Can using Facebook really help your bottom line? If you tweet, will you make more money? Do Pinterest boards really boost sales? More and more e-commerce merchants are asking these questions.
Organic reach has diminished. The good news is that even though you have to pay to play, the social advertising game is still smarter
We knew Dave Kerpen could help us sort this out. About three years ago, Kerpen had a New York Times best-seller called Likeable Social Media.
We interviewed the author in 2012, eager to hear what he had to say. He offered refreshing ideas and insights. So when we heard the new edition of Likeable Social Media debuted, we wanted to check in again because more merchants are questioning social media. Our interview with Kerpen follows. In it, we hear what's changed in social media and why merchants should continue to use it.
Schepp: What are the personalities of the major social media sites, and how should marketers use these sites accordingly?
Kerpen: Facebook is the broadest and the most consumer focused. It's a conversation between friends, and you should make sure to add value if you want to join that conversation. LinkedIn is all business—be sure to keep things professional. Twitter is so big; it's really whatever you make of it. Think fast moving and use hastags. Pinterest and Instagram are all about keeping things beautiful.
Marketers should always adjust their content based on the social network and their audience.
Schepp: What's changed in social media since the first edition of your book?
Kerpen: It was an equal playing field then, and everything's now moving toward paid advertising and pay-to-play. Organic reach has diminished. The good news is that even though you have to pay to play, the social advertising game is still smarter than any other form of advertising… You can pick and reach the exact people you want.
Schepp: What are the most exciting new social media sites since the first edition?
Kerpen: Pictures have always been great at captivating our attention, but the accessibility of video is eclipsing it. You no longer have to have formal training to produce a compelling video or photograph, which is why sites like Instagram and Pinterest have soared in popularity since the first book. I'm also excited about livestreaming social networks like Meerkat and Periscope.
The good and the bad
Even if your marketing isn't generating a lot of reach in social media, you learn a lot from listening
Schepp: Social media is getting more visual. What does that mean to marketers?
Kerpen: The visual demand of social media is a great opportunity for marketers to get creative with the way they interact on social networks. For example, they're able to showcase their customers and clients with a "Customer of the Week." Moreover, marketers need to think like designers when it comes to social media storytelling. Use pictures and videos to convey your messages and you will see a greater return.
Schepp: What companies are social media standouts?
Kerpen: There are quite a few companies that are doing social media right. For example, 1-800-Flowers.com is responsive and transparent about customer inquiries; it inspires customers' stories, and it surprises and delights random fans. Verizon has literally turned Facebook foes into fans with their quick and genuine resolve of service issues via their fan pages. Entenmann's managed to turn unhappy customers into a promotional force, which not only revived a discontinued product but also made said product one of the company's best sellers. Disclosure: [My company] Likeable Media, has worked with all three!
Schepp: What common mistakes do businesses make?
Kerpen: One of the biggest mistakes is not being authentic and not having a two-way dialogue. Social media isn't traditional advertising—it's a platform for having conversations and building connections with your customers.
Just as people can usually tell the difference between someone who is being sincere and someone who is being insincere at a cocktail party, they can tell the difference between authentic communication and marketing.
Building relationships takes time
Schepp: Do you have any special advice for entrepreneurs?
Kerpen: Listen first and never stop listening. Ask your prospects more questions, listen to their problems, listen to their interests. When you better understand them as people and better understand their organizational needs and challenges, you will be able to do a much better job of delivering what they want and need. Even if your marketing isn't generating a lot of reach in social media, you learn a lot from listening.
If you're a small business, ask your customers what social networks they're on and become active on those ones
Schepp: Some sellers say the time and money they invest in social media sites isn't paying off. How do you respond?
Kerpen: This has been a problem I've been trying to solve for eight years now. It's not easy to solve, but building relationships with your customers doesn't happen overnight. Marketers need to go into these platforms with that in mind.
You wouldn't meet a stranger and proceed to push them into buying your product, would you? In the same way, in order for these businesses to gain trust online, they need to build connections in these online communities over time, [in other words] be likeable. You also need to get smarter about your goals and how you track them. Social media marketing is about listening and building a brand. Make sure you use metrics to track both of these "bottom line" goals.
Schepp: Does it make sense to choose one major social media platform?
Kerpen: It's most important to think about where your audience is and build your social media presence there. So if you're a large business with customers on every social network, then you need to be everywhere. If, on the other hand, you're a small business, ask your customers what social networks they're on and become active on those ones.
It might be just Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest where it makes sense to spend your precious time.
Schepp: What else would you like readers to know about this new edition of your book?
Kerpen: It's the bigger, better, more orange edition with updated case studies and best practices from businesses, big and small. I'll even offer you a money back guarantee: If you don't find it valuable, simply tweet me @DaveKerpen and I'll gladly send you a check for $25.
Schepp: Thanks Dave. Readers, it looks like social media is still worth your time, as long as that time is spent wisely.