Monday, July 23, 2012

Your 10 Most Common Social Media Questions Answered

When I meet with small and medium size business owners to discuss with them their marketing objectives and offer actionable advice, I often come across lot of questions about social media. It could be because: it’s not very old, it’s evolving very fast (with new platforms coming up every day),  it’s important (everybody seems to be using it!), there are lot of success stories but it has to be done differently for every business (requires creativity) and there is confusion about ROI and so on.  

I agree that no two businesses are same, however, since I do discuss similar topics quite often, I thought of putting together the questions and the best practices I suggested.  If you are faced with similar issues/ questions, you will enjoy this read  :- )   

#1 Do I really need social media?
This is the MOST commonly asked question. Many businesses think that they don’t really need this new media. After all they are just doing fine without it so far. But then I ask them: aren’t you worried that you might miss on some new lead generation methods? You might miss on some very valuable customer connection and engagement opportunity? When brands worldwide – right from Fortune 500 to the small cafes around the corner are benefitting from it, aren’t you willing to give it a thought that there might be some merit in it?

Getting involved in social media allows you to be more engaged with your current and potential clients.  The word “transparency” was probably most clich├ęd word used to describe social media some 3-4 years ago, but it’s very true.  Social media allows companies to have a voice and to show the public that your company is willing to listen and gather unsolicited feedback.  Social media also allows your brand to provide that extra customer service option outside of the traditional email and phone media.

So while you need to definitely look into if your target audience is on social media or not, you should not reject is outright without giving it a thought.  

#2 Which is a better platform? Facebook or Twitter?
What would you answer if you are asked “Is T-Shirt more appropriate or a formal shirt?” Well, you would say “depends on the occasion” right? Now apply the same principle. Whether Facebook is better or Twitter clearly depends on your objective, purpose, your target market and your user group. Both the platforms have their own merits, purpose, usage guidelines and benefits. You need to understand your marketing and communication objective and then choose an appropriate platform. You need to also consider that people’s behavior on Twitter is different than on Facebook.  Twitter timeline moves faster than Facebook so you really need to post almost like real-time updates on Twitter. It provides the kind of immediacy. Whereas; on Facebook, you have better opportunity to have more in-depth conversation around a topic. Picture sharing is more appreciated on Facebook than Twitter.  So I would say that if at all you have to choose, apply a simple test: Choose a platform where your audience spends more time :-)

#3 Can I use LinkedIn for promotion of my business?
I would not recommend this. LinkedIn as a platform is for connecting with individuals, getting in touch with professionals and experts and interacting with them. Mostly I have observed people using LinkedIn groups to promote their business. This is strict NO. Discussion Groups, as the name itself says, are for discussions. Use them to discuss interesting topics, share point of views and learn. Don’t dilute the purpose by commenting with product promotions. Do it ONLY IF you truly believe that your product offers the value in line with the discussion which is going on.

#4 Does Google AdWords work better than Facebook ads?
Both the types of ads have shown great results for businesses. Fundamentally, although both work on the principles of Pay-Per-Click or Pay as Per Impressions, there is a slight difference. Google ads are more keyword driven. You choose the keywords for which you would like to show your ad, put a bid you are willing to pay and you are done. In Facebook, you can choose to show your ads based on interests like photography, reading, writing etc. Essentially you show your ads to people who you think would be ‘relate’ with your ads better.

Secondly, you need to remember that there is always intent on Google. When someone does a search on Google, he/she has come there with some intention (of either making a decision, making a purchase, research etc).  On Facebook, mostly people are for networking and connecting with friends. So the intent is not explicitly there.

Consider all these options when you take a call.

#5 Does Social Media work for B2B?
Absolutely - Just that you need to use it in a different way. With B2B, use social media to build thought leadership, gather reviews and opinions and educate people. Don’t make the mistake of using social media as any other marketing campaign. Focus on two-way dialogue with your audience rather than one-way messaging. Be patient and you are sure to go long way with this.

#6 How do I create a viral campaign?
Unfortunately there is no formula which can guarantee your campaign to go viral. Of course there are some common elements of a successful viral campaign. Here is one of my previous articles speaking about viral campaigns in detail.

#7 How to get more followers and fans?
You will find numerous articles describing how to increase your fans and followers. But the first thing you need to remember with social media is that it is better to have 10 engaged followers than 100 non-engaged ones. Yes, numbers do matter to create an impact, but do not compromise on quality for the sake of quantity.

Having said that, you can achieve numbers as well as quality with well thought out strategy and plan. Sharing useful and insightful content, initiating meaningful dialogues, making it easy to find you on social media and offering exclusive content on social media are some of the ways which can help you get more engaged fans and followers. In case of Facebook, you can run Facebook ads to drive audience to your page. Do remember to have a concrete execution plan in place to keep the audience engaged. Otherwise, you are sure to lose them in no time.

#8 How much will social media cost?
If I say social media does not cost of anything, I will be lying. Although most of the platforms are free, you do need to spend quality time for using those platforms effectively. So there is investment of time – which is not free :). There are paid options available like pay-per-click ads, promoted tweets etc, but you can very effectively use the platforms without spending money on those – just with your creativity.   Make sure to keep your audience interested in being connected with you, value their connection and offer them something worth their attachment with you, get them involved in your brand – emotionally as well as through some gestures like discounts, exclusive offers etc.

#9 Will I be able to measure the ROI?
Definitely yes! Don’t believe those who tell you that you cannot measure ROI on social media – they don’t know how to measure it. The ROI with social media can be both qualitative as well as quantitative. Here is one of my past articles on how to measure ROI with social media.

#10 How to handle negative comments on social media?
This is one question which is asked many times. There is a common misconception that social media opens a can of worms with lot of negative comments. But actually thinking, if at all there are negative sentiments, at least social media is offering you a platform to KNOW about those sentiments which you would have never known – but your customers and others would have definitely known. With such negative comments on social media, you are at least getting an opportunity to address those negative comments/ sentiments and regain the confidence of your customers, whom you would have probably completely lost. In this article, I have described a simple 3-step approach on handling negative comments on social media.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article. I have also co-authored a book ‘Are you Socially Shy? to help small and mid-size business owners get started with social media. This book describes getting started with 6 popular social media platforms in 8 hours. The platforms covered in this book are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, SlideShare and Blog.

Look forward to hearing your comments! 

Note: This article was originally published on at