Part 2: Simple Social Media Tools

It is tempting to jump right into the social media tools. They seem a lot more fun than developing marketing plans or doing traditional, boring customer research. The shiny, new Google+ app, slick LinkedIn group, a growing number of Twitter followers are a mysterious and addicting part of modern marketing. As explained in the last post, social media does not replace good sales and marketing practices, it supplements them. Back in the 1980s and 90s, good direct mail campaigns, a few magazine ads, trade shows, and a crack sales team were all that was needed for success. Where else would customers get information except by circling numbers on the “bingo cards” in the back of magazines? Today, the savvy customer already knows where your product fits in your marketplace. If not, they can join a specialized group on LinkedIn and ask the market directly, or worse, your competitors will jump in and answer! Here is an example of the Institute of Acoustics group. A member asked “Anybody have any experience with the Svantek sound levels meters? If so, do you like them? If not, why not?” The answers were all over the board. Some people didn’t like them. And one comment said “Plus, they look like the rubber bricks that kids use in swimming lessons in the UK at least to retrieve off the bottom of swimming pools!” Others just named their favorite meter. Is this the “unbiased” information you want your potential customers receiving?

In niche technology markets, you cannot just Google “Svantek reviews.” The search returns nonsensical information. This is why it is so crucial to have a social media presence as part of your marketing strategy. If you have no marketing department to speak of or if you are part of a larger, international company not based in the US, you might not have the local resources to create blog posts, webinars, podcasts, or videocasts, but you must have some traditional marketing materials such as datasheets, a website of some sort, demo guides, demo equipment, sales training notes, etc. So part of this series will also focus on repurposing these existing materials and integrating them with simple social media tools. Again, bear with me a little longer, the tools are coming, but the tools will not be of any use without a reliable source of interesting and useful content.

Part 1: Simple Social Media Tools

I almost hate to start another multipart post after the last epic series, but social media has my attention these days. Everybody has become a marketer! Companies that have no business being “social” have become social and many niche technology companies who should be a little social are definitely anti-social. A recent Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dov-seidman/are-you-a-social-media-na_b_3351946.html) titled “Are You a Social Media Narcissist?” made some great observations for individuals that companies should also keep in mind.

First, let me state that I am not a social media expert, I am an electrical engineer by training, a profession sometimes considered the opposite of social, but after over 15 years managing sales and marketing groups, I have picked up a few social skills. Along the way, it became clear how afraid niche tech companies were of “conversation.” Sure, a press release here, a seminar series there, then webinars, then a website redesign or two with white papers, but rarely a conversation. The Huffington Post article above summarized some of the reasons well: it’s exhausting, transparent, and not controllable. However, if social media is used creatively as part of a multi-faceted strategy, it can help improve your visibility, stature, and success in your market area.

This series will be about simple social media tools, but context is important. Social media does not replace the basics of good sales and marketing. The needs of key accounts should still be met by appropriate “personal” interactions such as face to face meetings, teleconferences, etc.. Larger groups of customers with similar interests can be addressed through webinars. A good website with a webstore can reach prospective new accounts and streamline certain types of purchases. Seminars and users’ group meetings can also play an important role in developing a community. You get the idea. So social media is a bit of a different beast allowing a third type of interaction, customer to customer. This may be a frightening thought to some companies, but the payoffs can be significant. The next part of this series will begin to introduce a few tools that will help you start this process in a safe, low risk environment.