A recent panel discussion organized by Prospect Baton Rouge tackled these questions and more.
Speaking on the final panel were a trio of local social media experts: Stafford Wood, owner of Covalent Logic, Chelsey Laborde, social media director at FUSE, and Mary Ellen Slayter, owner of Rep Cap. Stephanie Riegel, editor of Baton Rouge Business Report, served as moderator.
To open the panel, Riegel polled the audience on which social media tool they found most useful for their business. Facebook beat Twitter and LinkedIn by a long shot. Twelve percent of the audience reported not using social media for their business.
Should All Businesses Use Facebook?
All three panel members agreed that Facebook isn’t necessarily the right tool for every business, depending on the goals of that business.
It’s great to strengthen your relationships with existing customers, especially in a smaller market like Baton Rouge where so many people know one another, Wood said. But it’s not automatically the best tool to gain new customers. She points out that social media influencers in Baton Rouge right now, and many people under 30, actually prefer Instagram.
Laborde stressed the idea of setting measurable goals for a social strategy. Do you want engagement with your content on social? Are you more interested in awareness of your brand or links back to your site? Each of these can be achieved best on different platforms, but your main strategy, she said, should be to invest your time where your audience spends time. If your audience is millennials, for example, Facebook is not the tool to reach them. Try other, newer channels and track analytics on everything.
If your audience is B2B, Slayter suggested checking out Slideshare, which is now owned by LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s publishing platform can also be helpful if you want to build your reputation as a thought leader. Many people go to LinkedIn and SlideShare expecting to find experts in their industry and they may give your information more weight.
Above all, she said, have a strategy. Put some thought into who you want to reach, how you’re going to reach them and how can you benefit from those interactions. And be patient. A prospect may first see your content online, decide to follow you on a social network, get your email newsletter a few months later and then reach out with a call a few months after that. It’s important to view this as a long-term investment toward building trust.
What Is the ROI of Social Media?
Riegel probed the panel on how to best balance time spent on social media with time spent doing other work. The panelists all agreed it can be tricky to draw those lines, while still reiterating the benefits of making the time for social.
“If your audience is there, you need to be there,” Slayter said. There are tools and tricks to make social management more efficient but if you are tracking the source of your sales in a CRM platform, you should be able to see exactly how social pays off.
“Social is not marketing or operations or sales,” Wood said. “It’s all of those.” She likened it to a sales person taking a client for dinner and getting quality one-on-one time, or a billboard that can reach many people at a time. Because social can be personalized and still speak to the masses, it can achieve either end.
Can You Get Away with Ignoring Social Media?
For some businesses, social media may not make sense, particularly if they aren’t going to take the time to do it well. The panelists agreed that if you aren’t going to do social consistently, it’s better to not do it at all. There’s nothing worse than a blog that hasn’t been updated for years, Laborde said.
That doesn’t mean it has to be all or nothing, though. It’s OK to take baby steps. Wood compared social media to training for a marathon — you don’t start training three weeks beforehand for 10 hours a day. You start small and build up. She recommends spending 10 to 15 minutes, a few times a week, experimenting with different channels and types of posts. See what kind of results you get and invest more time and energy where your audience is.
What Are Common Barriers to Social Media?
Riegel also polled the audience on what kept them from using social media for business; the most common answers were a lack of time and staff. Other common issues were not seeing a clear value or not enough knowledge about using social.
Wood addressed concerns about staffing, with a warning about the common notion that you can just hand it over to an intern. Would you let an intern go on the local news as the spokesperson for your company? Probably not. Similarly, your company’s voice on social media should be someone you feel can represent your organization well.
Social media isn’t just a task to be done on top of all your “real” work, Slayter said. If you’re doing it right, it’s a core part of the “real” work. Just like networking events and conferences, social media is a way to connect with people.
She shared a story about a client who formerly spent their entire marketing budget on conferences. The client would spend a lot of money to get just a handful of leads from attendees at each event. Now with digital lead generation, they spend less money and reach more people. “Social media can change sales, recruiting, everything if you let it.”
At Rep Cap, we think about social media from a content marketing perspective, so we liked Laborde’s tip: Content can be repurposed. The content in an email newsletter can be reused on many other platforms, including in blog posts, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Read more about using social media to meet B2B business goals.
If you’re ready to make social media part of your bigger content strategy, download our guide: How to Build a Content Marketing Engine.
Rep Cap is a Baton Rouge content marketing agency that helps B2B companies and their agency partners produce high-quality digital content, including blog posts, email newsletters, white papers and infographics. Our writers, editors and marketers are experts in their fields. HR tech, health care, financial services , and marketing tech are some of our favorite industries. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to find out how great content can help you attract and retain your customers.