Public social networks are by their nature very poor marketing venues in the traditional sense. Click through rates on advertisements on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are very low. So many small businesses see public social networks as too difficult and too time consuming to master. They are partially right in their conclusions.
Figuring out the "business angles" in social networking takes considerable time and practice. That's because public social networks are primarily "social." The business that works best on them is "social." The younger audiences that use them find traditional advertising hype to be intrusive and inappropriate. To them it's not cool to be on a social site and be thinking business.
Social marketing is not a new concept. According to Phil Kotler, who along with Gerald Zaltman, coined the expression in the 1970s, social marketing is defined as marketing that seeks to influence social behaviour, not for the benefit of the marketer, but to benefit a target audience or society in general. Since social networks are virtual societies it would seem that social marketing would be a good strategic approach for small business and individuals to engage these online communities.
There is nothing like a good cause or social purpose to find a community of common ground. How to do this effectively is a skill set worth acquiring. Nedra Weinreich, of Weinreich Communications, offers courses including webinars on the subject of social marketing. Although Nedra's focus is on using social marketing to advance such health and social causes the principles and strategies she describes in her book, Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide and blog articles are applicable to any organization and any cause.
Here are some ideas to consider when addressing the social marketing potential of social networks:
. If you currently have a social cause that you are drawn to and that you want to share with others in your business community, then make it part of your web presence and feature it on your business website. For example, I have a link to Kiva on my blog site and you will find it on my Facebook page as well. I don't do in-your-face promotion of Kiva on either site but I can come up with strategies that can make Kiva a shared conversation with prospective clients and existing customers.
. Create an event around your cause. That event can be an activity that invites prospects and customers to an actual physical location with the purpose of raising awareness, and money, in support of the cause. If your cause is "cancer awareness," or another high-profile medical issue, plan to include other interested parties that can give your efforts further legitimacy. For example, you can consider affiliating your event with a larger campaign.
. Build a cause site on your social network and link it to your website and your social network profile account. Make it graphic. If you are committed to raising money in your social cause put a graph on your site to show how well you are doing.
Large organizations have been doing this sort of community service for years. Having just called on Accenture, the management consulting firm in the last week, while waiting for my meeting, I picked up a glossy, four-colour plus page publication focused on the company's social marketing.
And don't forget Guy Laliberte's recent International Space Station trip where he created a show from space involving actors and performers from all over the planet to promote his cause, clean water for all. Although that gambit cost him $ million, one should recognize the essential strategy that Mr. Laliberte deployed, social marketing with a very specific social goal.
On a more modest level and as a method for getting exposure for you and your business, social marketing is the right strategy to engage the social networking community.
- Len Rosen
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.