The Sign Connection: Sign Business Marketing Gets Social

Successful marketing has always been about effective conversations. That has never been more true than today, with the rapid expansion of electronic communications in our daily lives. On the one hand, it makes communication faster and in some cases, it can also make it easier. On the other hand, it brings in a complex array of choices that simply did not exist ten years ago. This affects not only communication between businesses and their customers, but also between individuals within those businesses.

As Mark Twain so aptly points out, “The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.” This rings true in so many ways in today’s world, especially as we enter the age of social media marketing. As the art and science of marketing continues to evolve with technology, we need to utilize new methods available for communicating with our customers.

A number of trends will shape the world of marketing in 2012. With social media at the top of the list, most companies are moving more of their marketing dollars into Web-based electronic media. Companies of all sizes are shifting budget dollars to social media and other digital marketing initiatives and away from traditional advertising. Why? Because customers are now spending more time online than ever before.


Playing the Game

To reach clients and stay competitive, small businesses need to have an effective Web presence. Creating quality content for the Web goes hand-in-hand with social media, and businesses will benefit from useful content that adds value to the online conversation and to people’s lives. The Web is a cluttered place, and clearly presented information that’s relevant to your customers will break through the background noise and help win over prospects and convert them to customers.

Once you convert them to customers, the next step will be to turn them into brand advocates. This is why having an effective social media presence is crucial. It’s important to know that quality wins over quantity in this arena. Quality connections with those who are loyal to the business and the brand are far more helpful to spread your message than large groups of connections who disappear after the first interaction. The basic idea is to build reliable brand advocates to help you build your business via social media.

Another social media marketing tool making its way into our business are geo-targeting and location-based marketing platforms, such as Foursquare and Yelp. These sites make it easier for consumers to find deals and reviews about businesses in their neighborhoods. Creating targeted, local marketing campaigns using these popular tools will become the norm.


How Do You Measure Up?

Tracking your business’ reputation with Web monitoring tools will also assume greater importance. Social media has given consumers a large platform to voice their opinions, and small-business owners must actively monitor their reputation on the Web, as it is important for benchmarking and tracking success over time, as well as protecting a brand from negative comments.

Measuring social media ROI is no easy task—it’s one of the biggest marketing challenges today’s marketers face. It’s not enough to just rely on gut instincts to assess payback for your social media presence. How then are you supposed to measure social media campaign success?

First, spend ample time thinking through your vision of success so you can select the right metrics. This means getting specific about your business objectives and strategies before thinking through social objectives. Then you can organize your staff (or your personal time, in some cases) around those metrics.

Next, you need to decide what to measure, and then you can find the tools that will help you determine how well you’re performing. While some social media activities can be measured almost immediately, a more accurate picture develops over time as trends appear. For example, to determine whether or not your offer is as compelling as you had hoped it would be, monitor your reporting data. Learn how your social campaign drives page visits, shares, new Facebook fans, and email subscribers, and what networks are driving the most people to visit your Facebook page. Knowing this information will help you know where your time might be best spent to get the biggest return in the future.

The famous astronomer Robert Jastrow once observed that, “The universe is not only stranger than we have imagined, it’s stranger than we can imagine.” Based on the rapid-fire changes that no one predicted in marketing over the past decade, that’s likely to hold true for the coming decade. Our biggest challenge will be to stay ahead of these changes.