I read Matt's post asking if "Facebook Could Be Costing You Money," with great interest because he hits upon one my core areas of interest: How do you determine the online marketing strategy that makes the most sense for your business? In the context of this question, the balance and focus of Social Media marketing you undertake is a critical consideration. As Matt points out, creating an effective presence in the Social Media segment of the Internet is both time and cost intensive. That's why I counsel clients to first answer this key question: Can Your Business Drive Social Media Traffic?


Being Clear-Eyed About How Customers Think About Your Business

So, how do you go about answering the question. The first thing you need to do is let go about what you think about your business sector, then put yourself in your customer's shoes.

Speaking of shoes, suppose your company operates a chain of retail sneaker shops. OK, I admit I picked an easy one, but it's really illustrative: People who buy sneakers are really, really passionate about them. They follow news about their favorite manufacturers, know when new products are coming out, think positively about the prospect of going to the store to purchase the product, and most important, love showing them off to impress their social circle. That last one is key -- because your customers 'love' the product you sell, there's an opportunity to create a significant Social Media presence for your business.

If you do it right, and give the customer a good shopping experience, customers may well take to Facebook, Twitter, or other Social Media outlets and talk about you. They're likely to visit your Facebook page and share it with friends, etc., etc. 

So, if sneakers are what you sell, can your business drive social media traffic? Answer: Yes! And an investment of a significant percentage of your online marketing budget on Social Media probably makes sense.

But, what if your business is not in a sector quite so beloved by your customers? Here's a business that's on the end of the spectrum from designer sneakers: Plumbers.

Plumbing is a vital and honorable business sector. And when someone needs a plumber, they really need a plumber. But, if you're in the business of providing plumbing services, and perform the same exercise of looking at your business through your customers' eyes, you know that the chances of building a strong presence in the Social Media sector are not that strong. If someone doesn't happen to need a plumber today, your business just isn't on their mind. 

So once again, let's ask; If plumbing is the service you offer, can your business drive social media traffic? Answer: Most likely no.

Does that mean that you should give up on Social Media as part of your overall online marketing strategy? Of course not, but it does help to guide you in the direction to go in. First, it doesn't make a great deal of sense building Social Media outposts on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. But you will still want to make sure you're making it easy for your customers and others who may be accessing content on your website can share the URL of a page on your site with their Facebook friends or Twitter follower with social-sharing links like the ones you see to the left of every post in the Imprinsic blog.

And, if your business is one, like plumbing, where customers might want to comment on the service they've received from you, you want to be very sure you're using some of your marketing resources to monitor Social Media-like sites like Yelp or Google Places (that are more Local Search/Reference sites, which, we'll be discussing in future posts) where people put up reviews about local businesses which are often seen by many more people than a particular persons 'friends' or 'followers.' Although they're not technically Social Media outlets, they serve many of the same functions and should never be ignored; even though they often don't have the same 'mindspace' in many business owner's minds. And if your business is more 'plumbing' than 'sneakers,' Localization is probably going to be a bigger part of your overall Search Engine Optimization effort. 


Can Your Business Drive Social Media Traffic?

I suppose the overall question here is more specifically, "how well can your business drive social media traffic?" Determining what degree of success in being able to do so should go a long way in determining how much time and effort you should ultimately put into Social Media. And whatever resources you don't use for building a Social Media presence can always be well utilized in building on-site content, valid external links, or as I mentioned above, enhanced localization.

Don't compete — DOMINATE.