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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The Most Important Social Media Metric

Most people who are new to social media marketing ask the following question:

“How do I get more followers?”

While increasing your top-line follower count may boost your ego, it’s not necessarily going to translate into any real, business value. It’s what we call a “vanity metric.” Impressions and views. Also, vanity metrics.

What matters more than the number of friends or followers you have is the level of audience engagement.

Audience engagement may be measured in a variety of ways ranging from post likes, comments, and shares to clicks, mentions, and lead inquiries.

The sad and ugly truth is that followers can be easily purchased and automated with the help of bots and apps. Many dishonest social media marketing companies, gurus, and influencers inflate their follower counts with these methods because having a large number of followers makes for good optics. Next time you see someone with a large number of followers, check to see how many interactions their posts get. For example, if they have thousands of followers on Instagram and only a couple dozen likes, you know their followers are mostly fake.

Having a large number of followers does you no good if those followers are not engaged. Therefore, it’s better to have 5 engaged followers than 500 followers who never interact with your content. Engagement is where the magic happens. It’s what leads to the next stage, which might be lead generation, sales, or other business objectives. A relationship is fueled by engagement. Without it, your social media presence may look impressive superficially, but it’s no more than smoke and mirrors — a facade that will fool those who don’t know any better but will be laughed at by those who do.

How do you earn engagement?

Well, you can start by being engaging. Think about your audience’s wants and needs with every piece of content you put out. How are you bringing them value? Leave thoughtful comments (not just, “Wow, great!” and “Good stuff”). Respond to comments. Pose thought-provoking questions or post interactive content. Pay attention to culture and world events and incorporate it into what you share. Initiate and participate in the conversation.

Try engaging with your followers and seek to actually provide real value to them. Only when your motivation is to bring value to them and not to boost your own ego and impress anyone will your social media activity start to produce results and make a meaningful impact on others.

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.

sales funnel hubspot
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.