldn’t avoid attention from those who may not buy anything — right now.

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HupSpot

Marketing is like a funnel, which can be sifted and segmented from the widest to the most narrow. Awareness sits at the top of the funnel. A small subset of those at the top will become leads and a small subsection of those leads will be nurtured into sales or “conversions.” Depending on the particular campaign, a conversion might mean a monetary sales transaction or it might mean a sign-up or a subscription. Either way, getting attention and establishing a relationship with prospects is the key to garnering more sales as well as loyalty that keeps your clients or customers coming back for more. Attention can also lead to other good things, like a job offer, a book deal, a speaking engagement, and more.

The way you get attention is by providing value. This could be accomplished by sharing content that educates, entertains, or empowers your audience. By providing value through your content, you earn your audience’s attention and give them a reason to care. Too many people undervalue or underestimate positive attention because it’s part of long-term branding rather than short-term sales. Therefore, it’s super important to be able to maintain perspective and put every part of your marketing strategy in its appropriate place. Knowing where everything belongs will also help you contextualize and personalize your content for your audience throughout each stage of the sales funnel or buyer’s journey.

Before you can get your audience to buy anything, you need to have their attention. Word of mouth — friends telling friends — is often the best way. Most people tend to value the recommendations of trusted experts, friends, or family than they do an advertisement from a company. Social media marketing allows you to further amplify and leverage word of mouth to get the attention you need like never before. Take advantage and utilize this technology to the fullest.

Being Cheap Will Cost You

When I was younger, I used to pride myself on spending the least amount of money as possible on things that I wanted. One area where I was particularly cheap was sneakers. Initially proud of my purchase, it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t getting a good deal at all. When the laces are frayed and the sneakers are worn and falling apart beyond repair after only a few months you’re only screwing yourself into having to buy yet another pair much sooner than you would have if you had spent a little more and invested in better quality.

One thing you learn as you get older and more experienced is that being cheap rarely pays off. If anything it costs you more money, time, and headaches later down the line.

We all have areas of our lives where we don’t care enough to spend and that’s fine if we’re OK with the consequences. But, when it comes to the things that matter, like our health or our business, we really should think twice before we go with the cheaper option. The damage that could be done by hiring an amateur could end up being far more costly than paying an expert. Skimping on added features, options, or services in the short-run may end up costing you far more in the long-run.

Let’s say you’re choosing a marketing firm to do your social media marketing. They present you with several options. Thinking only about price, you go with the cheapest one. Later you realize that you can’t get the results you hoped for without the additional services offered in the higher priced option. Now, you’ll either spend more money on hiring freelancers to fulfill the need or you’ll end up upgrading your package with the marketing firm. Either way, you just spent the past month or more spending money and receiving little in return. If you had only done it right the first time, you would have accomplished more and sooner. And, if you depleted your budget, then it might already be too late.

So, don’t be a cheapskate. Think about the long-term or the lifetime value. Your business is something you’d like to comfortably own for a long time. Don’t treat your business like a cheap pair of sneakers. Spring for the better option and you’ll wear it well for years to come.

 

Authenticity: What Does it Really Mean Anyway?

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days.

Every brand strives for it, especially on social media. We’re told millennials, in particular value it and expect it from the companies they do business with.

Aside from being a popular buzzword, what does ‘authenticity’ really mean? And what does it mean to be authentic?

Be genuine and up front.

Being authentic means not disguising or hiding your agenda. If you’re in it to make money, then don’t hide it. Be honest about your intentions. For example, don’t claim to be a conscious company like Tom’s Shoes if you’re only going to jack up the price above market value so that you can keep profit margins high. Don’t pretend to care about causes (or worse, tragedies) only in order to curry favor with your audience and make a buck. Authenticity means your brand only aligns itself with products, people, and causes that embody your values. Corporate responsibility is great, but please don’t pretend to give a f*#% if you don’t. Trying to put one over on your prospects and customers will only backfire. Everyone knows companies need to turn a profit so don’t hide it. Be real about your purpose and direction.

Give sincerely.

Unfortunately, one of the most common blunders in business (and other areas of life) is to give insincerely, or only in order to get something in return. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic is particularly ineffective, because people can often smell the insincerity and it turns them off from working with you. If you’re only helping others with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, people will notice right away or you will eventually be exposed.

The good news is brands who do a great deal more sincere helping than asking often win a great deal more sales than companies who don’t. We live in a word that is over-saturated with mediocre content and often tunes out ads mentally or with technologies such as Ad Block and fast-forwarding on DVR. Therefore, sharing engaging content that is relevant and educates, inspires, or entertains is the best way for a brand to stand out, grab attention, and stand head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s not “fake it till you make it.” 

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘fake it till you make it,’ but it’s not really the best strategy. Now, I’m not talking about trace amounts of imposter syndrome, which we all feel at times, particularly when we are at the start of our careers. I’m talking about posing as an expert before you are one. Today, becoming known and developing a brand is not only easier than ever before; it’s almost a necessity. Establishing thought leadership and credibility is valuable currency, but if you talk about things you don’t yet understand or fail to deliver on your big promises, you will later end up looking foolish and compromise your reputation.

So, stay in your lane and tell the true story of you or your brand. If you do one thing particularly well or have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, stick to creating content about that and don’t try to swim in waters that are above your head. And, if you don’t yet have an area of expertise, find ways to inspire or entertain others as a means to break through to the market.

Above all, be passionate and real and people will feel it. I’m not just espousing the cliche “be yourself.” Obviously, this is not the best idea in every case. What I am saying is be up front about your intentions, provide value in a sincere manner, and stick to what you know and care about, and you will come across as authentic and believable and people will want what you have to offer.

Nobody Reads Ads

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The famous advertising master of the “Mad Men’ era, Howard Gossage, also known as the “Socrates of San Francisco,” once said: “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”

When I got my first agency job as a junior copywriter, one of the senior writers had this quote hanging on the wall in front of his desk. This insight is very crucial to keep in mind whenever you are writing copy either for traditional media advertising or for the web.

It’s surprising how many companies fail to remember this sound advice. Instead, brands often end up making the foolish mistake of talking “at” their target audience rather than “to” them. Nowhere is this error made more often than on social media where the conversation is supposed to be just that – a conversation. Not a one-way communication, but a real connection between brands and consumers.

This golden Gossage-ism is even more relevant now than it was then. And I think in the digital age it has taken on a slightly new meaning that is perhaps more poignant now than it was originally intended.

In today’s fast-past world of media bombardment we are totally saturated with content vying for our attention both on traditional mediums (e.g. billboards, print, television, and radio) and on the internet which has predictably come to dominate how we access information.

How many promotional emails did you delete just this morning?! Are you even still reading this?!?!

If so, congrats.

Today, we mostly tune out advertisements with rare exceptions. When you are writing copy, it is not about how funny or cute or creative you can be nearly as much as it is how well you respond to the needs and wants of your audience. Just as in offline interpersonal relationships, one of the most important things you can do is listen, the same goes for any kind of marketing copy. And digital analytics programs as well as social media networks have opened up new avenues that make listening much easier for marketers to do. It is the smart brand who will put in the time to figure out where her audience is hanging out and what are its fears, concerns, questions, and needs.

Nobody will read your ad.

Get over it.

But if you talk about what interests your audience and you speak to its needs, then sometimes your copy will be read. And way more importantly, it will inspire your reader to take the desired call to action.