Marketing and Social Media at SWaMFest 2011

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be a part of SWaMFest 2011 as a speaker.  My topic was Marketing and Social Media.  I partnered with Dan Herbert from Vectec, Inc. where he spoke about social media statistics and provided a high level overview of Social Media as a whole.  With him laying the foundation of knowledge, I was able to help our attendees to better understand how they can make informed choices on what social media vehicles would be best to use for their company.

Before I share with you the details of my presentation; I want to first say that I had the best time.  It is never easy to get in front of 150 total attendees and talk about something that you really have no idea if it will "sink in".  The attendees/vendors that attended SWaMFest were fantastic!  There were two sessions, morning and afternoon, and even after a huge breakfast and lunch, they were all alert and willing to participate.  So thank you to all that shared and made presenting so much more enjoyable. Now into the details of my presentation.  As I mentioned before I was the second half of this presentation so I am going to start from there.  For those of you who want to see the presentation, here you go.

Social Media can be a marketing tool.  In 2011, soon to be 2012, you cannot rely on just standard advertising and hitting the pavement. The reason why is because times have changed and your clients are not gaining their information from places like the phone book anymore.  They are jumping on their computers and starting to search on either the product or services you offer.  We had an eclectic group of attendees when it came to technical and social media knowledge.  Some companies did not even have a web site, WOW right?  Well, sometimes it is not a matter of not wanting one but not knowing how to get started.  So I wanted to have everyone walk away with at least one to two pieces of information that would get them started in the right direction when it came to social media and their businesses.

Of course this is my assessment and opinion which is based on what I have seen and experienced personally.  As a business owner I only have 24 hours in day but have 30 hours worth of work/tasking.  How can I add something else to my plate?  Well the answer is that you prioritize like you do with the rest of your tasks and ideally, what you add to your plate for Social Media is adding benefit so you can potentially trim in other areas.  Well, that is easier said then done. Right?  So one of my points was to be selective, don't just go after something new and sexy, choose wisely and choose only 1 social media vehicle at a time, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging, etc.  And also look at your business, are you a service based business or a product based business?  The right solution may be different. The key is to try to reach as many people as possible so that it increases your visibility and brand awareness. 

At the beginning of the presentation, Dan provided some stellar statistics on various social media sites; Facebook (over 700 M users), LinkedIn (new member joins every second), and YouTube (second largest search engine).  So I focused on how each of these could benefit a business.  In addition, we talked extensively on blogging and the pros and cons. What it came down to is the a service based business would leverage social media differently than a product based business.  Services get majority of their business based on their reputation and credibility.  Therefore blogging would help them build their credibility, as long as their were adding insightful information specific to their business.  But something to be aware of is that blogging does take time.  (This blog post alone has taken me almost most of the entire day to complete because as a business owner I am interrupted a lot and already have a full days calendar.)  So in order for it not to be too much of a burden, it is important to focus on topics that really would set you apart.  Also reviewing other blogs or community forums and adding insightful comments, while referencing back to your website, is a good way to also build that credibility.  Another option for services is to consume external but pertinent RSS feeds.  The business should select a handful of sources that have RSS feeds and define keywords that can be used to pull in specific records on those specific feeds.  The end goal is to create additional content on your site that is still relevant to your business, therefore helping your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Product based businesses can benefit from social media outlets by focusing on how can you touch more potential customers?  I recommend having an online catalog/ecommerce site that has product ratings, reviews and the ability to send an email to a friend on the specific product.  Most consumers search for reviews and ratings on specific products.  Why not be found just because your product had reviews on it?  Now you are one click away from a sale because now it is right in front of the potential customer. 

Other things to consider is leveraging a popular social network like Facebook. Facebook users are quite amazing.  On average Facebook users check their accounts multiple times a day and frequency of activity is directly proportionate to the number of  "Friends" that user has.  So the more they go on Facebook the more friends/connections they have.  Facebook has this great "widget" called the Like Button.  For products it can be a "review" that is immediately pushed to hundreds/thousands of people as soon as that Facebook user clicks on the Like!  A review like that and the ability to have it immediately viewed by hundreds of people is a sales person's dream! So to wrap this up, make sure you are checking your analytics to ensure that what you are doing is working. If not, it is time to make a change. That goes for any part of your site, not just social media.  Be selective in what you dive into and bite only off what you can chew.  If you are not able to maintain it, it is worse then if you didn't implement it. 

Finally, pick solutions that can give you bigger bang with less effort, like consuming the external RSS feeds. (NOTE:  These have to be relevant to your business to be helpful in the long term.) Thank you again to everyone who attended. I was so happy to receive so much great feedback from many of you after the session.  I am glad I was able to share my knowledge, thoughts and opinions about  social media.  I felt like my goal of everyone taking away something was met after talking to many of you.