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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wondering About Social Media For Your Business? Meet Social Smidge

Visit the Socialsmidge website
Most businesses and organizations today are grappling with how to be competitive in the online world.  Much of the advice from others seems to be "you gotta have a website", "you gotta blog", "you gotta be on Facebook and Twitter".  So what do many small businesses do?  They go out, get a website and set up up those online social networking accounts.  They run a few posts on the social networks, get frustrated because they get little reaction, and give up.  

Social media and social networking is extremely important for businesses and organizations of all sizes today.  And just as most businesses seek out professionals to do their marketing and advertising, it's important to consider a professional when it comes to being social online for your company.  I set out recently to find a local professional, to get a better perspective for businesses . . . meet Socialsmidge!  From owner Kelly Lohman's great smile to the fun logo and approach to the social world, you immediately want to be a "Smidgeon" (as Socialsmidge calls their "followers").  Everyone I've talked to immediately perks up when you ask about her and what she does.  

Kelly Lohman, a former Marketing Director for a local company, started Socialsmidge 3 years ago and provides online social services for several businesses and organizations (click here to see some of her clients).  Although, some may refer to her as a "Social Media Expert"; Kelly prefers the term "Guru" due to the ever changing landscape of the online social world.  As she says, "I think it's nearly impossible for anyone to classify themselves as an expert in the field when everyday something is changing.  From Facebook functions to newly developed social networking sites such as Google Plus.  The more it changes, the more social media "guru's" as I like to call us need to adapt, study, and learn."

Here's what Kelly has to say about the world of social media for businesses and organizations.

1.  How did you get started in providing social media services? 

I began about 3 years ago when I worked for as a marketing director for a local company.  I based the majority of my marketing on online trends such as social media, blogging, web ads, google placement, etc.  After working with them I realized there was so many companies that just didn't have time or understanding of what social media was meant for and that I could provide these services for them.

2.  What do you see as the biggest misconception today in regards to social media and organizations venturing into this area? 

The biggest misconception in regards to social media is that companies believe they should sell their product on it, I know no one likes to hear that but it's the truth.  Social media is not for sales - it was developed on the idea to network, chat, and interact with people.  Sometimes I pop on facebook and think; If I see another post that tells me to buy a car from you I'm going to "unlike" you.  Instead companies should be having fun with their brand and toss a photo up a new car in inventory and say "Hey Fans, this just rolled into our lot - what do you think? Is it your color or would you rather it in blue?" See the difference?  The posts that we generate don't beg people to buy, instead it gently reminds the audience that yes you do sell cars but let's have fun today and talk about cars and get your opinion.  If a company goes into social media with the thought that they can use it to sell, then their posts or interaction will look like sales and these days we are all fast forwarding through commercials so just imagine how many people are passing over those posts!

3.  A lot of times there is this notion that to be "successful" with social media the company or organization must have a large number of "followers" or "fans".  Is there truth to that and what should be the expectation for the company or organization?  

Having a large following or fanbase is not important. The biggest insight we look at on services like Facebook is not the number of likes but the post feedback.  That tells us whether or not our messages are working.  If the post feedback is low then the connections aren't real.  You can have a 1,000 fans with little feedback or 100 fans with high feedback. While it's important to grow your base, it's more important to have authentic real fans.  For small business owners having a community that loves you, believes in your brand, and wants to interact with you is always better than having a large community who doesn't care about your brand, product, or service. 

4.  There are a number of social media and networking services (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Video, etc.), which one do you see as the most beneficial?  Or is it a "recipe" of a combination of those to get the most benefit? 

I think all of the social networks are beneficial to businesses, but that doesn't mean a business has to be on all of them.  For instance, a restaurant will see the most benefit on Facebook and Twitter but an insurance company will see the most benefit from Facebook and blogging.  It truly depends on each company and what their brand is.  Social media marketing companies have an understanding of the purpose of each social network so it helps us place our clients on the right ones.  Many business owners will spend time on everything when instead they may just need to blog or just need to tweet.  The good news is that there is a social network for every industry!

5.  What do you see as the biggest benefit to companies/organizations using an outside social media service compared to doing it in-house and/or simply assigning it as a task for an employee?  

One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing social media is to a company like Socialsmidge is that the audience is typically bigger and louder.  Social media marketing companies do one thing - we socialize.  Business owners or employees have a laundry list of daily tasks to complete and often the social networks are neglected.  I've done several consultations and trainings in Florida and after leaving I see a room full of business owners with excitement of how they can use social networks.  For about a month or so they are really into their social networks but then something happens - they are not active anymore.  Business may have picked up, an employee left, they are training a new hire, whatever the reason it's always the social networks that get put on the back burner.  Like anything in marketing you can't just do it a few times and expect results and especially with social networks - you have to constantly be active in them.  If someone becomes connected with a business' social networks it's because they like their brand and are looking forward to their messages but if they don't get them often - companies are forgotten.  I always tell my clients when a client writes to your social networks you must respond and that's what we do.  We make sure all of our connections not only have a voice but feel appreciated for having that voice.  Not responding to someone is the same as walking away from a client who entered your salon or auto body shop, but businesses are busy and they don't have time to keep up with everything that goes on in social media. 

6.  In terms of the social web, how do you see social media benefiting businesses and organizations compared to say just being listed on online directories and website SEO? 

The social web is amazing.  In fact if you google "Kelly Lohman" the third ranking is my LinkedIn profile and the 5th image on google is my facebook profile picture- amazing, right!  What a huge benefit to companies who might not have an easily recognizable company name, but if a client or potential client remembers your name they can still find you and your business!  If I didn't have those social networks, I might not be found. Another benefit is that unlike web or online directories you can actually talk to your clients - I don't see many interactive websites because they are what a web designer may term "complex" or "dynamic" and can be quite costly to not only set up but also maintain.  Websites and online directories are very valuable for companies to build their SEO but in terms of relationships with clients they don't offer that - the interaction is what social media is meant for!

7.  How does what you do vary from traditional public relations and marketing? 

What we do is extremely different than traditional marketing because we have the ability to have a conversation.  When companies spend time, energy, and money on print marketing all they can do is show or send.  There is no option for the person who picks up your postcard or sees your ad in the paper to respond to you.  I don't believe that means businesses should drop their traditional marketing efforts; they just really need to see if it works for them.  When they mail postcards are they getting a return?  When they print an ad in the paper are people responding?  That's the great part about social networking, we know immediately if what we say today has had an effect on the community.  I can tell my clients if the post was not only seen but was their a response - did anyone share the message, comment on it, like it, etc.  That immediate insight really helps us drive the conversation the next day.

8.  What is different with your area of expertise compared to web designers?  

It's funny how closely social media and web designers work together but how much are services are completely different.  A web designer can create dynamic "scenes" on a website with erupting volcano's or bird's flying across the screen - I envy their talent!  Social media marketing companies create conversation, we use social networks like Facebook or Twitter to "talk" to our clients' ... clients.  It's a much different world; my area of expertise is being social - making things fun.  I can also build custom tabs into Facebook pages like a mini website, but if someone needs a fully designed website outside of Facebook . . . well, I leave that up to experts who focus just on web design.  They are two completely different products and don't require the same type of "coding".

9.  When a company decides to purchase/contract for social media services what advice would you give them in terms of what they should look for and what to expect from the provider? 

If you're considering outsourcing your social media I would highly recommend asking a company who their current clients are, what type of services they provide, how often they provide their services. It should be like an interview - you are hiring a company to do one of the most beneficial marketing strategies in the industry today, so you need to know what they can provide for you.  Most social media marketing companies offer different type of services so it's important to understand that while we all do the same type of work, we might not provide it in the same manner.  Some companies don't provide insights or are unable to build custom tabs (Facebook Pages), so think about what your goals are with social media and if that company can reach your goals with you.  I also believe that it's important to ask the company about stats or social trends - if the company can't answer those for you, I'd hesitate to hire.  Think of it like this, if you're looking to buy a home would you get a mortgage from someone who doesn't know the current mortgage rate? 

10.  Many religious organizations are placing focus on social media and networking.  How does the approach differ from a business?  

I think religious organizations should use social media in the same manner that businesses do.  Businesses shouldn't seek to sell their product and religious organizations shouldn't seek to sell religion with social media.  They should focus on educating the community about religion and helping people understand the views of their religion.  Their social networks should be a place for people to feel comfortable to express their ideas or views on religion and also provide help in time of need.  I think one of the main differences between religious organizations and other's is the "human touch".  Religious organizations should make sure that they do not use social networks as a way to replace the direct human contact they have with people.  Individuals, as much as we love social networks and being able to find everything we want to know on them, still desire to be involved in their church.  If a religious organization starts to replace their services with social services instead, they will loose the human touch that is highly associated with being in a church setting.  Instead of replacing services, religious organizations can offer video streaming for those who may have missed their message but never totally replace services with streaming. 

11.  Where do you see your field going in the next 5 years?  

With the way things are changing, it's a mystery as to where social networking will go.  I do believe that social networking won't end, the trend will exist but it's a matter of where it will be.  Will Facebook still be as popular today?  My guess is no.  The reason I say that is because people by nature always want the next big thing - as soon as that happens we'll jump ship to check it out and see all these new features and stay with it.  I still chuckle to myself at how I woke up one day and no one was on MySpace!  It was like, what happened?  Where did everyone go ... well the world went to Facebook and the same could happen to Facebook.  We will wake up one day and everyone may be on another social network.  The thing to keep in mind is that even though the social network may change, the goal doesn't and the way you communicate won't either. 

12.  What advice would you give to young people seeking to get into the field in terms of college and/or after graduations?  

One of the biggest benefits of young individuals going into social media marketing is that they most likely already use these networks for personal reasons. So they have an understanding of how social networks work.  They are able to upload photos, generate videos on YouTube, and follow Twitter trends.  Now they just need to understand the business aspect of it.  It's a great idea for anyone looking to get into this field to intern with a social media marketing company to learn the business approach to these networks. 

  • What questions do you have considering online social media for your business or organization?  
  • What questions do you have about outsourcing this aspect of your business or organization?  
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