I speak and present on marketing and customer care to all sorts of businesses at all sorts of events. During the course of these, I come across all sorts of really successful marketeers as well as quite a few who are not so successful.
With the rise in social media and web technology, tough economic conditions and the rapid pace of change and globalisation, both the good and the bad in marketing seem to be amplified as never before. And as far as less successful marketeers go, one area that really seems to be holding them back - and I see this quite a lot - is a series of mistaken beliefs around social media and its impact on marketing.
Mistaken Belief One: We'll stick to the real world!
Many marketeers are scared, intimated or just plain lacking in knowledge about social media and today's communication channels and therefore stick to what they believe is the 'real' as opposed to the 'virtual' world.
The reality is, of course, that the online world is the real world! With over 500 million on Facebook, and over 130 Million registered users on Twitter sending out over 50 million tweets per day, this is very much the real world, so 'get real'!
Mistaken Belief 2: It doesn't affect us
I was speaking at a conference and was approached by the managing partner of a local law firm. He explained that he understood that the 'interweb' was 'catching on' and that lots of youngsters were using it to listen to music and watch videos and that yes, it was useful for booking flights, but as head of a well established and professional lawyer he could see no real relevance to his business.
As I knew he was coming to the event I had a slide ready for him with the image of Rate-your-Solicitor.com (a site which doers exactly what it says it does). That quickly quietened him down!
So yes, it does affect you, but it affects different businesses in different ways and at different speeds. The challenge is to work out how, and what you need to do to maximise the opportunities and minimise the threats – yes, it's the old SWOT analysis. But having done the SWOT, it's the 'So What' that is important - so what are you actually going to do?
Mistaken Belief 3: It's either / or!
People ask me: "Andy, should we market online or offline?" as if it has to be one or the other. But social media is just another potential marketing channel, as is direct mail, TV advertising, face to face networking and lots of others. The challenge is to identify what works for you.
A starting point should be to ask yourself what you are trying to achieve when it comes to marketing, both as a whole and via each marketing channel. The challenge then is to maximise each channel accordingly in line with objectives and resources, not simply one or the other.
Mistaken Belief 4: Leave it to the IT Department
No, no, no! You wouldn't have your IT team doing your accounts would you? Or answering your product enquiries, service support calls or manufacturing or delivering your goods? They may well be asked to develop and provide support for the systems needed to make these things work, but they wouldn't actually do them. It's the same with social media marketing systems. Go back to point 3 and get them to help you deliver.
Mistaken Belief 5: He who shouts loudest gets heard
We do loads of 'tweeting' and 'blogging' they say. They compare sizes of 'following's and 'friends' as if that's all that counts. I have bad news for them. Size isn't everything! It's just like any other marketing – it needs to be targeted, relevant and value adding.
It's easy for people to ignore and opt out. Just because they signed up once doesn't mean that they're actually listening!
Engagement is key, and it's engagement with the right people: customers, potential customers, signposters, influencers, hey, even suppliers! So, don't just shout, think about the messages and crucially, think about who they are targeted at.
Mistaken Belief 6; It's just about attracting customers
Yes, social media can be a fantastic way of raising profile, making connections and attracting customers. It can however, do a lot more than that. It also provides fantastic opportunities to spot trends, highlight issues and tap into what's going on. It's about listening and observing. Too many people are simply missing out on this amazing source of ideas, opportunities, and yes, maybe leads because they are too busy shouting not listening.
You are obviously not one of those people or you wouldn't be on the Management-issues website reading this, but could you do more listening, observing and spotting?
Mistaken Belief 7: The 'old rules' don't count any more
The fundamental principles of marketing haven't changed. My definition of marketing is 'finding, attracting and keeping the customers you want while maximising your profits'. It's EVERYTHING you do to find your customers, win them over and keep them coming back for more.
Social media can help do that as long as it's seen and used as a channel, not the only channel (unless of course that is what the marketing strategy calls for (see point 3 again).
I'd love to hear your thoughts and views. Are there any other mistaken beliefs we need to challenge?