Sunday, June 28, 2009

Social Media PR 101

For many small businesses, marketing via social media is still a great unknown. I hear time and again: "I think I need to 'do' social media, but I'm just not sure..." This is usually followed, at some point by: "How do I know if a social media program is worth the cost?"

Understandable. Businesses want deliverables. Especially small businesses in this economy. They want to see a tangible return on investment. If you are one of those business, please read this article, as it is the best explanation I've seen on social media ROI. 

Also, I offer my own take... an uber-simplistic explanation of social media's power. Social media "PR" is a matter of dialogue and building relationships via give-and-take conversations on various social media. That said, imagine the vast universe of your potential clients and customers. Now imagine they are residents of a small town. Let's say you (clearly, an example for the women out there) just moved to this town, and that your favorite hairstylist is now 500 miles away. How do you find someone with whom you can entrust your tresses? Generally, you have three options:

  1. Look at ads in local publications. (Ahhh, there's a pretty ad, but clearly the salon wrote their own advertisement)
  2. Search for media coverage of salons in the area. (But where to look? And where do I find time to search?) 
  3. Ask for recommendation from your very stylish neighbors. 
Now, say each of the three examples above yield the names of different salons. Which would you be most likely to trust? 

Okay, back to your real self as a small business owner trying to reach that customer:
  • Option 1 is clearly the paid-ad route. It can be effective, but today's consumers are savvy enough to understand the bias in what they are reading. 
  • Option 2 is the traditional PR route, which can also pack ooomph (but, honestly, given the state of publishing today, not quite the power it used to have)
  • Option 3 is social media. People talking to other people about brands with which they feel a relationship or connection.
In sum, this scary new world of "social media" is really just a new-fangled, global approach that taps into what has long been the most effective way to grow your business: strong relationships and word of mouth. In today's global marketplace and Social Media age, consumers seek out recommendations in a cyber, rather than geographic, neighborhood. So, what is a social media PR strategy "worth"? Well, the answer can be found in whatever worth you've traditionally placed in fostering your strong reputation and positive word of mouth.

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