Despite the plethora of studies, statistics and reports showing that an effective social media campaign has a positive impact on building a brand, many businesspeople (including marketing professionals) remain in a foggy “I know I should be using social media, but I’m not sure how or why” state. According to one report by Social Media Examiner, 85 percent of marketers who use social media aren’t clear on which social media tools would work best for their business.
To see the big picture of how social media can specifically help you, consider these five impacts a social media campaign can have on your personal or business brand.
1. Enhanced brand recognition and thought leadership. It’s simple math: The more frequently you show up on social media, the greater your brand exposure and the more recognizable (and credible) your company, personal brand, product and business become.
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For example, let’s say you want to get more gigs as a speaker for your industry’s top events and conferences. Today, most meeting planners start their search on Google. If you come up -- not once, but dozens of times -- as an expert, you’re more likely to be seen as a thought leader and invited to speak. You can’t buy that type of publicity. Well, actually you can, but it’s expensive. It’s much better to get it for free through the smart use of social media.
2. Increased trust through leveraged credibility. Let’s say a major influencer in your industry retweets you, links to a blog post you’ve written or interviews you for an article on their website. What does this say about your brand to their audience -- and yours? Fundamentally it’s a thumbs-up that proclaims “We have enough trust in your expertise to put our brand behind yours.” That’s leveraged credibility, and it helps create the kind of trust necessary for brand success. A 2009 study from Mext Consulting showed that if consumers trust a brand:
- 83 percent will recommend it.
- 82 percent will use its products and services frequently.
- 78 percent will look to it first for the thing they want.
- 50 percent will pay more for its products and services.
3. Competitive advantage in cold conversions. The third social media marketing bottom line for your business or brand is a competitive advantage in converting visitors who come to you cold via internet search (as opposed to through referral or personal contact) into members of your tribe. Let’s say a potential customer has narrowed the field down to you and one other competitor. If you have an active (and quality) social media presence (be it with a blog, Pinterest, LinkedIn or another channel), and your competitor has a weak social media presence, which brand do you think is going to catch their attention? And the answer is ... the one with the more engaging social media.
While this might not be the only criterion that will factor into their choice, we know social media does influence customers’ decision making. A 2015 report -- “Navigating the New Digital Divide” -- from Deloitte noted that customers who use social media to shop before or during a visit to a store are 29 percent more likely to make a purchase that same day. A 2011 study from the ODM Group showed that 74 percent of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchasing decisions.
4. Greater percentage of referrals closed. A decade ago, if you were looking for a consultant in change management to facilitate your annual off-site retreat, you’d call up a few of your colleagues and ask for some recommendations.
Next, with your list in hand, you’d call (most likely from your land line) each of the candidates, interview them and ask to be sent (through the mail) some marketing materials. After perusing their various promotional pamphlets, you’d narrow it down to a few finalists and ask them to come in for a second interview. Then you’d make your decision and contract someone to do the job.
Today, if you’re looking for a consultant in change management to facilitate your annual off-site retreat, you search the keywords “change management consultant,” and more than 26 million results pop up. You can eliminate about half the results on the first few pages because you can tell at a glance they don’t match what you’re looking for (job postings, Wikipedia entries, white papers etc.) and are left with six to 10 others that seem to fit the bill.
Next, you click through to each potential provider and, if you’re a typical user according to the Nielsen Norman Group, you spend less than a minute on each site -- 59 seconds, to be precise. A few consultants make the case within that time frame for why you should stay longer, by impressing you with their:
- Obvious expertise
- Social proof
- Overall credibility
- Clear brand visuals and messages
- Content that shows competency
- Easy user navigation
Having identified one to three consultants who look promising, for each of these, you might look at their LinkedIn profile, check out their Twitter feed, view one of their videos on YouTube or listen to their podcast, read a couple of their blog posts or skim through an Ebook, and, just for good measure, search their names. Satisfied that they’re serious players in the field, you fill out the contact form on their website.
You get a response back and, via TimeTrade, vCita or other online scheduling software, you arrange a time to talk by phone. At the top of the call, they begin telling you about who they are and what they do. Politely, you stop them, saying, “There’s no need to cover all that. I’ve already searched you and been to your website. What I need to know is this: Do you have experience facilitating these types of off-sites with some of the participants joining remotely from China?”
You repeat this process with all the finalists, make your decision and contact your choice. They send you an electronic contract to sign and you send them a deposit on PayPal.
The moral of this story is that the nature of referral marketing has changed dramatically, and like it or not, social media has become a factor. Even when someone you know refers a potential client to you, they’re likely to begin the evaluation process online. Once you’ve passed that hurdle, then and only then will they feel comfortable enough to reach out and begin a dialogue.
5. More cash and customers. Finally, while social media is by no means a total solution to increasing your sales, it can’t hurt. In fact, research from social sales expert Jim Keenan showed that in 2012, nearly 79 percent of salespeople who used social media in their selling process had better results than their counterparts who weren’t using it.
The takeaway here is that social media can act both as a flag to alert potential clients to your brand and as a funnel to flow those same people into your website, where it then becomes your job to convert them.