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But after joining the world of the Web, attracting followers and cultivating “likes,” many companies find themselves asking “What now?” That’s what the panelists at the third annual Providence Business News Social Media & Marketing Summit hope to answer.
Social media often promises to be a fast and definitive solution to companies’ marketing efforts, but panelist Christopher Ciunci, CEO and founder of marketing and consulting firm TribalVision, said more often than not, this just isn’t the case.
“If companies decide to focus all their efforts on the sexiness of social media, they’re going to be disappointed,” said Ciunci, adding that in order to really be successful in social media, companies need to focus on the nitty-gritty aspects of the technology.
“It’s wonderful that you can be building up your likes and fan page, and Facebook is coming out with so many different tools for you to use, but in order for you to be successful in social media it’s about the nonsexy, it’s the block and tackling, it’s about monitoring the social media in your industry … and starting to engage in conversation,” said Ciunci.
“It’s not just setting up a nice-looking, lined in page, that’s just the beginning,” said Ciunci. “It’s so much more than putting some lipstick on your website.”
As an example, Ciunci used a hypothetical yacht builder. According to him, the best way for that yacht builder to use social media is to successfully engage himself in the online conversation in the boatbuilding industry. By finding and monitoring different blogs, Twitter hashtags and Facebook conversations and joining the conversation, the boat builder will become a trusted online name and build up a strong Web presence that generates traffic and customers.
“Everyone loves talking about the big tools, but if you’re not doing the basics, then you’re going to be disappointed,” said Ciunci.
To successfully use social media as a marketing tool, businesses need to look at social media as just one aspect of their overall marketing campaign, said Ciunci. “It’s just one tool, one bullet in the gun out of 20 bullets you should be looking at,” he said. “I have not seen it yet that a company’s year has been built just on social media,” said Ciunci.
Not only should businesses use social media tools as one aspect of many in their overall marketing strategy, but it’s important for companies to focus on what sort of message they want to send with social media.
“Marketing today is all about humanizing your brand,” said Ciunci. “Facebook is a wonderful platform to humanize your brand, but if you think that’s going to be a lead generator, especially in B2B, you should be looking somewhere else.”
For example, Pinterest, which is essentially an online scrapbook, can be a “wonderful avenue for a supermarket, or a bakery, or a caterer,” said Ciunci. “I’m not going to recommend Pinterest for an electroplater. It could make sense, but it certainly shouldn’t be a priority. Is your sales force optimized to actually sell when they’re in front of a prospect? That’s a heck of a lot more relevant than putting up a Pinterest page,” he said.
“It can make sense for a company to build a footprint in social media,” he added. “But it’s: Why do you need this? The strategy needs to come first,” he added.
Brian Lamoureux, Summit panelist and partner at the law firm of Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West, hopes to focus on another tricky aspect of social media: the legal side of things.
Social media bring up new opportunities not just for marketing, but also for recruiting and hiring. “I think people are very much concerned about their privacy and what impact their social media accounts are going to have on their careers,” said Lamoureux, who pointed out some new legislation that was recently introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly.
The recently introduced bill (HB 5255) is the state’s first social media bill, and would restrict the type of information that employers can get through social media on their employees and what colleges and universities can find on their prospective and current students.
The bill is the first step for Rhode Island to show that the state is coming in line with other states that are attempting to draw a clear line between private social media accounts and publicly available information, said Lamoureux.
“It’s putting employers in fair notice that they can’t make employees share things with them that the employees don’t want to share,” he said.
In terms of recruiting, LinkedIn is the most legitimate and the most dominant social media for today’s companies, but according to Lamoureaux, “it’s really not terribly helpful to use social media to find candidates. We need people on the other end of the phone,” he said. “While social media promises to be a one-button push answer to hiring and recruiting, the data shows that it comes in the other way.”