What should you be doing with social media? Should a small business be investing in its use? If so, how?
Beyond the anecdotal postings on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, American businesses are investing untold sums of money in social media in the hope of establishing stronger relationships with colleagues and customers. Companies in all industries believe social media (SM) will be an important marketing and communications tool.
How to go about it has proven a challenge.
This article will provide insights on what companies are doing with SM, including examples of mistakes they have made.
One truism about SM is that a business of any size will find it crucial to have a plan in place before investing in SM. SM has a lot of potential as a communications tool, but it requires an investment. A vending or refreshment services operator should approach this tool similarly to adding a new software system or expanding into a new service.
SM has relevance in more than one area; 1) as a marketing tool, 2) as a customer service tool, and 3) as a networking tool for communicating with others in the industry. The main reason businesses are moving to SM is for marketing. However, the fact that there is more than one use for SM has complicated its use in the minds of many.
Social media moves forward
According to EConsultancy, a digital marketing firm, 64 percent of businesses now see SM as a major part of their programs and consider themselves past the “experimental phase.” A large percentage of these businesses will actually hire someone just to manage the social aspects of each campaign.
Forty one percent of those surveyed for the same study said they still don’t have definitive ROI for their social media programs.
From a marketing standpoint, SM is mainly a public relations tool as opposed to a lead generation tool. Many SM experts claim it is the most cost effective public relations tool ever.
One reason for this is that SM is a two-way medium; recipients can respond to what has been posted with posts of their own. Because of this, SM allows a company to achieve a higher level of credibility than if the communication were coming in only one direction.
A handful of vending and coffee service companies have launched impressive SM campaigns.
A random sampling of SM sites indicates many vending and refreshment service providers have dabbled in SM, meaning they have posted Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, but they have not added new content continuously. SM experts unanimously agree that SM sites need to be refreshed frequently for visitors to return to the site. Without ongoing activity, SM has little value.
Among those companies that have developed strong SM initiatives, OCS operators have done so more than vending operators. This is likely due to the fact that OCS operators are more active with ecommerce than vending operators. SM activity helps drive traffic to ecommerce Websites.
OCS operators ahead of vending
Chris Coffee Service in Albany, N.Y. has been active in ecommerce for several years. Nearly 40 percent of the company’s $11 million in annual revenue comes from ecommerce, noted Chris Nachtrieb, president.
Nachtrieb said his Facebook page gets the word out about the company, which ships product internationally. The Facebook postings typically are about things the company is doing, such as exhibiting at business trade shows and supporting charity events.
There is no one employee assigned to manage the Facebook page at Chris Coffee Service. Instead, various employees post items of interest, usually using their smart phones. “You have to be diligent about putting something up,” Nachtrieb said.
“What is useful is people learn about new products and things I’m doing,” he added.
Nachtrieb once advertised a product for sale on Facebook. He wasn’t able to quantify the number of sales related to the Facebook ad.
Nachtrieb, like many businesses working with SM, has a hard time quantifying the benefit it provides. Simply monitoring the number of visitors and “likes” is not a good indication of the quality of these visitors from a business’s standpoint.