The focus of social media in 2014 will be to become more integrated into essential business activities. With the IPO’s of the largest social media channels coming and going, they will continue to find new ways to monetize, which means additional ways for small businesses to reach out to their customer base.
Social Media as a Sales Tool
Social Media has always been looked at as a sales tool, however there are three key advances in the last 12 months that are causing social media to get a much harder look for increased spending by CMO’s.
The first is the integration into enterprise level CRM’s for use directly with sales agents. CRM’s are now coming equipped with social (mostly LinkedIn) integration showing the connection to the leads. Also with one click, seeing the browsing history and allowing you to send them a message in an informal way through a site like LinkedIn. It is also more affordable using cloud solutions to small businesses than they were in the past. This level of integration however, pushed social media deeper into the business processes and forces the marketing and sales departments to become closer to a cooperative unit.
Second is that these networks are working for the shareholder now and not the end-user. Sure they will say that they are only worried about the users (Zuckerberg), but the fact remains that if they are not keeping shareholders happy they will fade away. Companies that large need money; they have to monetize. No more Twitter founders saying they do not care about monetizing users. Twitter for example, has greatly increased their sponsored tweets and is integrating re-marketing into their platform ad programs. This by default, will allow more advertising opportunities for small business owners.
Third, with these additional lanes of digital advertising, pay-per-click advertising (PPC), the cost-per-click (CPC) has been driven down to a point where you can use growth hacking tactics to optimize your customer acquisition costs lower than ever. With big data being neatly organized in new platforms at much lower costs than in the past, there is no way possible to get a better customer acquisition cost than there is using social media PPC and growth hacking tweaks over a 6 month period, outside of maybe free PR from local media outlets.
Social Media for SEO
Google+ (G+) launched a social network. They now own 2 of the top 3 social networks. They have integrated this network into their search and video social platforms to a point where it cannot be ignored. Like when Google said running PPC would not affect your ranking, (our research showed otherwise) they say that all social media activity affects Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but not Google+ any more than the others. However, many experts have seen dramatic increases when they started engaging publicly on G+, not posting on G+, but actually engaging as in +1’ing, sharing and commenting on G+ updates.
Google is right though, that good social indicators do help SEO and that is all the more reason to have a solid social media plan when you are working on your overall marketing. As a matter of fact, research done at the end of 2013 shows that over 90% of marketing professionals are planning to increase spending on digital advertising in 2014, with 40% planning to significantly increase it.
Video has always been huge, but engagement rates are through the roof since Facebook started auto playing videos embedded in the newsfeeds. With the increase in promoted posts directly in the newsfeed you can use a good PPC campaign and a compelling offer through video to get massive results for your product or service.
Ensure that the video is professionally done. This is a very key point. Unprofessional video will actually cause a negative effect. However unprofessional does not mean high budget. Hand-held cellphone videos will work as long as the audio is clear and the message is upbeat. Like the singing of your only child, you might think your videos are amazing. Get feedback from others just to be sure (Make sure they are honest with you!).
Do not forget about the Fringe
Not everyone can be in the top 5 social media platforms, however it does not mean that it isn’t a viable way to market your business. I call these networks the fringe networks. They get a good amount of traffic, and if the user base fits your demographic, it can be very lucrative.
With Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook (and the increased awareness of the bottom line that being owned by a public company brings), they are working on ways to bring ads to the stream, which will include video and still images. The word is that these ads are VERY effective, even though the comments might suggest otherwise.
Soundcloud, a music sharing site for independent artists is actually #4 on the list of platforms, but is a very good place to market your business, if it fits the demographic. If your customers are in their teens or early 20’s, you can hit your demographic very effectively using this platform. Since they are audio ads, they will stand out like a sore thumb. Pandora is also a great ad platform. They allow highly targeted ads based on listening preferences and location, which can be perfect for your business.
We cannot forget about social platforms from other countries, most of these platforms were monetized from the beginning and their users are accustomed to seeing ads so it is not a negative to the advertiser. In most cases, the rates are super cheap and they are far less strict than our US based platforms are. Conversions on these sites are much lower if you are selling a tangible product, but if it is digital or a service, you can do really well in this area.