Social Media: Doing it RightBy Chris Talbot | Print
Whether you are looking to market your own business to start on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or ultimately looking to help your clients to market their own businesses, a VAR investment in learning about social media can pay off big. Here’s a look at the experiences of a few VARs who have dipped their feet in the water of social media.
Unlike more static forms of marketing (such as newspaper advertisements or direct mailings), social media marketing is not about broadcasting the message or going for the hard sell, Lake said. It's about interaction and engagement. It's about having conversations with people who might be interested in their products. Being likable via social media is going to put a provider of IT products or services at the forefront of a potential customer's mind if they've had good experiences through social media interactions, she said.
Both Lake and Sutcliffe said that it works, but both noted that it takes time. Creating a Twitter feed isn't going to rake in customers the next day.
South Shore Computer Repair of Middleboro, Ma. kicked off its Twitter feed in February 2009 and created its Facebook fan page about six months ago. Both were launched as an experiment, but over time, the family-run business has seen its number of followers and fans increase. According to John Neely, owner of South Shore Computer Repair, his business has so far found two or three new clients through Twitter and one through Facebook (that he's aware of).
Although the first few people to connect on Twitter and Facebook were friends and family members, the numbers grew to include existing customers. The Twitter feed (which automatically posts to the Facebook fan page) is updated at least twice a day, but the content being made available is far from being a hard sell. Neely posts content and links of interest to customers.
Neely didn't have any goals with social media marketing, but it has generated some new business so far. With only three or four new clients finding South Shore Computer Repair through social media, though, it's obvious it takes time to build up new business.
Lake said it takes three to six months to start generating any new business from social media marketing, but if the efforts come across as one big advertisement, then VARs shouldn't count on those efforts being successful. A rule of thumb Lake uses when she posts to her social media feeds is that she only makes one post about her business for every eight posts that have nothing to do with her services. She said it's a formula that has been successful.
David Theriault, owner of 4K Solutions of Midland, Georgia, is a newcomer to the social media world. He just recently launched his Facebook fan page after hearing from a friend how she increased her boutique business revenue by $25,000 per month by creating and maintaining a Facebook fan page. It's still too early for Theriault to have that kind of success (his page has only been active for a little more than a week), but after hearing his friend's story, he said he had to try it out.
Success in social media marketing is based on communication, Sutcliffe said. It increases exposure because it's not only followers and fans that are seeing a business' content, but also anybody who could potentially see that content retweeted or passed along.
"Put the customer in the spotlight and get them talking. Do whatever you need to do to get them talking," Sutcliffe suggested.
Social media marketing is an element of a marketing strategy that doesn't cost anything but time, Lake said. Additionally, it's something that can begin with only 30 minutes of time per day, including posting, reading, researching and responding to others' posts.