Misinformation & social media: Determining best practices

More mid-sized firms are recognizing the need to leverage social media for marketing

Smart phone
VBJ File

Social media is an important part of any marketing campaign. After all, the majority of internet users now spend most of their time online browsing their favorite social media platform. People share news, information and reviews. It’s another form of word-of-mouth marketing.

As a result of the way consumers spend their time online these days, leveraging social media for your business is more crucial than ever. But with so much information – and misinformation – about how to properly create a successful digital media strategy, where does one begin? To properly answer that question, we must first understand the environment.

Vancouver’s Fringe Digital Marketing Agency notes that 72 percent of internet users are active on social media; 46 percent of all people look to social media before making a purchasing decision.

It should also be noted that desktop computers and laptops no longer drive social media’s popularity and influence. According to a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of U. S. adults now own a smartphone (92 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds, 88 percent of 30 to 49-year-olds, and 74 percent of 50-64-year-olds). In 2014, ExpressPigeon, an email marketing services company, found more than 50 percent of smartphone users check their phones immediately after waking up.

We’re a society tethered to social media through our electronic devices, and many believe those numbers will only increase as young people enter the marketplace. That’s why experts say implementing a sound social media strategy is crucial in today’s business world.

Susan Gunelius, CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc, a marketing communications company, and author of 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, writes that in regard to using social media marketing to build your business, the worst action to take is no action. Additionally, she believes your biggest problem is being invisible, and not being talked about negatively.

Not being seen isn’t a huge problem for large-sized businesses, said Laura Bakken, CEO and co-founder of Vancouver-based Flowerpot Media, because most large firms already have an active presence on social media. However, an opportunity clearly exists for mid- and small-sized businesses, she said.

“The biggest growth area is with mid-sized businesses that are trying to play catch-up with their social media strategy,” said Bakken. “They are recognizing the clear need to leverage social [media] for both marketing and strategic communications.”

Bakken often hears the following statements from businesspeople who have just “dipped their toe” into social media: “it doesn’t work for me” or “it doesn’t work to get new customers.” She said this is because they don’t follow best practices and strategies, and they often don’t know what to target.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to social media and business,” she added.

When asked about the most prevalent forms of misinformation and/or confusion involving social media marketing, Bakken and Arthur Lapies, Flowerpot Media co-founder and chief data scientist, shared the following observations:

1. Underestimating the effort

When businesses decide to get involved with social media marketing, the folks at Flowerpot Media say companies often underestimate the amount of effort that’s needed. Either they quickly throw together a profile or do the exact opposite – push too much toward a social media channel that’s not aligned to their demographic.

2. Lacking expertise

Businesses often don’t know how much expertise is needed to create a social media presence or how challenging it can be. They may end up spending three or four hours a day on content without getting results.

When expertise is lacking, Bakken said many businesses will find that hiring an expert is worthwhile. Adding an in-house media person may also be beneficial, as long as they have knowledge, experience and know exactly who to target.

3. Defined objectives

Too often Bakken and Lapies have witnessed a divorce between social media strategy and a particular business’ objectives.

“When it comes to business objectives,” Lapies said, “look at the analytics and metrics. Set a specific goal and the reason for that goal is ‘X.’”

Bakken explained that the tool and strategy that is right for your business depends on who the customer is and what platforms they use.

4. Responsiveness

Once a business activates a social media tool, many wrongly assume that posting intermittently will be sufficient. What many firms don’t realize is that they have to be consistent and responsive. Businesses should not only use social media to respond to clients, but to respond quickly.

“It’s about retention or acquisition of customers and brand loyalty,” said Lapies. “By responding, the business prevents issues from becoming a nightmare. It takes the discussion out of the public eye to address customers’ complaints. If clients and potential customers see that a business responds to the customer, then customers are more willing to go to them.”

Building a social marketing plan

In order to build momentum, experts say your social media marketing plan should support your real business objectives like customer acquisitions and customer loyalty, and integrate with your offline marketing – a holistic approach.

Here’s a road map:

  • Determine your goals
  • Decide who will create great content for you and maintain a dynamic exchange and engage customers
  • Know who your audience is, which social media services they use, and when they use it
  • Outline a strategy for each social medial platform and integrate that strategy with your traditional marketing plan
  • Give readers something of value, something they can benefit from, learn from – don’t just self-promote
  • Once your plan is activated, be consistent and responsive
  • Determine which metrics to focus on as a measure of your progress. Such data provides valuable feedback and information for your marketing decisions