Lately I keep reading messages about social media marketing for business, its effectiveness in terms of return on investment (ROI) and its ability to influence buying decisions. This has led me to believe that the writing is on the wall for social media and the small business owner, the love affair will come to an end and the unhappiness felt within this relationship is already being aired online.
Social Media Marketing Needs To Be Part Of Your Online Marketing Strategy
I encourage clients to engage in social media activity because they are crazy not to really – especially for business to consumer activity. Their current/past clients are out there and they can stay in touch. Hopefully, if those past/current clients love their business they will tell their friends (especially those who live locally) and that will help to build the power a business has of getting leads/enquiries from a potential buyer who has been referred. So much easier to convert….

People who follow brands are much more likely to buy from them

Despite what people believe I do not place a HUGE amount of emphasis here. Yes use social media to help get traffic to your blog going and to build a following of past/current clients but limit your time because my 2 years of working with local businesses in the area of health and wellness has taught me that the search engines are a far more powerful tool for them.
The truth is the top two reasons people follow you is in the hope of receiving discounts/coupons and to show their loyalty – which is great for small business owners. What they don’t say is they follow you to engage in conversation with the other people there and it can be hard work to get people writing and Liking your activity. You don’t have to panic if they don’t because chances are they are reading and “lurking” – just waiting for something that meets their needs.
Content Marketing Is Time Consuming
Without a doubt content marketing is time consuming if you have to do it yourself but can be worth it. I spent three months creating a personal trainer case study and I still receive work from personal trainers/gyms because of it. So its intensive work and it took three months but once complete it will serve me over and over and over again as a great way to generate new business.
When I talk about creating content – whether writing guides, making video/audio, writing articles/blog posts – social media seems a much easier option and far less time consuming. However, its false economy, because as the months roll buy and you spend all your time trying to engage people on Facebook (who are just there for the discounts) and/or being part of the conversation of Twitter you may find you won’t have very much to show for your efforts in terms of sales but you have spent hundreds of hours on chatting.
Even worse, disappear from the conversation for a couple of weeks or a month and see how many people are listening by the time you get back! Trying to engage people in this way is an exhausting, time sucking practise with no way of measuring effectiveness it makes it a crazy one to engage in long term. If you have ever spent time on social media you know how easy it is to sit and read announcements and engage in conversations only to find four hours have gone and you have very little to show for it!
When you add “attention overwhelm” to the mix – and the fact that so many businesses are online trying to get people to engage in conversation – people just don’t want to do it anymore. When you compare the number of people who follow a person and the activity they get in terms of Likes it is a very small percentage. I recently read a blog post about the percentage of Likes celebrities get compared to the number of fans and if I find it again I will include a link to it!
Don’t Focus On Quantity Rely On Quality
Clients are always obessed about how many Twitter and Facebook followers they have because they believe that more followers equal more new business and to some extent that is true. If you send out a discount to 1,000 followers maybe (and I mean maybe) you stand a better chance of getting more people taking you up on the offer than if you send it out to only 20 followers. However, if those 20 people already know you and have used you will you get a higher take up based on that than if you send it out to 1,000 people who have no idea who you are? These types of questions only research and tracking will give you an answer.
When I first started out in the social media “game” my mentors told me the key to success was to get followers fast, to connect to thousands of people because followers meant you were perceived as being influential. That was only three short years ago and now it seems that doesn’t work.
Now the writing is on the wall for that too as people write about ‘The Million Follower Fallacy‘ and question whether followers equal influence.
Online Advertising And Social Media
When celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Tim O’Reilly send out a Tweet and only one book is sold (by Tim) you have to wonder how much power there is for selling. When celebs can’t sell stuff how does a small local business manage? Social media should never be looked at as a selling machine anyway, listing building yes (fantastic for it) but direct selling doesn’t always work as well. But again this needs to be tracked by your business, it is not a blank one statement fits all!
Mashable also talked about the fact that Facebook Ads Perform Half As Well As Regular Banner Ads
Hollis Thomases at ClickZ wrote about Twitter, Facebook, Groupon and social media – what online advertisers need to know
“My concern lies in the ability for advertisers to focus on the kinds of online tactics that will help them reach their goals. When advertisers (and key decision-makers, quite frankly) get too distracted from proven tactics or develop unrealistic or untenable perceptions, it does them no lasting good.”
 
Will We Every Truly Know What Works?
I think it is safe to say that no one truly has an answer to what will effectively work because every business is different and every single person who connects does so for their own reason, which makes a lot of social media more of an art than a science. You can focus on learning about consumer behaviour if you want to or you can just go out there and write content that will support them, help them and/or connect with them.
You also have to wonder if we have killed social media. Dell shared how they made millions, Obama won his campaign and suddenly everyone is looking to do the same thing until these techniques are so overused they just don’t work anymore.
Naomi Dunford from Itty Biz believes we have and wrote an excellent blog post on “How We Killed Social Media” back in 2008. Its taken a few years but people are recognising the some things just don’t work as well as they used to anymore.
What should a local health and wellness business focus on?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a list of things to do that magically help you.  Just like planning for your business you need to plan out the best places to spend your time online. Your blog analytics will help you get an idea of where people are coming from and from there (allow at least 6 months of results or more) you can decide what works better for you.
If time is limited and outsourcing your online marketing efforts is not possible then at least take some time to think about where to start. Here are some suggestions for you:
Content Marketing
What does work in the health and wellness industry is content, good quality content that people find because the search engines are still the place that people go to when conducing a search more than any other place. You need them to find that article, to download that free guide and to watch your videos or listen to your audio because this is a potential customer looking for a personal trainer, or a massage therapist. They are about to buy something that is considered a “luxury” (although we all know what you do is more of a necessity – after all without health what do we have?) and they want reassurance about the person they are considering. A video is as close as they can get to actually connecting with the person behind the business.
If you want to spend your time and energy on anything spend it on making sure your current/past customers are leaving comments and liking your guides/video/audio because that will be far more powerful for you.
Now be WARNED: Just because I say write content don’t blindly start writing it without any focus on your intention for writing it or thinking about what it is that people want.  Your content development strategy must have your buyers in mind
The chorus appears to be getting louder and louder on content marketing in bloggersphere, digital media, and traditional media.  Like any new concept over the years in business, figuring out what comes first is no easy task.  In this case, should CMO’s be looking at content marketing or content strategy as the first order of business on the agenda?  Where you start the discussion can determine very much where you end up. Source : The Digital Buyer Persona
 
Review Sites/Citations
Get your Google Places profile up. You have no say in this matter it is ESSENTIAL and while you are waiting also think about other places you might want to include your business into that give people an opportunity to leave reviews like Yelp and bestof.co.uk – review sites that are well used.
At the beginning of 2010 having reviews on your Places page or based on sites like Yelp were “great to have but not necessary” now in 2011 and reviews are VITALLY IMPORTANT. What other people are saying about you must be monitored. It is also important you encourage or ‘nudge’ people to write about you because they may not know how it will help. Giving incentives is not always seen as a good thing because the review isn’t “from the heart” and is based more on what a person will get. The best reviews are the ones when people just leave them for you – but you may need to get the ball rolling by asking people to or at the very least educating them about why reviews help…. and they won’t be in the least bit interested in the fact that it gets you more business 🙂
Research undertaken in 2010 focusing on the UK and USA found this…..

US consumers use the internet more regularly to find local businesses than UK consumers- US consumers (71%) read online reviews more than UK consumers (61%)
but…
UK consumers (62%) will trust a business based on their positive reviews vs. US consumers (55%)
UK consumers (72%) trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations vs. US (67%)
Source : Local review results of research undertaken in the UK

Being relevant and trustworthy
Trust comes from the great content and reviews as I already mentioned. It also comes from great link building/SEO tactics that you use as highlighted in this post on search engine ranking factors from 2009 – still very relevant and worth reading.
Relevancy comes from sticking to your topic and not trying to rank for something you are not. If you are a Shiatsu massage therapist who can not and does not know how to give a sports massage then don’t write about it, people hate when they are looking for one thing and find something unrelated because in the search results it looked like it was related.  You can compare the two and let people know why you believe a Shiatsu massage might be more effective, or how it can help instead of a sports massage. What you want to avoid is writing negative content about sports massage or writing content that likes as if you are going to talk about it but when a person clicks you don’t even mention it.
Video Marketing
I wrote a separate blog post on video marketing for professionals because this was getting a little long 🙂
And this area of online marketing is very important.
I am not talking here about getting in some video company that will charge you £450 for one video that runs for 2 minutes. I mean switching on your webcam and sitting in front of it or using your camcorder and recording tips and techniques. People want to know YOU and how you help not what your business does and video is about as real as it gets.
Building a subscriber base
Your ultimate goal in all of this activity is to generate interest from potential new customers. Some may watch a video or read a blog post and instantly get in touch. Others may need time to get to know you and having a way to get people off Twitter and Facebook and on to your newsletter list is an important long term strategy. eMail marketing is still highly effective no matter what people say about messages being blocked. It is still a great way to convert people into customers (and so are teleseminars/webinars) and you can send out different messages that will appeal to different people. A subscriber list becomes an excellent way to generate passive income once you start selling some of that content you create….!
All your social media work, all your video work and everything you blog about should work towards getting people to take action – whether they call you or join your subscriber newsletter. This is what this is all about and then you can build a relationship with them until they buy and/or subscribe.
In Summary
We all know you can’t monitor what you can’t measure and as a small business focusing your already limited time on activities that might get you no place fast is fool harder. Invest some time in learning how to use the internet well – not just social media marketing but a mixture of different tools that will help you so that if one begins to wane in popularity you have others to rely on.
Remember that most people are still using the search engines and get on to their good side by using online marketing strategies that work for your local business and more importantly for the health and wellness sector. A lot of local search is still guess work as the big 3 – Google, Yahoo, and Bing change so much so often but taking the time to develop things that people want is still number one in their book
Always remember I can help you build an online presence using my online marketing services or you can learn how to do it yourself using my local marketing toolkit.

Updates on latest posts

As I find other posts which focus on this area of the effectiveness of social media for business I will add them here
Facebook is great but does it make business any money – on ReadWriteWeb
Costs of Facebook ads jump 40% this year – Mashable
Is ‘The Social Network’ Facebook Backlash – The blog of Matthew Loop – another professional who uses social media but is sick of the hype!

“Social Media Growing Pains: A record 53 percent of marketers use social media, but their enthusiasm has tempered, suggesting that the peak of inflated expectations has passed. Marketers are focused on finding the value that social channels can yield with more analytical insights and actions.”  Source : iewy news