Well, here's the thing: your customers probably are on social media. Can any B2B company make the case that its target audience isn't on LinkedIn? Are there B2C companies without potential customers on Facebook? I guess it's possible, but it certainly won't stay that way for long. 79% of US adults use social media (if you were tuning into our webinar with Facebook today, you would have heard that very stat)! And eMarketer predicts there will be 1.43 billion worldwide social media users in 2012. Wow.
But this blog post isn't an attempt to convince you that your future customers are using social media. It's an attempt to convince you that there are many other reasons why social media is a crucial component of a well-rounded inbound marketing strategy -- and they have nothing to do with "engaging" with your target audience.
So let's pretend that your customers aren't on social media, or that you work for someone who thinks they aren't and, as such, doesn't see the point in investing in a social media marketing program. We all know how hard it is to convince non-believers of the importance of social media, so this post will serve as your guide for having that conversation. Here's how you can make the case for social media marketing to your boss -- even if he or she doesn't believe your target audience is using social media!
1) Social Media Activity Impacts Your Organic Search Presence
If you're investing in content creation, it would be a shame not to get it any visibility in organic search. Social media plays a bigger role in the visibility of web pages in search engines every day. In fact, Google even started to incorporate Google+ status updates into its search engine results; we've even written an entire blog post about how to use Google+ to gain better visibility in search engines!
Turns out, search engines take cues from social media activities -- like when someone shares content from your website on Twitter, for example -- to determine the relevancy and authority of your site. So the more people that "vote" for your content on social media, the better your search engine visibility becomes. Give them the chance to vote for it by publishing blog posts, ebooks, buying guides, case studies, testimonials, and other interesting content to your social media accounts, and reap the benefits of better search engine rankings as a result.
2) You'll Have More Control Over Your Online Image
Speaking of search engine rankings, maintaining an active social media presence for your brand lets you dominate the SERPs in another way, and to meet another end -- a better reputation (or at least the appearance of one). Let's say someone hears about your company and is curious about who you are; what you're like; and whether you're generally "good people." If someone conducted a Google search on you right now, what would come up? Here's what comes up for HubSpot, for example:
Notice all those orange call-outs? Those are some of HubSpot's social media accounts, and they appear in the top 10 results for a HubSpot query. That's because these sites have a lot of clout with search engines, and the results are typically relevant for someone trying to learn more about a company or brand name. That also means, however, that a big review site like Yelp! (have you ever performed a search for a restaurant, for example?) is very likely to come up as another relevant, high authority site. In fact, Socialnomics reports that 25% of big brands' search results return content from things like review sites and blogs.
Wouldn't you rather leverage the power of big social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. that you manage over third-party review sites over which you have little control? Plus, the appearance of your social media accounts will only give interested searchers access to more of your great content!
3) User-Generated Content is More Critical Than Ever Before
Which brings us to user-generated content. According to eMarketer, 65% of users ages 18-24 consulted the information they found about brands on social networks when making a purchasing decision, and a whopping 2/3 of consumers use search engines when researching a purchasing decision according to eConsultancy. Sounds like there's a good chance your audience is part of one of those groups. Social media is a great way to get that user-generated content you need out on social networks and in search engines to an audience who clearly cares about it.
4) You'll Gain Industry Clout
Okay, let's say your customers really aren't part of the 2/3 of consumers that care about what they read about you in search engines, and they're not part of the 65% of millennials who care about your social media presence. There are still your colleagues, thought leaders, conference organizers, future employees, potential business partners, journalists, and marketing & PR professionals using social media on a daily basis. These power players expect to not only find you, but also learn from and communicate with you using social media. And frankly, you should expect the same from them!
Use social media to make connections that could help your business, learn from people, get selected for speaking opportunities, find sponsors for your events, etc. Your activity in social media will give you the clout and visibility you need to get identified and selected for important opportunities -- especially if your competitors haven't jumped on the social media bandwagon yet.
5) Other Companies' Customers Are on Social Media
Speaking of identifying new opportunities ... other companies' customers are on social media. Could any of those business' product or service offerings overlap with yours? Or perhaps their audience opens up another part of the market you haven't tapped yet. It would certainly behoove you to get visibility with these companies and their networks on social media. Share their content, build relationships by interacting with them, create great content that speaks to these companies and their audiences -- this will get you exposure to a whole new audience that could yield new partnerships, gain you referral business, and open up a new audience to whom you could sell!
For example, let's pretend HubSpot's audience isn't on social media (hah). But there are a ton of marketing agencies who have clients who would benefit from some marketing software! If we are active on social media and engaging with those marketing agencies -- sharing their content, publishing content they would like to share with their audience, and having conversations with their fans and followers -- we could build a mutually beneficial relationship with the agencies, get more referral business, and tap into a whole new audience at the same time.
6) Social Media Helps Expand Your Overall Reach
The agency instance we just described above is also an example of using social media to expand your overall reach. Let's break down the importance of reach for your business in more detail, though, and explain how social media helps you achieve it.
Reach is the concept that all of your fans and followers have their own fans and followers. So if one of your Twitter followers has 100 followers, shares one of your tweets with a link to your blog post in it with her 100 followers, the reach of that tweet and blog post has expanded to those 100 people -- many of who don't know you yet. So even if that one Twitter follower of yours isn't part of your target audience, there's a chance one of the 100 people she shared your content with are.
There's another benefit to having wide social media reach. Remember in the beginning of this post when we talked about how important social media was for your organic search presence? That's exactly why you need a ton of social reach; even if your social media followers never convert into customers, they can still share your content and amplify how many other people see that content -- an indicator to search engines that you're important enough to rank in the top of the SERPs.
This is why we at HubSpot encourage employees to be active on social media -- it helps us expand our reach! Because we celebrate employees using social media, more of them tweet out our content (like this blog post, for example!) and thousands of people that aren't HubSpot's fans and followers yet get access to our content. In this way, every single employee of yours has the potential to bring their own book of business -- even if they're not in sales or marketing.
7) It May Cost Less to Generate Customers on Social Media
One way you should be measuring the effectiveness of your marketing is based on the cost to acquire leads and customers, and how much those leads and customer are worth to your business. While this may not be the case for every business, the following scenario is an important one to consider.
Let's say your social media investment only generates 1 new customer per month. Take some time to look at the cost associated with generating that one new customer compared to other marketing channels. Your cost of customer acquisition (COCA) for email marketing, for example, may be much higher than your COCA for social media -- email marketing might require expensive software, more staff to manage it, and content creation man hours while your social media marketing program could be executable with no software investment and just a couple dedicated man hours per week.
Email marketing may generate more customers than social media marketing; you need to solve for both volume and efficiency, so both would still be crucial components of your marketing strategy. But this is why social media often gets a bad rap. Marketers often focus on fluffy engagement metrics like comments and likes, and neglect to consider the end goal of all of their marketing efforts -- customer acquisition.
8) Social Media Amplifies the Effectiveness of Your Other Marketing Efforts
Even if you don't rely on social media solely to generate leads and customers, using it will help your other marketing initiatives be more effective. In fact, social media helps just about everything: organic search, email marketing, blogging, even online and offline events. For example, you can add social sharing buttons to your emails and blog posts to encourage content sharing and expand your reach. Or you could use social media to generate buzz for an in-person event -- it's common for live events (and webinars, too!) to make use of a hashtag to encourage participation and get more people talking about your company and your content.
We've written an entire post about how to integrate your marketing if you're interested in learning more about the tactics, but it's no coincidence that social media makes quite a few appearances on that list.
9) By the Time You're Ready, It Might Be Too Late
Okay, maybe you're not ready to use social media today. But it would be short-sighted to think your audience will never be on social media (see Sarah Palin's predicament to the right), or that you won't want to use it more actively in the future. That's why it's a good idea to secure your social media account names now, and have enough activity on those accounts so that emerging businesses with the same name can't petition the social networks to take over your name. Or worse -- claim the name before you had the chance to grab it.
10) Your "Irrelevant" Social Media Audience Could Turn Into Your Target Audience
People change, man. The audience you build on social media will go through several career changes, industry shifts, acquire new hobbies, make new friends, change religions or political leanings, have children, get divorced, retire ... you get the point.
Alternately, you could change. Your business may expand product and service offerings, identify an opportunity in an emerging industry, or maybe you're just so good at your job that you nurture your social media leads into wanting your product or service.
In any event, if even one of these changes takes place, wouldn't it be great to already have your social media audience built instead of starting from scratch? If baking soda was invented in 2012, Arm & Hammer would be glad to have a social media following beyond just bakers, as people have discovered that it can be used for many other applications -- from science experiments, to personal hygiene, to cleaning, and more.
Why do you think it's important to be on social media, regardless of how much of your target audience is?
Image credit: Elsie esq.