November 15th 2012

Beating the Big Brands with Social Media Marketing

Image Dylan Touhey

If there’s one channel on the web that provides Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) the ability to out perform big brand competition it’s social media. A recent study by Harvard Business Review Analytics Service concluded that less only 12% of companies engaged in social media are doing it effectively. The same study concluded that 43% of companies rate their social media campaigns as ineffective and the remaining 45% claim their social media efforts are “getting there”.

Agility and commitment to the social media channel are key for SME’s looking to gain market position on big brand competition in social media.

SME’s can leverage the lethargic nature of larger brands that often struggle adopting social media. Social media is new and doesn’t jive well with the old-hat philosophies of the Madison Ave PR agency, corporate messaging policies and tight-knit brand control. Competitive gains in social media are ripe for the picking for SME’s that can effectively locate, listen and engage with their customers via social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Blogosphere.

We all know that social media is big, but to substantiate the opportunity here are some facts:

  • Twitter reached a benchmark of 50 million in 2010
  • Facebook has over 500 million worldwide users and is projected to reach 1 billion by end of 2011
  • The average amount of time spent on social networking sites increased 82% last year.
  • Social Media is not just young people; according to Forrester research 1/3 of adults post at least once a week to social networking sites. ~70% read blogs, Tweet and watch YouTube.

If your company is willing to commit resources, time and a little training within your organization here’s how your company can get a leg up on the big brands and take advantage of this extraordinary reach:

  • Locate your customers: 42% of big brands say they don’t know where their most valuable customers are talking about them.
  • Measure your reach and engagement: 31% say they don’t measure the effectiveness of social media interactions.
  • Build a tool set: 23% are using social media analytics tools.
  • Adopt social media as a marketing channel across your organization: only 7% say they integrate social media into their marketing activities

Now that you see the opportunity where do you start? Developing an integrated social media strategy that works for all departments will be a challenge; however, most of your social media outlets will boil down to a combination of Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Assuming you already have a blog, start with Facbook and go outwards from there. Developing a Facebook page and inviting 50 of your friends isn’t enough to develop a stronghold across the social web. Once your blog is setup, and you’re posting frequently with unique content, be sure to connect it to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Here’s a neat little plugin for WordPress that allows you to post directly from your blog to your Facebook wall. Similar plugins exist for Twitter and LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn you can create a business profile in addition to personal profiles. Take advantage of both. Facebook has said goodbye to clunky FBML so leverage the new HTML tabs to create custom pages and generate likes. Hint – giveaways and promotions are extremely effective on Facebook in generating likes and repeat visitors to your page.

If you’re positioning a thought-leader in your space take advantage of the millions of eyeball on document repositories such as Scribd, DocStoc and and be sure to build a webinar program to drive quality leads to your business.

On the blogging front don’t forget to engage with other blogs within your space. Social bookmarking should also be incorporated into content and blog posts published by your company. StumbleUpon drive more click traffic to independent websites than Facebook while Reddit and Digg remain powerful tools for generating interest in your content.

If video is your game, create a branded YouTube channel and embed a customized player on your site.

It’s also important to keep and eye on your competition to see what social media strategies are working and which ones are not. Here’s how the big brands are attempting to leverage social media according the Harvard Business Review Analytics Service study:

The Harvard report goes on to say that “effective users are more likely to use social media to monitor trends, research new product ideas via social networks, have an online user group for customers, and collect and track customer reviews on their website.

Effective users are more likely to know where customers are talking about them on the Web and prioritize their social media activities accordingly. Out of all the executives in the survey, only one-quarter said they could target where their most important customer segments discussed their brands and services. That number rose to almost 70% among effective users.

Needless to say, if you can find your customers faster and more effectively than your big brand competitors the upside looks enormous. Twitter is your best starting point. Learn how to use #hashtag searches to locate conversations about keywords relevant to your business, service or industry and get involved by following key contributors and adding your own insights to the conversation. Check out our Free Tools section for a list of free social media tools that will help you locate key conversations on Twitter and other social media sites.

Once you’re engaged you need to start monitoring your social reach and sentiment to figure out how your customers perceive your social media efforts. Tools such as Klout and allow you to track social reach and sentiment with relative ease allowing you to fine tune your engagement strategy to ensure your businesses is resonating positively with customers and prospects alike.

Never before have SME’s had such an opportunity to talk to millions of customers, distribute messages and generate rea-ltime feedback and experiment with promotions for such a low cost. Unlike most online marketing channels, social media has no direct advertising costs. If you’re willing to commit to a program, locate and engage your target customers you will win against the lethargic competitors in your space without having to compete head-to-head with advertising dollars.

For more info on how One Net Marketing can help you establish an effective social media marketing program please click here.

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