Let’s Talk About Social Media

June 1, 2012

executives have wondered how they will ever be able to develop this murky
concept, called social media, into a viable strategy that will help grow their
. Social
media is not as complicated as you might think. Essentially, the term means
sharing information, such as ideas, personal messages, videos, etc., with an
online community, like your friends on Facebook or your peers on LinkedIn.

While social media can be a great asset to any company, it is
not necessary (in fact, often it is counterproductive) to use every social
media application you can get your hands on. The trick is to be selective. Pick
and choose the applications that seem best for your business when you weigh the
costs (both monetary and time) with the benefits.

Here is a list of the top five social media applications you
should check out, if you haven’t used them already.

  1. Facebook (www.facebook.com)
    and Google+(plus.google.com)

    Both of these free applications
    allow your company to connect with individuals on a personal level and maintain
    a dialogue with current and potential customers and partners. These days,
    nearly everyone, from your 14-year-old son to your 75-year-old mother-in-law,
    has a Facebook account (and Google+ has also risen in popularity).

    In order to utilize these social
    networking websites, people need to “like” your company’s page. Just as you
    would ask people to subscribe to an e-mail list, you would ask people to “like”
    your Facebook page. While millions of people are on Facebook, you are only
    communicating with the ones who have found your page and decided to connect
    with you. Although this may restrict the number of people you can connect to,
    it also ensures that the people who receive your posts are interested in your
    message or company. The more people who “like” your page, the more visible your
    company will be, allowing you to foster relationships with customers and
    partners, thus generating new business. Facebook is used primarily for personal
    social interaction and business-to-consumer relationship building, rather than
    business-to-business interaction.

  2. Twitter (twitter.com)

    When the free Twitter
    application first gained popularity in 2008-09, many people wondered how one
    could successfully communicate with a limit of just 140 characters. As users
    have become more comfortable with the platform, it has become clear that Twitter
    can be extremely useful for sharing new products and services, upcoming events,
    and breaking news. Essentially, think of Twitter as a way to communicate
    headlines, with links to other websites to provide additional information.

    Twitter created a worldwide stir when Iranians used the
    application to instigate and organize national protests in 2009. Dubbed “Iran’s
    Twitter Revolution,” traditional media sources relied on Twitter posts to cover
    news of the national unrest because Iran had banned all traditional media from
    the country.

    In the marketing arena, many companies are launching Twitter
    campaigns, including the Emmy-winning “Old Spice Guy” campaign that combined
    commercials, Twitter, and YouTube. The Old Spice Guy solicited questions from
    fans on Twitter and then answered them in personal, short, humorous YouTube
    videos. According to the social media experts at Mashable, the “total upload
    views for the Old Spice YouTube videos (including both the TV and the social
    media campaigns) [stands] at almost 135 million.”

  3. LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com)

    is the only popular social media application that is designed specifically with
    businesses and professionals in mind. LinkedIn is a free website that helps you
    to foster relationships with peers, interact directly with clients, and find
    and recruit talented employees. This program allows you to create a user
    profile and develop strategic “connections” with other professionals. LinkedIn
    provides many great resources, including allowing you to create a forum to
    interact directly with your “linked” customers to create a community,
    professional groups for problem solving and industry discussion, and recruiting
    resources. Like Facebook, LinkedIn is more effective the more people you are
    “connected” with; however, it focuses on both business-to-consumer and
    business-to-business interaction.

  4. YouTube (www.youtube.com)

    Since the mid-2000s,
    YouTube videos have surged in popularity, as the free service allows anyone to
    upload a video and share it with the world. YouTube can be a great resource for
    sharing educational and marketing videos about insulation products and systems;
    indeed, several insulation manufacturers have posted product and/or
    installation videos that you can link to on your website or send to your customers.
    In order to use YouTube effectively, it’s important to ensure that you have a
    high quality and pertinent video. YouTube can be combined with other social
    media, such as using Facebook and Twitter to advertise your videos.

  5. Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts)

    This free Google feature
    is an easy way to help manage your reputation, find out about new industry
    developments, or get updates on business partners or even competitors. Google
    Alerts lets you run a continuous web search on any topic. As new results—such
    as web pages, newspaper articles or blogs—appear that match your initial search
    query, you will be sent an e-mail alerting you of the news. You can use Google
    Alerts to monitor anything on the web.

    For example, many insulation professionals use Google Alerts
    to perform the following:

    • Find out what is being said about
      their company

    • Monitor a developing news story

    • Keep up to date on a competitor
      or industry

    • Find out aboutnew industry

    • Monitor codes or pending legislation
      that affects the insulation industry

    In case you are worried that this feature has the potential
    to clog your inbox with e-mails, fear not. With Google Alerts, you can specify
    the frequency of e-mails to receive updates on a daily, weekly, or even monthly

Creating a Plan

you start to develop your social media strategy, devote some time and energy to
careful planning. Consider your target audience, determine your goals (brand
building, marketing products, strengthening customer relationships, etc.) and
evaluate the best social media tools to reach them. For instance, if your goal
is to stay informed of industry news, Google Alerts might be the right tool. If
you want to market your company’s products, Twitter might be a better forum. After
you have established your goals, determine the metrics you will use to evaluate
progress and how you will define success.

Once you have determined this part of your strategy,
designate a staff member (or members) to be responsible for implementing and maintaining
your social media platforms and invest in a social media training program for
those personnel. Choose staff members you trust to speak on your behalf, manage
your marketing and branding, and protect your company’s reputation.
Additionally, make sure that these staff members are knowledgeable of your
company’s policies and have the authority to address the customer complaints or
issues that might arise in these public forums. Your designated staff members
will be representing your company on a global scale; thus, it is important that
their communications are professional and their responses improve your brand,
rather than harm it. Think of your social media applications as a billboard
advertisement for your company on the highway. How would it look if your
company’s billboard contained a misspelling or grammatical mistake?

The next step is to make your social
media strategy a priority. Create a flexible calendar addressing the topics and
timeline of posts. Set reasonable and specific goals, e.g., write one Facebook
post each morning or week. A social media plan is not something you develop and
then forget about; it’s an ongoing effort. Overall, make sure your company
supports staff and allows them the time needed to learn about social media and
implement your plan successfully.

Social Media Management

You will probably choose
to use more than one social media website in your marketing strategy.
Fortunately, there are a few tools that are designed specifically to help you
manage your entire social media campaign from just one website. These
time-saving tools are a great help to a small marketing team. When selecting a
social media application, it’s important to select a program that includes all
or most of your social media websites so that you’re not just adding another
program to the list of websites you have to monitor.

  1. TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com)

    free website manages Twitter and Facebook accounts.

  2. Hootsuite (hootsuite.com)

    This social media
    management program allows you to manage your Facebook, Google+, Twitter,
    LinkedIn, Foursquare, Ping.fm, WordPress, My Space, and Mixi accounts all from
    one website.  It also allows you to add customized applications, such as
    YouTube, Flickr, and Tumblr. Hootsuite costs $5.95 a month for the basic level.

  3. Hubspot (www.hubspot.com)

    This social media
    management program is more extensive, as it offers a complete marketing system
    for small businesses. It includes website management, blogging tools, lead
    nurturing, e-mail marketing/automation, inbound marketing analytics and other
    tools. Free trials are available, but it costs $100 a year for the basic


One of the biggest perks
of the “digital age” is that marketing your company does not have to cost a
fortune. With a savvy and selective media strategy, you can utilize free (or
inexpensive) social media applications to brand your company; foster
relationships with current and potential clients; recruit talented personnel;
and keep tabs on new developments in your field, your competitors’ activities,
and your own reputation. Social media can serve as a reasonably inexpensive way
to expand your company’s marketing reach, in addition to your existing
traditional marketing strategies.