I was asked this question on a site visit one of our clients.
We were introducing the team members in satellite offices about our new company-wide content strategy using Facebook and LinkedIn to syndicate stories and engage with customers. It’s a heavy equipment rental company.“I don’t even have a Facebook account,” said Carl, a Rental Manager, “Most of my clients are older guys like me and I don’t think they’re on there either. How’s social media gonna help me find customers?”
Great question. The answer isn’t straightforward, so follow me here:
In this article by Kristina Cisnero of Business2Community.com, using social networks for your business has a number of benefits. You get all kinds of data on your customers through the analytic tools built into each network. You can have conversations with customers online. You can micro-target advertising to incredibly specific audiences using data like geography, things they like, and job titles. Relative to traditional advertising, digital advertising is cheap.
But when it is all said and done, if your audience isn’t on these channels, how is this going to help them find you?
Well, surprisingly, since 2012, social has gone mainstream. Where many people used to think LinkedIn was just for people searching for jobs, the social network has evolved into the place to share business ideas, seek out new leads, get answers to common industry questions, and network. And every industry is represented. So there is a good chance your audience is on there.
Facebook has also penetrated deep into markets in the U.S. and Canada, and all around the world with 1.5 billion people interacting each month. Older generations (read as “everyone except teenagers”) are using Facebook to stay connected to family and friends all across the globe. So much so, teenagers only have accounts to talk to grandma and congregate on other networks like Instagram and SnapChat. This means there is a good chance your audience is here too.
You also have to factor in the way humans connect. Just because a husband doesn’t have his own Facebook account, doesn’t mean he isn’t being exposed to content on Facebook. There is a good chance his spouse or a colleague is sharing stories with him.
While Carl is looking for that direct connection to his customer, we’re finding the connection can be direct or indirect and both are legitimate.
There is one more piece to the puzzle: Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO).
Everyone on the planet has a smartphone (two thirds of Americans now have a smartphone) and they use it daily to search for information. Information about products and services they are planning to purchase. If you want to be found, you need content showing up in those search results.
Search engines “crawl” the Internet daily for new content, including all the social media networks. So a story posted on your website about your products and services, that is also syndicated across multiple social media channels, and shared and liked by people on those networks, is going to get a higher ranking in Google’s search results than content that is not shared on social media. Google is constantly tweaking their algorithms to accommodate people’s “social signals” (see Simon Penson’s breakdown of Google’s ranking factors) on networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Google+. So social impacts SEO. Period.
Want another way for your customers to be able to search and find out more about your business via social media? Use hashtags to group similar messages, conversations, photos, and more, on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
If you want to use social media for your business, make your content useful and findable with a content strategy that stresses engaging content, shared across various social networks, tuned to what your audience is searching for, and optimized for mobile searches.