I received an inquiry recently from a company that was “looking to grow their social media audience to 5,000.” They weren’t interested in anything else. For some reason, the CEO had targeted that particular metric as an end in and of itself.
Could Altitude have put together a tactical plan to meet their goal of attaining 5,000 followers on their social platforms? Of course. Stacking the deck with new “likes” is relatively easy.
But then what? Social followers are notoriously transient. How will they engage them regularly and lead them relentlessly down that all-important conversion funnel?
Unless increasing your followers is just one part of a much broader integrated marketing strategy, it’s wasted energy, and may even backfire. Imagine inviting 5,000 people to a party—without deciding on a theme, choosing a date, locking down a location, planning the entertainment, hiring the caterer … you get the idea.
I believe in the power of social media. It’s an important tool in a long-term lead-generation strategy. But it’s just one tool — along with web, organic SEO, paid search advertising, advertising, email marketing, public relations, content generation, trade shows and more.
My point? Rare is the business that succeeds only by leveraging social media.
In order to gain acceptance (either by end consumers or investors), a company has to look the part: polished, professional and legitimate, with a clearly articulated value proposition. But far too often, emerging companies are focused on the day-to-day and the tactical rather than the strategic, which is a recipe for coming off as amateurish and without credibility.
The good news is, with some smart planning, small companies can level the playing field with more established competitors. There is a logical flow to the marketing madness if you step back far enough from short-term tactics.
1. The successful marketing of any business – global or local, B2B or B2C, for-profit or nonprofit – starts with a solid, strategic and professionally developed brand.
There are certain baselines when it comes to effective marketing regardless of your industry, product, service and location. If, at the top level your company does not have a brand that resonates, that evokes the feelings and actions you want prospects and customers to take, it’s uphill sledding all the way.
2. The brand must be supported by credible, well-articulated messaging that resonates effectively with each target demographic.
We call this the “What’s in it for me?” of your brand. It’s not your color scheme, your logo or your tagline. It’s your company positioning—how you want to be known in the market, and how you differentiate from competitors.
The prospect who wanted 5,000 social media followers spent more than 30 minutes trying to explain to me exactly what their software does. He couldn’t explain it in two sentences. After half an hour, I had a vague idea of the value proposition, but certainly not enough for me to make a buying decision. And if the leader of the company couldn’t explain his product, imagine what their current website read like to an outsider.
(For more info on developing your very own brand messaging toolkit, check out my blog post here on the topic.)
3. Brand messaging drives design—the “look and feel” that evokes emotion and inspires confidence and loyalty.
Positioning is how you want to be known in the marketplace. Messaging is the specific key words, statements and proof points that bring positioning to life. Too often, new companies focus primarily on the design aspect of their brand. This is premature. Form follows function. The verbal—positioning and messaging—must dictate the visual.
For example, if your desired position in the marketplace is to be seen as a premium brand, you need to look the part. Conversely, if you are selling based on price, you don’t want to be over-the-top with your look and feel because inevitably there will be disconnect for prospects.
4. The brand must be brought to life on a hard-working, best-practices website.
In today’s hyper-competitive, information-overloaded business environment, your website is your 24/7/365 virtual sales force. It brings your brand to life. It showcases what you do—and what you do better than the competition. It highlights benefits to prospects. It serves as the top of your lead generation sales funnel. Done right, it can even replace many traditional tactics.
For example, one of our clients no longer shows up at sales calls with a PowerPoint and printouts. Instead, he makes sure there’s an Internet connection and walks his prospects through the corporate website.
5. All marketing and promotional efforts, including a social media campaign to increase followers, must drive traffic to a clearly defined call to action (conversion).
Your website is the hub for your marketing activity, the central point of focus. Marketing efforts should emanate from and point to the website.
So even if our example company got “5,000 social media followers”—where will all of these people go next if they are remotely interested in whatever tweet, Facebook post, pin or LinkedIn update they see? What will they do when they get there? Will they understand what the company offers? And if they actually pick up the phone and call, is the person answering your general line going to be able to explain, crisply and succulently, what you do and why they should choose you over the competition?
So go get 5,000 followers. Then what are you going to do?