The internet is the great equalizer. Today, an entrepreneur with a good idea and a lot of elbow grease can create an international business literally overnight. One of my favorite quotes is by Peter Diamandis, “Small teams driven by their passion with a clear focus can do extraordinary things. Things that only large corporations and governments could do in the past.”
With the inexpensive global communication networks and computing power available today, a three-person team can accomplish more in a year than whole companies could have just a few decades ago. One of the key tools that has helped revolutionize the way we do business is social media.
Virality. The magic word. With only a mouseclick and not a penny spent, information can be transmitted to thousands of followers around the world simultaneously. Those followers can share with their followers, to share with their followers, growing exponentially with each mouseclick. The ease and speed with which information spreads in the modern world is unprecedented.
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Time is money. Social media marketing is not free; it must be measured in Return on Time.
If you can generate $1,000 of new business from 5 hours invested in social media, the return on your time is $200 per hour. If you only generate $100 of new business after 50 hours invested in social media, the return on your time is a measly $2 per hour. Big difference, right?
The first mistake companies make is not measuring revenue attributed to social media in the first place! You’ve got to keep track of which leads come in from social media, and how much time you spend getting them. Divide the total value of your leads by the number of hours spent acquiring them and you have your Return on Time for social media marketing.
The opportunity cost for social media marketing is everything else you could be doing with that time. You could be passing out flyers at the mall, calling customers who haven’t bought in a while, or you could be developing an ad campaign. The possibilities for what you could be doing with that time are endless. The key is to do the highest value marketing activities, the ones that yield the highest return on your time. If social media marketing is one of those activities, do it. If not, don’t do it. Or you can hire professionals to manage it for you so that you can focus on other high-value activities.
Are you on Facebook? What about Twitter? YouTube? Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, Flickr, and Vine? It’s easy to get overloaded with all of the different social media platforms available today. Each network has a different audience and different types of content that are successful. It’s best to have an account on every platform so your customers can find you via the search function, but to be active on every single site would be totally overwhelming. Unless you have a department dedicated to just social media, it’s best to figure out the 1-3 platforms that your audience is most active on, and focus on just those.
The first step towards social media success is to create your profiles on all the major platforms. Create them completely and consistently. Your customers should be able to look at your Twitter page and your YouTube channel and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that both pages represent the same brand. They should all have the same look, feel, and message. Too often, I see accounts by the same company on different platforms that have very little resemblance to each other. Fill in everything completely with content that is consistent across every platform. And don’t forget your web address!
After creating accounts on all the major platforms, focus on developing your following on one platform at a time. As the proverb goes, “He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.” Learn what types of content resonate with the users on that platform, when they’re online, and which techniques work to promote engagement.
With about a billion and a half monthly active users, Facebook is undeniably the largest social network. Not coincidentally, it is also the worst free social platform for marketing. To put it bluntly, Facebook sucks. On purpose, I might add. Over the past 2 years, Facebook has continually changed it’s algorithm to decrease, yes decrease, the reach of company pages. Why, you ask? To coerce more businesses into purchasing Facebook ads. Which of course is especially painful for cannabis businesses, considering we are not allowed to advertise on the site. As a Business Page, anticipate only 1-10% of your followers to actually come into contact with each post. My personal advice for small businesses is that if Facebook is not an essential part of your business, set it up and then ignore it completely. It’s an uphill battle that will only eat up a disproportionate amount of your precious time. There are a plethora of other marketing tools that will yield a greater Return on Time than Facebook.
But if you do decide that Facebook is a must for your business, here are the best ways to do it. If you are a B2C business and anticipate having less than 5,000 followers, use a personal account instead of a business page. This way, you’ll circumvent the Facebook business handicap. This will save you a lot of pain and anguish versus trying to build a company page for a small, local business.
Unfortunately for B2B businesses and national brands, we have to do things the hard way. It can be done, but it requires a little know-how and a concerted effort to get it off the ground. After building out your page completely, the first milestone is to solicit your first 100 Likes. These first few followers will help boost engagement, which in turn will cause Facebook to show more users your posts. To do this, leverage all of your other marketing assets in order to drive people to your Facebook page. Add a link in your email signature, put a social bar and plugins on your website, post on your other social media accounts, and send out an e-blast to your existing customers. Also, be sure to use the Invite Friends function on Facebook to recruit any of your personal Facebook friends that are likely to be interested in your business page. Don’t simply request everyone though, as Likes who don’t engage with your post are likely to be detrimental to the visibility of your future posts.
Once you’ve rounded up your first 100 followers, it’s time to take things up a notch. To reach 1,000 followers, I recommend a 3-punch combo.
First, create a contest to incentivize visitors into liking your page. Set a goal. “When we reach 1,000 followers, we’re going to give away a [insert knock-your-socks-off prize here]!” Once you’ve reached 1,000 followers, your page will be capable of growing organically. So determine exactly how much Facebook success is worth to you, and give away something of value to your target market. Incentivizing people to like your page will decrease the amount of time it takes to get your account growing organically and stop being simply a time-suck.
The next part of our 3-punch combo is valuable content, imagine that. After all, that’s why your followers follow you in the first place. My advice would be to develop a 30 day content calendar before you start. Brainstorm several different types of content to see what your audience responds well to. Eye-catching photos, provocative questions, inspirational quotes, relevant links and videos, tips and tricks, and unique blog posts are some of the types of posts that generate better-than-average engagement. Experiment with posting at different times of day, and with varying frequency. Then dig into your Page Insights section to figure out what times your audience is actually online, what their demographic makeup is, and which types of posts they’re most likely to interact with. Each 30 day period, drop the 2 lowest performing post types and brainstorm new ones to try instead.
The last part of the 3-punch combo is partnering with popular accounts. Facebook won’t allow cannabis brands to use their advertising function, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to pay for Likes. Message the administrators of popular accounts who have a similar target audience and ask for a shoutout. Some might being willing to do so for free, but be prepared to pull out your wallet for most popular pages. For a page with 100,000 followers, your shoutout post may reach between 5,000 and 10,000 of them, so calculate your cost per thousand impressions the way you would a typical ad buy.
The advent of the internet and social networking changed the discipline of marketing forever, leveling the playing field. Never before have small businesses and startups been able to reach so many, so quickly, at such little expense. That being said, time is money, and the currency of social media is Return on Time. Focus only on those marketing activities that create the most revenue in the least amount of time. What we don’t measure we can’t manage, so be sure to keep track of the leads you acquire through social media and the time it took to acquire them. Set up free accounts on every social network so that users can find their way to your website, but only actively engage on the platforms that yield the greatest return on your time.
Questions? Comments? Post in the comments which platforms you would like me to cover in Part 2.
Photo Credit: Jason Howie
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