Interviewer’s Note: Sometimes entrepreneurs start so small that they can’t afford much of a budget for marketing. Thankfully, social media scales to just about any budget, and John and Emily share stories here about New Era Social Marketing and how they adopted it to fit smaller businesses. Read on for ideas about how you can use some of their techniques and ideas for your own strategies.
Hello John and Emily; welcome to the Pluggio Blog! In a nutshell, how do you describe New Era Social Marketing?
We specialize in the use and implementation of social media and other online tools for overall marketing, advertising, and branding strategies. We feel like this describes our focused services while leaving the ‘how’ and ‘what’ open, since it’s an ever-changing industry!
What do you do for your clients?
We offer full monthly account management (this includes daily content creation, community building, customer service, reputation management, engagement – all that good stuff!) and consulting, which includes training and education not only for an internal staff member who will be managing the online accounts, but also other staff members – it’s important to have everyone on board with the strategy and aware of the daily efforts.
What do your clients learn about social media that surprises them?
I would have to say a couple things.
(1) Clients seem surprised when we let them know that there actually is a ‘right’ way to use social media platforms as marketing tools to meet their marketing and advertising goals. The strategy can change for each client, but there is a set of guidelines that, if followed daily, can allow them to see the results they want.
(2) The majority of business owners that we encounter aren’t actually tracking their advertising efforts – how much money is going out, how much is coming in from those campaigns, where they’re advertising at a given time, where their customers are coming from and whether or not it’s actually working to help them achieve their goals. Creating a tracking system is imperative to knowing whether your overall marketing and advertising efforts are working. Social media platforms provide great statistics and almost immediately visible results that really help business owners track what is working and what isn’t.
(3) Social media shouldn’t be relied upon as the one vehicle to advertise and market your business. We see social media companies bashing traditional advertising and marketing methods too often. It’s important to remember that all your marketing efforts have to work together, to support and compliment each other, in order to result in an effective marketing campaign. Knowing where your target audience is receiving their information is very important! Yes, the older generations are becoming very active on social media – but will they click on your Facebook Ad and follow through with your call for action? Are they more likely to clip the coupon from the weekly circular and follow through with whatever call to action is listed there? Blending traditional and new media efforts for marketing results in a well-round, multiple-touch-point strategy for a business.
I see you do your work on several platforms- Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, etc. Are there certain businesses better suited for certain platforms?
Definitely. Especially if a business is just starting out with using social media. There’s no reason to feel like you have to be a mile wide and an inch thick with your social presence. For example, starting out with just Facebook can help you build a solid community and presence, get familiar with the online social world and how it can be used for marketing, and make adding other platforms that much easier when you’re ready to do so. I don’t think every social media platform is right for every business. Pinterest is not for everyone! Positioning ones self as a social marketing specialist means digging in and researching details like the presence of similar companies, keywords, etc. in order to make the best recommendations for the client.
Do clients ever have unrealistic expectations of what they’ll get from social media? If so, what common misconceptions are out there?
I have to begin by saying that one of our original business goals was to set realistic expectations for clients. There is so much, “wait and see if this works” that comes naturally in the marketing industry, and we wanted to minimize that as much as possible. Before a client signs on with us, we outline expectations both verbally and in writing, discuss their goals thoroughly and have additional discussions on the timeline of services and what they can expect when all the puzzle pieces work together. We have a list of FAQ’s that we’re adding to constantly and try to anticipate questions from clients as much as possibly. We ask for a specific minimum amount of time to get a client’s social presence kick started and working for them. The time frame comes from ongoing research that we do internally that helps us determine when social efforts actually start getting off the ground and when different clients start seeing results.
I think a major misconception is that a business is going to open a Facebook Page and users are going to be naturally drawn in, like moths to a flame. When you’re working with small businesses, its important to say, out loud and often, that they should not expect to have a page like Coca Cola. Engaging the business owner in their own efforts is just as important as engaging the fans. I truly believe that if a business owner isn’t behind the social effort 100%, it won’t be successful long term for the business.
Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of?
We were excited to be approached by a local Colorado Springs nonprofit that specializes in social and emotional learning last year. Their goal was to receive a coveted $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant. This goal was huge and very specific, but we got to work right away. To build excitement around their brand and their goal, we developed a very specific timeline for services and engaged members of their staff and team right away. We implemented monthly services via Facebook and Twitter to build momentum, created ongoing online ad campaigns, and really punched everything up as voting began.
We constantly monitored the ad campaign, changed out keywords, and figured out which demographics were giving them the results they asked for. We worked with their team until midnight on the evening that voting closed, pushing and engaging right up until the end time.
We couldn’t be happier that they WON!
I think that if they wouldn’t have engaged as a staff and engaged their own support systems and networks to get on board with their social efforts, it wouldn’t have felt like as much as a team victory. We were able to provide them with consulting and training so that they could manage their own efforts as they grew. I feel like this is an accomplishment in itself: helping a client get to where they want to be, and then trusting them to carry the efforts forward themselves.
How did you build your following? What kinds of people/businesses are they?
We place an equal amount of importance on both our online and off-line following and network. John worked for years in for-profit marketing and advertising and my experience comes from nonprofit development. We saw the need for social marketing services for small businesses and nonprofits that couldn’t afford high prices of big ad companies who had started to offer monthly social media management. The services were also very cookie-cutter and automated, which just isn’t effective. When we decided to strike out on our own, many of the business connections we previously made approached us for services. We also offered trainings for the local Chamber and Better Business Bureau.
So what about the online side of things?
For the online following, we share a lot of educational information about the world of social marketing, but we also share a lot of personal information: adventures we’re having, places we’re visiting, businesses we’re connecting with. We follow the same set of rules that we encourage our clients to embrace and follow, and I think this has made a huge difference in whether we’re viewed as professionals in the industry and in building trust with business owners. Being present is also important – answering tweets, emails, engaging with Facebook comments and questions, etc. People have come to know that we’re here for them, that we don’t keep secrets (our trade has no secrets!) and are willing to share information, that we’re willing to collaborate with fellow social marketers and that we’re a trusted source of accurate information. We have different follower demographics across the different social platforms. Facebook includes many of our clients and students who are interested in the field of marketing, as well as friends, family members, and former colleagues – people who are excited for us and interested in what we’re doing. Twitter allows us to connect with many more like-minded social marketers from around the world. We’ve also seen an increase in college students who are studying fields where social media plays an important role, like journalism. We love answering and asking questions and finding out about the social atmosphere
How will you choose who you will follow? What do you look for in a follower?
We try to be polite and follow back when someone follows us. But we can be picky, too! I think your online social network can be a reflection of you and your business, in some ways. I love Twitter’s fast pace and get so many great content sharing opportunities out of it. I like how Facebook allows business owners to really nurture relationships and develop a close community of brand advocates. I believe the demographics and the number of followers is specific to the social platform.
If you could go back to when you personally first began using social media, what is one thing you would have done differently?
John: I would have been more selective of the information I shared on my personal profile! Although, when we first signed up for Facebook, it had just started and you needed a university email to sign up. Little did we know just how drastically Facebook alone would change how we shared information! (And how much we need to consider before sharing!)
Emily: I would have further explored the ways it could be used outside of just sharing our party photos! I started using Facebook to recruit students for studies as a psych undergraduate, but didn’t dig in any deeper than that. Although the sites started with limited capabilities, they improved quickly. I like that social sites present an opportunity to make our worlds feel a little less overwhelming, knowing that someone else who can relate to us is only a tweet away.
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